By: Patricia Hughes
Organizations are experiencing another perfect storm in recruiting and hiring. A combination of decreasing employee engagement, increasing turnover and fewer skilled candidates available, is making it tough for companies to get the right resources. Given these challenges to bringing people in, we know that retaining our rock stars and setting up good alumni referral relationships with those who do leave is critical.
Research shows that organizations with higher employee engagement enjoy higher employee retention.
And engagement is a problem. According to Gallup research, “an astounding 70 percent of U.S. employees are not showing up to work fully committed to deliver their best performance. Adding insult to injury, 52 percent of those workers are basically sleepwalking through their day, and 18 percent of them are busy acting out their unhappiness.“ That “acting out” usually takes the form of lower productivity or looking for a new job.
In Inc.com recently, Marcel Schwantes attributes the lack of engagement to manager performance, but in many organizations, it is not about managers being bad managers. In my experience many employees are uncertain about how they add value to their organization, where their careers are going and how they can advance. Too many employees don’t understand the connection between their job responsibilities, their personal career goals and their company’s business objectives. Without the connection between the skills that they bring to the table, the ideas of success that motivate them and the organization’s goals, employees can’t see their path forward. That uncertainty, especially when they don’t see an internal career path that interests them, is a source of frustration on the job and frequently a cause for leaving the company. We need to train managers on how to help employees understand their value, help them advance and inspire them to perform.
Connecting my value to our value
With the competition for human capital increasing, organizations need to consider ways to mitigate employee’s inability to connect their value with the company’s objectives. Employees leave because they don’t understand what kind of career path the company offers them and how they fit into the success of the business. We train our leaders to see the “big picture” but Peter Drucker, suggested in The Practice of Management, that just seeing the big picture is not enough. Real leadership is demonstrated through both seeing that picture, and through ensuring others see it as well.
Stop for a second and think about that. Our leadership creates a mission, a vision and strategies to achieve goals, but how much time are we spending helping managers support employees in understanding how their role makes a difference in the company’s success and builds value into their own career path.
We have all seen the research showing that workers want a sense of purpose and yet a Harris Interactive survey cited in a Stephen Covey article indicates that of 23,000 employee responses, only 37% of employees understand what their employer is trying to achieve and why.
Stephen Covey went further translating these results into an easily visualized sports analogy. If your employees were a soccer team, only four out of the eleven players on the field would know which goal to shoot on. Only two of the eleven would care. Only two of the eleven would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And all but two players would, in some way, be competing against their own team rather than the opponent.
As CNBC and Forbes discuss, understanding their role in the business, now and in the future, allows employees to be productive and encourages them to stay.
There is a simple solution to this problem, provide training for managers to help employees understand their individual value proposition in the context of the overall business. Shift the perspective from creating an employee communication package with little opportunity for the employee to engage, and instead train managers to tap to employee motivations and help employees understand how they contribute to company and how they impact the company’s goals.
A simple place to start is by offering tools to help employees connect why their skills are important to the organization’s objectives. For example, Asana CEO, Justin Rosenstein, helps employees make the connection by reinforcing the company’s broader mission to employees who may be too caught up in their day-to-day tasks to see it and by making sure that managers are asking the employees to consider how their daily tasks add value. As simple as this sounds, how many of us, regardless of our role have been asked to take time to consider the “why” in what we do on a daily basis. We need to give managers training on how to identify their own value in the context of the business and how to help their direct reports explore it as well.
Connect with what employees care most about-their careers
Organizations who help employees connect their value with their role and ultimately their career, realize greater engagement and retention. Many times, we unnecessarily worry that helping employees understand how they can advance means helping them leave. But in fact, that understanding of their value helps us better engage our rock stars and for the inevitable few that we do lose, we create stronger alumni referral ambassadors. Knowing that some turnover is to be expected, we need to make sure those that leave remain friends.
Engaging manager training and internal career development in blended, self-directed and group learning, also builds engagement with the managers themselves while equipping them to lead more engaged teams. Managers become more aware of how to spot career development opportunities for themselves and their team members, which become win-win moves for the organization. In this context, the performance management process becomes a true two-way conversation with the manager engaging the employee in their personal growth and organizational contribution. We need to invest in this kind of management training to allow them to effectively support rock star retention and alumni ambassador development.
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Patricia Hughes has a strong background in the HR industry, with experience in Human Capital Management (HCM) technology and recruiting. She focuses on delivering enterprise level solutions and managing go-to-market partnerships. She is recognized for her ability to help organizations realize returns on their talent development investments. In her personal coaching practice, Patricia focuses on helping mid-career professionals position themselves for success.