A tight labour market, closed borders and now The Great Resignation (a term used to describe an unexpected side effect of the pandemic, where people are rethinking how to live their lives and what type of meaning and purpose they want out of work and life), the task of finding and keeping talent needed to operate in business right now is an overwhelming challenge.
Many employers either don’t know how to tackle the situation or have been distracted by other challenges the pandemic has posed, but now more than ever, employers have a unique opportunity to think more strategically about their people and attract and retain the talent they need to create a thriving postpandemic organisation.
Leadership with a Difference
To lead well during these times is not easy and requires some real thought to get it right. It requires re-imagining how you – the employer, lead and develop others, how you create strong teams, how you communicate and how you develop a positive workplace culture.
Employees are tired and they are looking for a revised sense of meaning and purpose and this requires great leadership. Be conscious about setting in place a vision of what you are trying to achieve and align everyday work to the vision and purpose. All work can be meaningful. Reframe tasks to connect to the larger purpose (remember the NASA janitor who, when asked, “what do you do?” answered “helping put a man on the moon”). Does it mean your people need a ‘calling’? No. But you can establish meaning by setting the vision, telling your story, and making the connection for them. Know what you stand for as an organisation (your values) and double down on culture.
What’s your EVP? Know your Employee Value Proposition.
Genuinely ask the question “Why would I work for your company instead of elsewhere?”. Understand what your employees are running from and what they gravitate to. Gain information from them – ask them – and utilise information sources such as exit interviews (best done by an independent party). There can be a lot of things at play here – remuneration yes, but also meaning, impact, job content, development opportunities, culture, team and life balance.
Take time to consider the key touchpoints in your employees’ ‘lifecycle’ – these are the human aspects of work that can make a big difference and includes people processes such as:
- Reward and recognition
Look at the social and interpersonal connections both spontaneous and formal to develop a sense of community. Review communication effectiveness and set in place meaningful interactions, not just transactions. Meetings are a classic connection point – when done correctly they pose an opportunity; know their purpose and do them well. Take a conscious look at how you engage your people, how can you enhance wellbeing and build a sense of team and create a strong organisational culture?
Time and again, engagement surveys show that staff development is a priority, so put in place development plans and mentoring programmes.
A Flexible Working Model
From an attraction and retention perspective, flexibility is a key selling point. Redesigning your work model is better than watching your investment walk out the door. Employees are looking for greater flexibility. A willingness to accept employees’ commitments and ensure they feel supported in doing what is important in their lives, will help employees feel strongly about their commitment to the organisation. A hybrid work model should be a serious consideration. However, do not underestimate the amount of structure needed for this to work well.
For those who’ve tried this without the right structures in place, it has been a disaster. It needs careful planning and design, an understanding of people’s personal situations and a balance of care that is offset with communicating personal responsibility and productivity along with a focus on outcomes rather than actions. It may also need a re-education of more traditional managers – a remote employee is not automatically less engaged or less communicative – don’t mistake physical presence for loyalty. It also needs the right digital communication platform to act as a main channel where information and conversation is captured for both remote and onsite workers.
My overarching point here is to keep your eye on the ball. Take some time and be strategic and about how things are done and change it up. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”