Stephen Kohler, Audira Labs‘ CEO, develops leaders. He has 25 years of executive insights, an MBA from University of Chicago, and is a PCC.
The news continues to be awash with record-high quit rates, workers looking for new jobs and general discontent with where work fits within people’s daily lives. For this reason, a focus on people has finally made most companies’ key strategies list. And yet, many of my clients have individual elements of a strategy, but no comprehensive plan for how they will attract, develop and retain the people who keep their businesses humming and growing. This article is for all who wonder what more they could and should be doing (and this is not just for human resources).
How To Get People To Join The Band
Define your ‘why.’ Any successful organizational strategy starts with the “why.” This is especially important in the midst of the pandemic, as workers are seeking more meaning from their jobs. Some companies are leaning into their missions, while others are developing a specific employee value proposition. Whatever your approach, make sure you can clearly define why an employee might want to work at your company, and make sure that “why” actually matters in today’s environment. I believe the most sought-after companies these days offer both meaning and balance, thus creating an environment that prospective employees feel is their jam.
Focus on integration, not indoctrination. Many employers use the onboarding of new individuals, teams and even acquired companies as a way to teach them “their way” of doing things. Instead, I encourage leaders to view onboarding as a new relationship with new opportunities to learn and grow. You hired these people for a reason, after all. Obviously, you need to share the process for submitting expense reports and where the cafeteria is located, but you should also take the opportunity to reset and co-create team ground rules and expectations when new members are added. Whether through stakeholder interviews or team workshops, group determination of issues of accountability, communication and more help your new bandmates feel they are adding their artistry to the sound, not just being seen as a tool to complete a job.
Getting People’s Best Performances
Invest in personal growth. Do you have a drummer who strives to lead the drumline or a drumline leader who wants to lead the whole band? Perhaps you have a talented individual who has ideas of how to improve their specific role? Until you ask, you will never know. And once you know, put your one-to-one efforts behind helping people develop to achieve their goals. Career development planning can range from executive coaching to an internal mentorship program, but keep in mind that this planning always requires dedicated time from a manager to work on an employee’s aspirations. The best development programs simultaneously invest in employees’ futures while building leaders who take your organization into a bright future as well.
Invest in team connection, collaboration and accountability. How much time does your team spend on team dynamics? Are you all marching to the same beat, and is everyone playing from the same sheet music? Paired with individual development, team development takes everyone’s individual contributions to the next level and creates the space where magic can happen. Whether it is a team workshop or a facilitated discussion, teams do their best work when they regularly work on themselves.
Keeping The Band Together
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were amazing on their own, but the Beatles were something “beyond” when Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr joined forces. Your best teams are the same, and the “Great Resignation” risks losing key players who helped elevate everyone’s game (not to mention the costs associated with starting over with new people).
Always look for various ways to connect people. In order to keep your best players from leaving for another gig, it is critical to keep people inspired. This can take the form of performance management toolkits, which help with individual career discussions and talent reviews. For individuals, one of my other favorite tools to keep people connected and focused is to help employees select an accountability partner. Last, providing regular opportunities to come together and connect with teammates is critical. This can be accomplished in ways as varied as informal gatherings and team workshops to inspirational speakers who can provide an elevated group experience.
People Strategy Summary
If you take one thing away from this article, it is this: People are always the No. 1 responsibility of managers. Sometimes, leaders can forget this in their desires to satisfy a key performance indicator. There are plenty of different tools to use in order to attract, develop and retain employees. Whatever you do, listen to your employees to identify the areas of greatest need, and then approach those issues at the individual, team and organizational levels. On the flip side, if you approach your people strategy as a one-and-done or check-the-box training, you will never develop the kind of culture that regularly and consistently delivers those chart-topping hits.