by Bindu Vijayan

I have seen Talent Acquisition teams worry over resumes that smack of job-hopping; these candidates are super smart and efficient, and everyone wants to hire them but when you see how often they have changed jobs, one isn’t too sure if they are going to be a good hire. 

Three to five years in the system allows one to establish her work ethics, professionalism, showcase her capabilities, prove her worth, and then?  ‘Does my leader make the time to plan my career growth when I have made use of all the available opportunities, or would she see me as someone who is ready to be overlooked, complacent and forgotten?’  is the question often on employees’ minds, and the reason for people to change jobs often.  If the give and take isn’t fair, one ends up wrestling with the incessant noise in one’s head ‘change, change, do another role, another challenge’.  For someone who has given her best to a company, it is very easy to pick up on that voice and act; passionate workers need to keep doing meaty work to thrive.

Some, especially the high performers have this need to feed their internal mission constantly, they should be able to translate their work into part of their ‘purpose’ which calls for increased, stable engagement.  Otherwise the company loses a gamut of skill-sets accrued by her that might be quite institutional to the specific employee and her role.

Look at it this way – Managers who grow your flame the most by valuing you, offering you true learning experiences and challenges, viable options and meaty responsibilities are considered to be the genuine seniors who value accomplishments as against those with dated notions evaluated on your tenure on the job.

A client visiting GAVS once said ‘you can tell what the company is about when you walk into the building’, he was talking about the positive vibes he got here, but that can be true in other senses as well; high performers want to keep moving thru responsibilities to thrive and their passion and drive is apparent. 

Good performers want Managers with a vision for their roles and to help them succeed. And these job hoppers are people who want to set free to act on their ideas. When it takes the team’s energy to meet the goals and the company mission, the true performers expect transparency and inclusion. Poor Managers manage rather than lead, they are unable to show any path to growth, they can’t spot what you are good at to offer you success in that path. Sadly, their strategies are for themselves and don’t include their teams or subordinates.

Very often, in informal chats and coffees with industry peers, I have heard that their employers run the business as if they don’t see the human aspect in or from their business results, and it sounds like it is a call between job security and wanting more participation in the company.

With the rapid advancement of technology, we are going to find changes with employee productivity; as workplaces get increasingly automated, businesses are going to need skills like creativity, collaboration abilities, good communication and such, which means more independent thinking and acting. These are people who demand more than just a job and pay from an organization or a Leader, they want more inclusion and opportunities to participate; you want to keep them close to you.  The constant search for new talent will most often result in that revolving door effect that organizations so easily fall prey.

Transparency – Employees whose Managers are transparent, honest, open, communicative, and sincere to their responsibility to team-members are well engaged.  In the featured article by Peter, it is so true when he says, “One of the keys to being an effective leader with credibility is being authentic and straightforward. Teams will forgive many mistakes if they believe their leader is shooting straight with them and is well intended.”  These traits set the positive climate within the team, the idea is to encourage everyone to respect each other’s special skills and help each other grow. It calls for a lot of honesty and commitment and the spine to weed out bad apples before the team morale breaks down. Being transparent and sharing information is key to inclusion.  When team members do not know enough about the work that is going on in their function, or when an employee has got no clue what the others in his team is working on, nor any information on what the function head is planning leads to a sense of distrust.

Value them – have you heard about the times when it takes the head-honcho to notice and appreciate someone before his / her Manager sits up and notice it? And then they forget about it in the long run These are day to day situations within the intrinsic circles of corporate life that can’t be ignored – Statistics; A Gallup study of 2015 indicates that one in two employees left their job to break from their Managers for various reasons, at some time in their career…

Active listening –  Lack of engagement happens when employees feel they are not being heard, and that can erode their commitment.  The lethargy that is often seen during Appraisal times; the sense of frustration towards a Manager for their indifference to the team’s personal aspirations and goals and repeated lukewarm responses to ‘get it done with’ are ticking bombs in the system. Active listening can result in improvements, increased participation and ownership, the best recipe for high productivity.  When employees feel they are not being heard, the result is a general lack of commitment, engagement, and productivity and the dreaded employee turnover.

