Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

How to Become a Talent Magnet

Wise leaders build engagement by becoming magnets for high­-performing talent.

Never before have organizations paid more attention to talent — keeping it, attracting it, developing it and engaging it.

Talent is no longer simply a numbers game. It’s about survival. It’s about winning market share and bringing on new investors, clients and big contracts. Companies depend on their top performers to innovate and differentiate themselves from their competitors. They’re reliant on their
employees to thrive.

Executives, line managers and the learning and development professionals who support them agree that engaging and retaining talent is a core business initiative. In fact, many enterprises have elevated talent retention to the top tier of objectives, on a par with generating revenue
and managing costs.

In support, leaders constantly seek new ways to build everyday engagement — the brand of engagement that is natural, effective and sustainable. Wise leaders build engagement by taking a lesson from science. The magic and science of magnetism has many relateable applications for engagement and retention. Let’s face it, most of us could be more magnetic — and most of us would like our bosses to do the same.

Magnetism is an extraordinary power that attracts or repels. It gets its name from Magnesia, Turkey, where more than 2,000 years ago the Greeks found rock that possessed mysterious powers. The rock, a form of iron ore called magnetite, could attract metals, making the rock and the metal stick together.

A magnet is a substance — usually a metal, such as iron or steel — that has been magnetized so that it will behave like magnetite. Any metal that can do this is called magnetic.

What’s a Talent Magnet?

Magnetism can help leaders understand human reactions at work. That understanding is often the first step to increasing leadership effectiveness and employee engagement.

Managers can be talent magnets, and decide how much energy they devote to attracting and developing talent. While organizations have magnetic forces by virtue of their mission, vision and values, the manager must translate those forces into everyday action.

Managers can attract and hold talent. An organization as a whole, a business unit, function, team or person can be a talent magnet. Because managers have the most power and influence in the engagement and retention arena, we’ll focus on them.

Managers decide how much energy they devote to attracting and developing talent and translate those forces into everyday action.

When leaders have strong magnetism, they feel it. So do others. Energy, morale, engagement and productivity are measurably high. Recruiting talent is easier because people want to work for talent magnets. Talent magnets get positive press. If leaders recognize and use their own magnetic powers, they can create more, achieve more and earn more.

But what if leaders aren’t magnetic? Well, they’re in trouble. Finding and keeping top talent makes or breaks a team, business unit and, ultimately, a company.

The good news: Even the most nonmagnetic leaders can create, increase and sustain magnetism.

Here are some examples of how magnetism works in talent retention:

  • Every magnet has a magnetic field around it. Every talent magnet creates a culture that attracts and keeps talented people.
  • The stronger the magnet, the larger the magnetic field. The more magnetic managers are, the more people they affect.
  • If you break a magnet in pieces, you’ll produce new magnetic fields around each new piece. Magnetic managers create more magnets by sharing their power and ability with others.
  • Metal objects that attach to magnets become magnetic, too. Employees of talent magnets attract others, at least while they work for a magnetic manager.
  • Something that behaves like a magnet after it leaves the field of the inducing magnet is said to have residual magnetism. When managers lose talent magnets to the competition, they lose a crucial competitive edge.
  • The attraction of two magnets toward one another depends on how close they are and how strong the magnetic force is within the magnet. Talent magnets get to know their people well. They get close and stay close, learning all they can about their employees’ motivations and desires.
  • If a magnet is suspended in air, it will always point in a north­-south direction. A compass always finds magnetic north. Magnetic managers create, share and lead by a strong vision.
  • One can create a magnet by giving it an electric charge or by putting a specific metal in the mix, like iron. Talent magnets know when and how to boost engagement through learning and development. They take action when something employees want is missing.
  • One can demagnetize a magnet in many ways. Managers can put people off by actions they take or fail to take.

