By now, it’s considered a fact that employee engagement is an issue for senior leaders all over the world. And where there is missing engagement, there is high turnover. This is where companies lose millions. But they don’t have to. A Gallup study estimated that millennial turnover due to lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy about $30 billion annually. Given that figure, consider the potential additional earnings businesses could create if they had the best, smartest and most engaged workforce collaborating and creating true value through innovative products and services. So the question to be asked before signing off on talent strategy for the next year is this:
What do I have to do to improve my retention rate — especially related to millennial talent — and build a culture of engaged, motivated and healthy teams that truly collaborate and bring agility to the table?
Make “people time” a priority.
In our eagerness to optimize, standardize and raise efficiency, many organizations throw tons of operational to-dos onto their leaders. By doing so, they rob the leaders’ focus from what they are meant to be doing: listening to and guiding their people. With a calendar fully booked — with 60-hour work weeks, packed with meetings plus travel time, plus being responsible for delivering the numbers — no human being has time for “human stuff.” After all, why should a leader with such an agenda have a serious interest in freeing up 15-20% of his time for people if he is measured by KPIs that are only finance related? Not too many organizations put “people time” or “mentoring time” as a desirable KPI.
So, what to do if your leadership team is busy and can’t free up their schedule to accommodate that 15-20% for people topics? One option is getting personal support from an “employee experience guide”: an external, on-demand professional supporting the individual leader in opening up that communication chain with the team again — listening, asking, translating, engaging, and speaking both languages — until leaders can take over their anticipated role. This employee experience guide must be a professional with a strong track record in people topics and personal leadership experience. It should be a well-reflected person who can bring understanding and a different perspective to the table.
If this isn’t an option, you could count on your leader’s own insight to make room for their colleagues after making it a known KPI. Practice shows that as soon as top-down KPIs related to serious people management are implemented and tracked, organizations see a shift in priorities. It’s almost like giving your leaders the “official approval” that they should spend more time with their team — only now, they get credit for it.
Throw away your old, rusty watering can and implement “talent size of 1.”
If you pride yourself with KPIs, such as “training days per employee” or “X-thousands of dollars spent on training per employee,” just forget them! Those are the KPIs for what I call the “watering can principle,” where each employee, regardless of strategic importance, personal interest and work-life situation, was given the same talent development attention. That principle only works in the old, push-based economy where we think in terms of product output and where humans are considered an expendable resource.
Instead, you should do your homework with Pareto: Figure out where the top 20% most critical millennial talent is in your organization that accounts for 80% of your success. Once you’ve done this, go and learn from your operations department, which is focused on meeting the high demand for individualized products or services. Nobody wants the one-style-fits-all; much more desirable is the self-designed, tailor-made-to-my-needs products. This customized approach, where each part goes through the process separately, designed to the customer’s individual needs, is also referred to as “lot size one.”
To transfer this thinking to the talent world, it means you listen carefully. What is it that your top 20% needs on different dimensions: work environment, leadership, personal development topics, philanthropic work, etc.? And then implement it to show those most desired millennials that you are serious about making them individually happy again via a talent size of 1 approach: a strategy that fits them personally and is customized to their life and their passion.
Answer the craving for a vision with a job that is worth doing.
In many studies millennials are characterized as job-hoppers — not being loyal to their current employer, always on the jump to the next better opportunity. To a certain extent, that’s correct, and you will start understanding why once you know what drives millennials. They are a generation who isn’t satisfied to understand the “what” of their job. Millennials also want to understand the “why” — why am I doing what I’m doing? And how does this contribute to the bigger vision of the firm? What is this bigger purpose we all serve here? Thus, it’s again the task of the leader to draft a good story about the purpose of the company, where the team is heading, and why.
In summary, make sure you re-emphasize the importance of your leaders’ people skills and engage an authentic employee experience guide where needed. Paint a vivid picture of the bigger purpose of your company, and stop with the watering-can principle. Instead, aim for talent size of 1 — and 2017 will be a game changer for your retention numbers.