Genuine care for employees – Here’s an excerpt from the ‘2017 Retention Report’, a study by Work Institute; “The top five reasons employees quit include career development (22 percent), work/life balance (12 percent), management behavior (11 percent), compensation and benefits (9 percent), and well-being (9 percent)”.

The truth is employees’ lives (and families) are influenced by Leadership, and that’s a huge responsibility.  To my mind, the caring starts from right hire based on the principles and values that the company is rooted on, and truly enabling employees to bring out their best and celebrating them.  An employee might bring in big or small initiatives, it doesn’t matter how directly relevant it might be to gross margins, EBITDA and all the other corporate compulsions; valuing and celebrating employees have them feel included.  It is largely true when it is said ‘the way we treat people at work affects the way they go home and treat the family’.  Wouldn’t it be really cool if Management schools teach to lead rather than only teaching how to manage.

I have seen a lot of conflicts and inner struggles within Managers when they try to portray their company values but didn’t seem ready for it within themselves.  Very often organizations claim they are not hierarchical, but the same Managers are uncomfortable when the millennials come up and talk to them as their equals or do not follow the ‘right way to sit’, ‘the right way to stand’ etc. etc.  I personally find that a little tough to understand because if you consider somebody your equal, then he/she is just that. We would all do better with titles like Mentors and Coaches rather than Supervisors and Managers, and allow the system to really grow a set of smart and involved people rather than a race of people trying to grab jobs and positions.

Personally, I feel as Managers we should make it a point to send people home ‘fulfilled’ , treat them how you would have everyone treat you. Too many times Managers write off forced exits as ‘that’s how you run a business, that’s what happens in a business’, but there have been very innovative ways that companies have resolved such issues – One company who went thru a crisis where their supplies from China to one of their factories was put on hold, that caused the entire factory to go out of work.  But, instead of sending people off like how it happens so often, the CEO of the company came up with a solution where every employee was asked to go on a month’s vacation. The outcome? People felt safe with a step like that, they understood that they wouldn’t be let off easily, and everyone knew that when they went on a month’s vacation, it was to save someone’s job!  When people are happy they do amazing things, they need to be shown that everyone matters…

Lateral opportunities – More statistics – When Salesforce came up with the 1-1-1 model of giving, the program offered an opportunity for the employee to spend time on her interest / any interest. The program included time off for volunteering, pro-bono volunteering to aid several causes.  And here’s the terrific result to that; more than 27,000 salesforce employees participated in this volunteer program, they put in 1.4 million work hours towards things close to their hearts!  That’s the best engagement strategy I have come across. 

Adding a lateral challenge / responsibility might be a good way to engage employees who are bored and getting restless in their current job and who might welcome additional responsibilities.  Sometimes with small sized companies, the opportunities for growth don’t come up that often. Bringing new aspects to employment can renew their enthusiasm and help them handle their regular jobs better.  Intellectual stimulation, that sense of purpose, and the need to do more thru a job can be provided by employers.  

Mentorship roles – Those mid-career professionals with the right attitude, skills, leadership qualities, critical thinking and so on may be given mentorship roles / managerial development roles to coach the less experienced employees.  Opening up mentee roles for the mid-career professionals is also equally important as it is giving them an opportunity to gain knowledge. I think this will definitely serve as a way to support employees and build a culture of strong support within where everybody helps and supports everybody.  A structured program for mentoring or towards succession planning would work positively for all, and it would ensure that people who have been in the system for long are well immersed in the system while the newer employees have the opportunity to learn successful and positive work habits.

Sometimes relocation can be the change that will bring the needed zing back into their career.  A change of location works even if they are going to be doing the same job.  I have seen this happening here at GAVS, people who have been in the system long are given the opportunity to work overseas, and that renews their enthusiasm for work and deepens their commitment. Its like a breath of fresh air, it sure works well.

To conclude, an annual appraisal and employee assessment is most times not enough to retain employees or keep them happy and motivated. To me it looks like appreciation by seniors and others instill a deep sense of accomplishment in people.  How about Managers writing monthly letters within the organization appreciating team members and their efforts.  Genuine understanding of each team member results in a better relationship as against insisting on maintaining hierarchies and not collaborating with the teams.  Everyone feels good when they understand there is more to their work than just collecting their checks every month, and it takes a mature, sensitive and a good person to nurture great teams.

“If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose.” – Ed Catmull