As layoffs continue to make headlines and the pace of hiring and job creation slows due to economic uncertainty, companies are increasingly turning their focus to employee retention. According to a recent Workplace Learning Report, 93% of companies are concerned about the challenges posed by skills shortages and turnover risk for top talent.
The primary way organizations are working to improve retention is by providing learning opportunities. Three of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs reflect their desire to stretch, grow and develop new skills. Progress toward career goals is the leading motivation for employees to learn.
High Employee Turnover Creates Challenges
It’s critical for companies to reduce employee turnover and retain top talent. In addition to financial constraints that make replacing employees more challenging and costly, high employee turnover creates other challenges for companies, including:
· Gaps in talent planning and succession.
· Disruption in business processes and customer service.
· Loss of expertise that’s crucial for innovation.
· Diminished reputation as an “employer of choice.”
· Lower employee morale.
Companies who successfully retain employees and cultivate talent from within have higher productivity, greater performance quality, stronger employee engagement and better customer loyalty than their competitors who struggle with retaining staff.
Leadership Approaches that Boost Employee Retention
If you consider the saying “all politics is local” to be true, then it follows that leaders should see themselves as the “mayor” of their team. Just as mayors are ultimately responsible for all the local issues facing their constituents, leaders have the overall responsibility for the environment in which their staff performs.
While a mayor might be able to hold onto power and even remain in office when failing to deliver on promises, citizens are free to move when they perceive opportunities elsewhere are more attractive. The same goes for business leaders who foster or enable a toxic work environment or who fail to provide adequate resources for their teams to do their work. Employees will simply “vote with their feet.”
In terms of their own performance, leaders who prioritize retaining employees and minimizing voluntary turnover should create opportunities that:
- Engage employees by connecting their team’s work to the company’s mission, while aligning with individuals’ core motivators.
- Facilitate collaboration and harmonious relationships, within and across groups.
- Celebrate and reward success.
Your success in increasing employee morale, retaining top talent and ensuring that employees’ experience is positive comes down to how well you answer one question:
What’s in it for them?
One of the best ways for you to do this is to cultivate and promote a learning environment that creates and attracts opportunities for employees to grow, develop and thrive.
Take Steps to Start Future-Proofing Your Team
Regardless of your role, the primary reason you were hired, and the primary reason you hired the people on your team, was to solve problems. Whether it’s increasing market share, launching a new product, developing a new reporting capability, or maintaining and controlling an existing process, the purpose of everyone’s work is either to address unmet needs or to prevent adverse outcomes.
High levels of employee engagement lead people to solve the problems in new, creative or innovative ways. An engaged team has lots of positive energy around new approaches and ideas, accepts and understands that rework or other “non-linear paths” are part of the process, and successfully manages or contains frustration or disappointment.
In other words, they’re resilient.
The trouble comes when impact and growth level off, as processes inevitably mature. Automation increases, individuals feel less ownership and connection to the work product, and what was once original and new becomes commonplace and staid. “Breakthroughs” are now “legacy.”
Your team, which used to be engaged and resilient, is now bored and complacent or frustrated.
And they’ve lost the connection with their purpose and reason they were hired – to solve problems.
Employees will stick around when they can develop new skills, have opportunities to solve a new range of problems, and bring their creativity and ingenuity into the mix.
They want to be future-proofed.
Here are steps to take to start future-proofing your team:
- Conduct a broad, strategic assessment – Examine your team’s current competencies vs. the business’ unmet and emerging needs. Where does mastery already exist on your team, where are today’s gaps, and what will the future require?
- Determine your team’s abilities in three vital areas – These encompass identifying problems that need solving; knowing how to solve problems; and developing new, unique and individual solutions to problems.
- Have regular and ongoing conversations – Meet with each of your direct reports (and encourage them to do so with theirs) to discuss their learning needs, identify their interests, and scope out assignments and projects that help achieve them.
- Support progress toward career goals – Identify and create “lattice” career paths – horizontal, vertical and diagonal moves – in addition to experiences to broaden and round out their skillsets or to mentor other employees. Career development discussions should be part of your standing agenda with your team. Saving them to be solely part of annual or semi-annual performance reviews misses many opportunities for connecting with what’s important to your team members and reinforcing your commitment to their ongoing growth.
- Inspire problem solving – Encourage your team to solve problems, not as a “functional expert,” but instead as a “professional problem solver.” For example, instead of focusing on approaches that would influence or motivate someone like them, help them build skills such as empathy. This will enable them to better speak to problems from others’ perspectives and propose solutions that provide a “win” as someone else would define it.
Future-Proof Your Team Through Leadership Coaching
At its core, coaching helps leaders deepen their understanding of themselves so they can better relate, connect with, inspire and influence others. When you build stronger connections between you and your team members, you become more effective at answering the question, “what’s in this for them?” Knowing that answer helps you consistently provide what they need so they remain engaged with and challenged by their work.
When your team feels engaged and challenged, they’re more likely to stay.
Other ways that coaching helps leaders engage their teams and retain top talent comprise:
· Dealing effectively with ambiguity.
· Identifying and selecting talent to match the team’s and business’ needs.
· Motivating others whose style, values and beliefs differ from their own.
Continuous learning, connection to purpose and growth opportunities drive engagement – a deeper connection to work that results in employees willingly applying discretionary effort to go beyond the minimum standards required in their role.
Higher engagement drives higher retention.
Higher retention sustains or enhances employee morale, burnishes a company’s reputation, secures expertise, maintains continuity in business processes, and facilitates talent planning and succession.
It all begins with how strong your commitment is to your teammates’ ongoing growth and development and the actions you take in support of that commitment. To find out how Leading Edge’s Coaching & Consulting’s 4D Leadership & Executive Coaching by Leading Edge can support you in future-proofing your team, follow this link to schedule a complimentary discovery session.