Identifying the ‘Sticking Features’

What makes an organization, team or leader magnetic? Decades of research confirm that most workers want fair pay and a good work environment. Beyond that, they want exciting, meaningful work, a chance to grow, and a good boss. These are sticking features that people have in common.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story because everyone has a unique sticking features list. If leaders guess at what their talented people want, they’ll often guess wrong. Instead, managers at all levels will do well to stop guessing and start conducting stay interviews with every one of their employees.

Stay interviews are conversations between managers and their employees that intend to tell people how much they’re valued and to learn what will keep them engaged and on the team. Stay interviews prevent exit interviews.

Managers need to discover what people really want and need to bring their discretionary effort to work and to stay in the organization. As part of a stay interview, for instance, one manager might ask their employee: “Which part of your job do you wish you didn’t have to do, and which part would you like to expand?”

That simple question can open up a conversation that leads to job enrichment and increased engagement.

Managers today face more to do with less time in which to do it. They need to recognize that every interaction with direct reports is an opportunity to create, increase or sustain magnetism.

Managers today face more to do with less time in which to do it. They need to recognize that every interaction with direct reports is an opportunity to create or increase magnetism.

Create Magnetism

Once managers know which sticking features matter most to their employees, they’re ready to create magnetism.

Apply an electrical charge. For some employees, the electrical charge comes from a career discussion, a new learning opportunity or a much­desired “thank you” from the boss. Talent magnets learn what kind of charge their people want.

Consider this hypothetical example: When Sergey’s boss asked what he wanted to learn next year, he said, “I’d like to improve my negotiating skills.” They began a three-­step learning process. Here are the steps they followed and how it worked out for Sergey.

Step 1 — Conscious Observation: Sergey’s boss selected someone who was exceptionally skilled at negotiating for Sergey to observe. Later, Sergey and his boss discussed what Sergey learned and would do differently.

Step 2 — Selected Participation: Sergey’s boss allowed him to take a well­defined but limited role in a negotiation. The goal was to let Sergey practice without feeling overwhelmed. Afterwards, Sergey and his boss discussed what worked and what to improve.

Step 3 — Key Responsibility: Sergey’s boss gave him primary responsibility for a project that required excellent negotiation skills. Sergey completed the entire negotiation with the vendor and was accountable for the outcome. His boss was present, of course, but would have stepped in only if Sergey requested his support. Afterward, his boss asked him what worked well and why.

It worked. One year later, Sergey is thrilled with his job and continues to develop mastery as a negotiator for his organization.

Put some metal in the mix. Some people want a deeper relationship with their boss, while others want more fun at work or more time away from work. True magnet managers will discover what’s missing and partner with their employees to add those ingredients to the job.

Talent magnets are always curious about what’s working and what’s missing. They then collaborate with their employees to find the right formula for magnetism.

Increase Magnetism

Sometimes leaders have magnetism, but not often or powerful enough to attract, engage and keep the best people. The good news is magnets can get stronger.

Turn up the voltage. Some people would like more praise or encouragement. Others want to know their bosses care about them, their lives and their careers. Talent magnets should notice when employees’ job enthusiasm appears flat. They can even use failure as a learning experience.

Get bigger magnets. Magnetic managers often connect themselves to other magnets, becoming more powerful themselves. They reach up and out to learn and give more to those who follow them. In the race to engage and retain talent, there is never a time to say, “I’ve done enough.” There is always a way to improve the relationship or enrich the work.

Recharge. Talent magnets check in often with their talented employees. They want to know how the sticking features have changed. What do they want more of or less of from work? Listening is the most powerful tool in the talent magnet’s toolkit.

Magnetism can make objects attract or repel each other. It’s sad but true that actively disengaged or toxic bosses can drive talent out the door. Retention researchers agree that people seldom leave organizations; they leave managers.

Magnetic managers need to be vigilant and courageous. They regularly recharge themselves and whom they manage. They mentor, manage and ultimately remove demagnetizing forces from their teams.

Talent magnets are a powerful force for an organization. They attract others who can help them build and sustain engaged, highly productive work forces. They watch for and disempower demagnetizing forces.

