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Talent Shortage or Subpar Employee Experience? A Tale of Two Cities

on June 9, 2021
Resources All Employee Engagement Unlocking Talent

My last post covered how organizations must adapt to the needs and wants of today’s employees, because what worked in the past to attract and retain talent won’t be effective in a post-pandemic world. We now know that this problem isn’t due to a lack of able-bodied talent; instead, organizations are failing to appeal to current and potential employees.

What’s the next step? How do leaders solve this issue? Knowing there’s a need to change doesn’t make it an easy thing to do, especially when it comes to retooling an organization’s culture or employee experience.

If your turnover is higher than you’d like, or if you’re having a hard time finding quality candidates to take your performance to another level, it might be time to look inward. Start by asking yourself questions on the key topics – such as leadership behaviors, culture, work-life balance, organizational processes, purpose, and employee experience – that today’s employee is evaluating with a more discerning eye.

10 Questions to Answer

  • Is our “old guard” too stodgy to invite the new guard in? If yes, what does that mean for our business? Should our seasoned people change how they interact with our newer employees? If so, how?
  • What are we willing to give up, in regard to our current purpose, processes, and culture, to build the next generation of engaged leaders and employees?
  • Are we capable of “self-attack” in the spirit of continuous learning? And if so, what is our plan to effectively probe our business and processes for performance shortfalls to improve results?
  • How do we look at the potential disruption to our business as a pathway to success?
  • What complexities are getting in the way of our productivity? Are all leaders in alignment? Do we have silos between functions and groups that are creating communication and/or cultural roadblocks?
  • In the interest of improving our culture, can we forsake some control and power by enabling our people to help define the employee experience to create a more desirable workplace?
  • Are we ready and willing to be completely honest in evaluating where our culture and employee experience are failing and then be efficient in coming up with solutions?
  • What have we stopped doing in the past 30 days to evolve our culture into one that inspires, excites, and motivates our people?
  • Who’s going first? Who will step up and say, “We don’t have all the answers, but I am willing to put myself out there to figure out what’s best for the business”?
  • What is the risk of not doing this?

If evolving as an organization is something you and your leaders are truly dedicated to doing, you need to have an honest look at where things stand with your leadership, purpose, processes, culture, and employee experience. It’s only after you know the current state of these critical areas that you can create a plan to get to your desired state – the one where you have loads of amazing talent clamoring to add your organization to their LinkedIn profiles or referring their friends and family to join.

Making organizational shifts isn’t exactly an easy process, and it starts with leaders.

First and foremost, your leadership team has to be on board and aligned on what those shifts need to be and how they can support them.

Seven Behaviors to Adopt Now

1.Be Strategic
Your organizational purpose is the North Star of your organization and your goals, brand, initiatives, and strategies are connected to your purpose. If there’s anything we know, it’s that change is the only constant, so an evolving strategy is inevitable. If the strategy isn’t advancing what you’ve promised to your people and your customers, you’ve got a problem.

2. Focus on More than Just the Bottom Line
Look at what you can control today that makes a positive impact on your organization as a whole and not just your bottom line. This is key! Research found that leaders who focus too much on bottom-line costs hurt loyalty, performance, and profitability – the exact opposite of what this strategy is supposed to achieve. If your organization is operating with “bottom-line mentality,” then leaders have an unrelenting focus on profit to the detriment of other critical factors to long-term success, such as ethics and employee well-being.

3. Experiment with Ideas and Be Obsessed with Innovating
Culture is not static; you must always be willing to try new things. (Parents around the globe are highly familiar with this axiom.) If this is “how you’ve always done things around here,” you probably haven’t evolved to support new generations of workers. Instead of having a steadfast connection to the status quo, always challenge yourself and your people to innovate in everything they do – including the way you build, brainstorm, create, communicate, and work. When you come to work each day with an innovative mindset, you’ll foster a culture in which keeping actions and ideas fresh, relevant, and inspirational becomes the norm.

4. Reinforce Successful Behaviors
Undoubtedly, there are folks within your organization who are achieving more. The teams they’re leading are happier and more effective. Their clients are buying more. The customers they interact with are more loyal. Whatever the case may be at your organization, you must seek these high-performing groups and individuals and hone in on the specific behaviors, habits, and tactics that put them above the rest. Then, double (or triple) down on what’s working.

5. Look for Influencers
Human beings are wired to want to be a part of something larger. We want to belong and be accepted by others, whether in our social lives or among our peers at work. If you want your organization to adopt new behaviors, your best bet is to find people who can be “culture carriers.” These are people who will kick-start the new behaviors and create an environment where others feel comfortable joining in too. Find people who reflect your values and purpose. Figure out how to amplify their voices. These folks might just be the match you need to get the fire started.

6. Build Manager Buy-In
Your managers are the “keepers of the culture” and the conduit to information from the leadership team downward. They are essential in attracting the right talent and retaining them. After all, people don’t quit their companies; they quit their managers. If you’re giving leaders at all levels of the organization (and especially your front-line managers) the capabilities and tools to be successful, then your organization will be successful. 

7. Adopt Storytelling as the Ultimate Mode of Communication
There are articles and blogs galore about the power of storytelling. Simply put, communicating via stories is the most effective way to share key messages with others. It’s emotional and memorable. This doesn’t mean that your leaders have to be actors and authors. It just means that your organization consciously decides to stop with the outdated charts and the dry presentations and commits to focus on the elements of a good story – the characters (your people), the setting (your organization and industry), the plot (your plan and purpose), the conflict (the obstacles you need to overcome), and the resolution (what will success look like). By choosing to communicate this way, leaders will be able to better connect with employees, and employees will better understand the business. This leads to engagement, and engaged employees won’t leave!

Your organization won’t be able to shift its employee experience overnight. It takes time and effort to become and sustain an organization that people are knocking down doors to join. But if leaders can honestly answer the 10 questions above and then begin embracing these seven behaviors, your organization will be able to rise above the current talent-shortage trend and cultivate its next generation of leaders.

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