The End of Work As You Know It

How to redefine work in your own terms

Stop Fighting the Retention Battle; It's an Engagement War

The $300 billion mistake most companies overlook.

Even with a recovery in the economy, the job (and housing) market will take some time to catch up. That doesn't mean there aren't jobs out there. It just means they are for very specific talent. Those talent know exactly who they are. Since 2008, we've personally seen this talent pool still get calls from headhunters and move around from one company to the next with bigger titles, pay, and responsibility.

So what this means for many companies is that there has been an ongoing battle for talent, and not just hiring talent, but also hanging on to their best and brightest, even in the toughest economies. Who is this "talent?" This typically means one or two key people in a department that they cannot afford to lose. They are usually the ones with institutional knowledge (i.e., if they leave no one will know how to run the system) or a specific skill set that drives product development and therefore revenue for the company. Don't we all wish we were this person!

Funny thing though, Human Resources and many managers have been fighting the wrong battle. When you find yourself in the retention battle, that is, throwing as much money as you can to keep an employee, you've already lost the battle, not to mention you were fighting the wrong battle because you are thinking too small. The larger war is about engagement. Attrition of key talent is just a symptom of you losing the war.  When we try to retain employees, we are too late. They are already disengaged; that's why they are looking somewhere else.

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Ultimately organizations want productivity out of their employees; and they should given that Gallup estimates $300 billion a year is lost in lack of productivity. How do you get your employees to be more productive? Get them engaged with their work. 

When you look at engagement metrics, they typically fall into four categories: 

  1. Values - Do I agree withe the values of the company?
  2. Leadership - Do I believe in leadership and their vision, strategy, and direction for the company? 
  3. Management - Are the management practices aligned with the values the company espouses, aligned with the leadership direction, and supportive of me...the employee?
  4. Employee - Do I believe I have a career and future with this company? Am I doing work that is stimulating? Do I feel recognized for my contribution?

The first two categories are very difficult for anyone to take on and impact. At the end of the day, getting more engaged with your job boils down to two things...do you like your manager and find them supportive; and have you taken ownership of your career to get what you need out of your current job.

As a manager, it is your responsibility to engage your employees. It is your responsibilty to sit down and have those standing 1-1's to give your employees feedback on what they are doing well and where they could improve, coach them to be stronger, and give them the resources to learn and stretch themselves.

As an employee, it is your responsibility to GIVE 100% to your job. This includes your knowledge, time, effort, and ideas. It is also your responsibility to make sure you get GET 100% for all you give. This includes: compensation, experience, learning new skills, and networking to build your contacts.

If companies actually focus more on engaging their current talent, they'd actually get more out of them...$300 billion more.

Milo Sindell and Thuy H. Sindell are workplace experts and the founders of two software companies: Hit The Ground Running and Knowledge Genie.

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