The strongest leaders ask themselves how they might grow even stronger or know their people better. They ponder how they might increase the electrical charge help employees find missing ingredients or turn up the voltage.

The payoff for talent magnets and the organizations they lead is profound. It can make the difference between an organization being mediocre and it being hugely successful.

By Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-­Evans
May 18, 2018

  Wendy Tan   Feb 13, 2019   Career Development, Engagement   Comments Off on How to Become a Talent Magnet   Read More

Plenty of Room to Grow

Career Growth

Moving up isn’t the only way to achieve successful career development.

 

Engagement surveys reveal, again and again, that individuals join organizations to pursue career possibilities and they leave organizations if those opportunities don’t materialize. In fact, a recent Gallup study reported that the majority of millennials—projected to be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025—say that professional growth and continued development is very important in their decision to join an organization or take on a new role.

Recruiters who describe an organization as having a development culture need to understand what it means to follow through on that promise. Company culture must meet employee expectations and desires for learning and growing. When the reality doesn’t match the promise, a coveted new hire can easily disengage or become a quick quit.

It’s no secret that yesterday’s career ladders have faded or lost rungs along the way to today’s flatter organizational structures. Goals defined only by moves up the hierarchy and recognition systems centered primarily on celebrating promotions are setting the stage for frustration, disappointment, disengagement, and potentially loss of talent. The very definitions of growth and career development need to be broadened to encompass the full scope of growth options that exist in the world of work today.

So, what’s the answer?

Organizations are striving to stay ahead of the competition and on the cutting-edge of serving customers. Recruiters and HR professionals need to see return on the time, money, and energy invested in attracting talent. Managers are focused on building and engaging a team of valued players who are ready, willing, and able to deliver results. Individuals are developing current and future capabilities to realize their career aspirations. Continuous growth opportunities will meet the needs of all entities.

Organizations that meet the challenge of providing continued professional growth in spite of fewer promotional opportunities will attract and retain talent. Managers who recognize, embrace, and encourage nontraditional career paths will build reputations as development-minded leaders and establish trusting relationships with their teams. And employees whose growth needs are met will see a future within the organization and remain engaged and committed to the work.

A good place to start achieving this is recognition.

1. Recognize the issue—and the opportunity. Recognition of the issue and more importantly, the opportunity that lies within the issue, unlocks a wealth of opportunities for individuals and potential for the organization. Many traditional career paths don’t exist anymore, but in many cases, fulfilling alternatives have replaced them. Candid conversations with candidates, new hires, and tenured employees about opportunities to grow professionally create solid partnerships and send the message that growth is still there—it just may be packaged differently.

Nontraditional options can bridge functional groups and uncover potential paths by triggering interest in professional passions that employees may not be aware are possible. For example:

  • IT professionals can have transferable skills for product design and marketing roles;
  • instructors see line management assignments that draw on their expertise in the field of learning while affording the chance to stretch into new areas; and
  • a sales leader can excel as a direct customer contact manager.

The key, however, is ensuring transparency regarding what continued growth looks like within the organization. For many, the mental image of growth is still a step up a ladder. While the reality may be very different, it is no less valuable toward the ultimate goal of building a personally meaningful career for individuals while simultaneously building future capability for the organization.

2. Recognize the options. When multiple options for learning and developing are recognized and consistently communicated across an organization, a growth culture is formed. There are six types of experiences that, when mixed and matched within a career pattern, create a kaleidoscope of development opportunities. They include:

