We are, once again, faced with a war for talent. But this talent war looks a little different now.
Before COVID-19, organizations struggled to get employees to perform at their potential, in an environment that was predictable. In fact, for most of the past 20 years, the Gallup Organization reported in its The State of the American Workplace report that the percentage of engaged employees hovered around only 30% of the workforce.
Here’s what that means: only 30% of employees were engaged in their work. They brought their A-game and were connected to making a difference.
That also means that approximately 70% of the workforce was in some form of disengagement; they did just enough to not get fired, or they did even less.
Now, in a COVID-19 workplace, disengagement is amplified by epic worry and anxiety. Employees now worry about foreclosures or evictions, access to food, having the proper cleaning supplies, having and using the right safety equipment, feeling safe in and out of the workplace, feeling disconnected from their teams and friends, struggling to feel successful working from home and feeling uncertain that their job will still exist. Without some assistance from their managers – to feel heard, supported and helped through these tough times – employees’ disengagement rises. Couple this disengagement with employees working from home (not under the scrutiny of management) and the fact that many organizations are actively looking to expand their talent base, and you may discover that your best employees are considering other opportunities with organizations that do a better job engaging their teams.
Consider what your organization does to encourage your employees to stay, regardless of any enticing offer that may come their way. Is there a protective forcefield around your talent to ensure your great employees say no when they’re approached by others?
Here are 3 commitments organizations must make to keep employees engaged and happily saying ‘no’ to job offers that come their way:
- A commitment to job alignment. Employees need to feel capable and competent in their roles to build their energy to deal with some of the other pandemic-inspired challenges. Feeling like you make a difference (because you are effective at your job) is an important element in helping you feel grounded and engaged. No one would feel engaged, passionate or committed to their job if they don’t have the talents, skills or interest needed to do the job well. To ensure job alignment, take the time to clearly define the tasks of each job and the attributes needed to do these tasks well in your workplace (i.e. the talents, skills, education and experience). Once that’s clear, ensure your hiring, development and promotion processes accurately assess candidates’ and existing employees’ required abilities. Consider including prove-it-to-me activities and behavioral-based questions to ensure you are getting the full picture of their abilities before you bring them on board.
- A commitment to providing an employee-focused workplace. Getting employees to want to stay is directly related to the quality of the work environment the organization provides. Employees today routinely insist on working for a company that values them as people, encourages their performance and continually develops them. It seems obvious, but employees who have the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs well will be more engaged in their workplace. Note, however, that this doesn’t mean just the physical tools or supplies to get the job done. It could include things like doing purposeful work, having clear performance expectations, participating in skills and career development, receiving regular supportive and corrective feedback and seeing that the organization shares and lives its beliefs and values. Providing these tools and support activates employee performance, ownership and loyalty, making them more poach-proof. An added bonus: it holds even greater weight when employees are working remotely or in some hybrid remote approach.
- A commitment to building successful manager / employee relationships. Relationships are the drivers of performance and loyalty. Consider this: workplaces that manage in the outdated method of command-and-control actually push their talent into the arms of poachers. The Gallup Organization stated that the shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent retention initiative every organization should be focused on. By helping managers learn how to think and act as workplace coaches, managers shift from directing, controlling and telling to guiding, supporting and asking. The result is a more personal and accountability-based relationship where managers make time for employees to help them in their growth, performance and self-belief. This also encourages employees to open up about their worries, anxieties and needs in this pandemic moment. It’s only with this additional communication that managers can wisely decide who and how to be with their employees, and, more specifically, how to help them manage the challenging moments and get back on stable ground. This intentional awareness from managers helps employees show up more focused. Though shifting from managing to coaching is critical, the Gallup Organization shares that only approximately 20% of managers instinctively know how to coach. That means a core engagement strategy will require you to train your managers to think and act as workplace coaches.
By creating dream jobs for your employees (even during COVID-19), you’re creating an environment where they get to be their best, and are honestly and openly cared for, valued, respected, all while having the opportunity to learn and grow from their managers. With an environment like that, they won’t have the need to look elsewhere. After all, great employees want to work in great organizations.
And when your organization hires wisely, builds an employee-focused workplace and helps managers think and act as coaches, you create an exceptional employee experience. This results in your best employees not only refusing the advances of aggressive poachers, but they will become talent magnets, attracting other great talent to your organization, even if they’re working from home.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused