We’ve talked a bit in previous posts about the “Great Resignation” and how leaders must prepare for how work and workers will engage in the future. Leadership’s approach to talent attraction, upskilling and reskilling, career pathing, and culture has become a major decision point for job seekers looking to redefine their careers in record numbers.
In a recent Gartner webinar, “The Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2022,” rising turnover, the war for talent, and employee burnout/resilience are top business challenges for CHROs. They are being tapped by their executive leadership to figure it out because they know the future of their success depends on it.
A gap in leadership within organizations, however, is a concern for many HR executives who understand their critical role in attracting, retaining, and developing this talent, according to Gartner. CHROs listed “current and future leadership bench” as a top-three challenge for 2021. The need to lead in a different way to keep up with the ever-changing market and demands of workers is critical if organizations want top talent.
What can leaders do?
There are many ways -- both large and small -- that leaders can immediately impact what’s going on in their organization -- be it record-high resignation, redesigning where people work, upskilling, and quelling the continued impacts of the pandemic.
One big question leaders must ask themselves is, “How easy am I making it for all workers to engage?” Development and inclusion of all talent will help leaders define a future where everyone is managed and measured in a meaningful way, regardless of how they came into the company -- be it full-time, contractor, freelancer, temp-to-perm, SOW-based worker, or consultant.
Skills over roles-based leadership development
“Skills gap” was at the top of the list in the Gartner study, and HR is looking to leadership within all levels to help solve it. The need for a skills-based talent management approach over a role-based one to achieve a more adaptable workforce is crucial.
Leaders need to start thinking, “I need these skills” instead of “I need three people.” Rethinking traditional role designs will enable the supply of critical and missing skills needed versus standard job descriptions, allowing for further optimization, development, and organizational mobility.
A shift towards empathy
Today’s market “requires leaders to develop a much deeper empathy for what employees are going through and to pair that empathy with the compassion—and determination—to act and change,” said a recent McKinsey article on the role leaders play in understanding attrition. “Only then can employers properly reexamine the wants and needs of their employees—together with those employees—and begin to provide the flexibility, connectivity, and sense of unity and purpose that people crave.”
The Head of Industry at Google, Paul Santagata, agreed. “There’s no team without trust,” he said. The results of the tech giant’s massive two-year study on team performance revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety. Trust -- for your career development, your insight, your back when you make mistakes, your flexibility to balance work and home -- are all contributing factors, and cannot happen without empathy.
Understanding this at a deep level is important because traditional methods of keeping workers -- be it through raises, bonuses, or benefits -- aren't working anymore. In fact, among employees who said they are at least “somewhat likely to leave their jobs in the next three to six months,” almost two-thirds said they would do so without having a new gig lined up.
Understanding the “why”
Leaders need to understand why people are leaving, or they’ll never solve for future retention. Consider having workers fill out surveys with open ended questions, and not just upon their exit interviews. Take stock of what the talent you have is looking for and take quick action to create an environment that provides it. Measure attrition rates. Leaders can’t just assume working from home, flexibility, or certain benefits are what their workers are looking for. Perhaps it is, but you don't know until you ask.
Options are increasing, and with more and more employers offering choices for hard-to-source talent, location-agnostic roles, and opportunities to work in new ways like freelancing, gig work, and others, leaders must understand the “why” or risk missing out on top talent entirely.
Include all workers
Ensuring your team has a voice in creating a company’s brand and culture is imperative no matter how they’re engaged -- be it full-time, contractor, freelancer, gig worker, or independent consultant. Gathering that information and understanding how those ideas can fit into the greater good of the company is one thing. True leadership comes in the execution. The Harvard Business Review found what leaders say and do “makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.”
All workers contribute to the success, bottom line, and culture of a company. Inclusion must happen at every level, every job title, and every worker type to truly accomplish this.
As a leader, how you adapt to all the changes and nuances happening is more critical than ever. As such, we will be exploring ways leaders can set their organizations up for success in our three-part series: The Great Reassessment: How Leaders Can Plan and Lead Tomorrow’s Workforce. Stay tuned for more!