  • Enrichment: growing in place. Not all workers want to move from one role to another, but growth within current roles can and should happen. Through enrichment and learning programs, individuals feed their passion about the work, stretch to build new capabilities, and grow professionally. Enrichment builds resilience and fosters engagement.
  • Exploratory: testing the water. So much can be learned from simply trying on a role to see if it fits. Exploratory experiences can identify future roles that are ideal as well as eliminate others from consideration. They can also provide a road map of the behaviors and skills needed to be considered for a future role. Whether the employee steps into a temporary assignment or simply conducts a series of informational interviews, exploratory experiences can uncover details that contribute to informed decisions and better choices for the future.
  • Lateral: moving sideways. A sideways experience is an opportunity to leverage transferable skills acquired at the same or similar level while learning a new aspect of the business. In many organizations, movement among teams is more fluid and frequent than in the past and offers the opportunity to grow. Lateral experiences can build breadth of expertise, which senior leaders value. Employees who get hands-on experience in multiple areas learn functional interdependencies and gain a deeper understanding of how the organization works.
  • Realignment: stepping back. Too often labeled as a negative, stepping back can at times be the perfect choice. When a talented individual voluntarily realigns by stepping back and continues to contribute to the success of the organization, the employee and the organization win. Realignment experiences are often valuable when changing disciplines or fields. Whether changing disciplines or simply adjusting the work-life balance scale, taking on a role of less scope or responsibility could lead to greater engagement and satisfaction.
  • Vertical: moving on up. Promotional experiences still exist in organizations. It is critical that individuals choosing to pursue steps up clearly understand what to expect and examine the downsides as well as the upsides of the new role. Promotions can be enticing and they can also be rewarding. The key is in making sure those rewards—visibility, influence, compensation, and the like—are in sync with any accompanying trade-offs—longer hours, increased pressure, greater risks, and so on. When the time is right and the role checks all the boxes, then up is the answer.
  • Departure: leaving the nest. Often, there comes a time in most careers when stepping out the door is the next best option. If a particular competency or skill set can’t be acquired, or the environment or culture is not the right fit, then leaving might be best for the employee and the organization. The key here is to ensure that there is always an opportunity to return in the future. For many individuals, the chance to step out—even for a short period of time—and gain another perspective or experience is an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored. Some of those individuals may decide to return at some point, bringing with them new skills.

3. Recognize growth and celebrate it! Ensuring that employees are encouraged to stretch and learn, are coached when redirection is needed, and are celebrated when milestones are mastered, builds a sought-after development culture. When employees’ efforts to grow in traditional or nontraditional ways are acknowledged, a clear message is sent that the leader involved, as well as the organization they are a part of values and recognizes that growth. Employees want challenges in their work, opportunities to learn new things, greater employability, and leaders who value their contributions and care about their futures. These are all possible by expanding the definition of career growth.


Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International (now doing business as Talent Dimensions) and the author of multiple books on career development and engagement. Lindy Williams is a consultant with Talent Dimensions and the co-author of “Up Is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility” along with Kaye and Lynn Cowart.

  Wendy Tan   Feb 13, 2019   Career Development, Engagement   Comments Off on Plenty of Room to Grow   Read More

Does Career Development Make a Difference?

Does making career development a priority make sense?

For years HR departments have included an ‘official’ career development conversation somewhere among three or four conversations managers are asked to have at specific times during the year. Lengthy debates have ensued over whether the topic of career development should be included with other topics in one of the standard – usually quarterly, one-on-one discussions between the manager and the direct report or addressed in a standalone meeting focused solely on the employee’s career aspirations. Another approach has been to touch lightly on career development now and then, or maybe just leave it to the employee to bring up the subject when and if they’re ready. After all, individuals are supposed to own their careers.

Rather than viewing career development as an addition to other conversations or as one more thing to add to an already overflowing list of To Do’s, why not switch the lens and view it as a fundamental part of the employee experience?

There are four core assumptions that enable this lens switch:

One – Everyone has a career. Professionals are not the only people who have careers and certainly not the only group that wants and needs career development. A career pattern might be made up of years spent in one role doing one type of manual labor or could be viewed as a patchwork of varied experiences or roles of increasing responsibility. When an individual wants to stay put – loving what they do – their career development focuses on continuing to find ways to make that role as exciting and energizing as they need it to be to remain productive and continue contributing. When another individual wants variety or aspires to a greater scope of work or authority, career development means using the present experiences and time preparing for what could be — and should be — next.

Two – Career development is a powerful motivator. Surveys continue to point to career development as an essential element of effective engagement strategies. When employees can envision a future inside the organization, they are much more willing to stay and, in fact, they report higher levels of commitment to the success of the company or mission. If that line of sight to the future is missing, they will disengage and leave.

Three – Career growth is mandatory. This statement sometimes generates resistance. The cries of “But what if I don’t want to grow!” or “I’m happy right where I am.” My response is, “That’s your choice – AND – that role, whatever it is, will change around you. So your growth – your career development – will be, for the time being, ensuring that you grow right along with the role.” The world of work is changing too rapidly for anyone – in any job or role – to stand still and hope things will remain the same. From the service employee who last month was writing orders and this month is entering information into a tablet to the engineer exploring applications for artificial intelligence – jobs are changing. Growth is mandatory.

Four – Career development doesn’t have to be difficult. Yes, it requires some time. Yes, it requires some thought – on the part of the individual and the manager. And yes, it requires commitment on the part of the organization to provide tools, resources and opportunities. AND it can be integrated into what is already happening every day, every week, every month. When employees understand what it means to be the career owner; when managers know when and how to step in to help; and when organizations supply the surrounding support structure, career development happens. Conversations transform into ongoing dialogue rather than check-the-box meetings and rushed discussions.

In an HRO Today article I co-authored with Beverly Kaye recently entitled “Plenty of Room to Grow,” we highlighted continuous growth – the career development of individual employees – as the magical intersection of needs – the point where the needs of the individual, the manager and the organization meet.

  • Employees need and want to work in ways that are meaningful for them – career development moves them toward that objective.
  • Managers need and want teams of people who are performing at their best – career development moves a team toward that result.
  • And organizations need and want a workforce that is ready, willing and able to meet the challenges of today as well as what tomorrow will bring – career development equips employees to deliver on that outcome.

So the answer to the questions posed in the title is ‘yes’ – career development does make a difference!

  Wendy Tan   Aug 26, 2018   Career Development   Comments Off on Does Career Development Make a Difference?   Read More

The Five Signs of a Struggling Career Culture

Career development is one of the most powerful levers you have to engage and retain critical talent. Our research shows employees want opportunities to do exciting, challenging work and to learn, grow and develop. And, when they do, engagement goes up, productivity increases and turnover goes down. Even so, employee surveys, exit interviews and hallway chatter reveal you’re still not harnessing the power of development.

In our experience, organizations often miss the warning signs of a struggling career culture. Are you heeding the signs?

No foundation

Even the strongest of structures requires a solid foundation. Organizations with no career development framework and philosophy about what it is or is not will quickly find themselves on unstable ground.

No consistency

When there is no clear direction and a lack of foundation, it’s not uncommon to see an abundance of information all designed to help people manage their careers. People in the organization work to fill the gaps by developing their own career philosophy and resources. It ultimately creates a lack of consistency and confusion. And, when managers and employees don’t clearly know what to do, they may do nothing at all or be paralyzed by all that’s available.

No direction

The lack of strong foundation leads to a lack of direction. Ask two or more people in your organization, “what does career development mean here?” If you get multiple answers, you may lack the clear direction needed to create a career culture.

No commitment

Culture is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an organization. Establishing a career culture won’t happen overnight. It requires long-term focus and a strategy to sustain and grow. Organizations that “let up” once they start to see positive results will soon see old mindsets emerge. Know that you are “in it for the long-haul” and plan accordingly.

No partnership

Career development is a partnership between the organization, the manager and the employee. Do each understand their role and how they support each other? Focus on only one and you are missing the ability to leverage the power of an aligned partnership focused on a common goal.

“Culture is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an organization. Establishing a career culture won’t happen overnight. It requires long-term focus and a strategy to sustain and grow.”

This post is written by and posted on Career Systems International.

If these ideas are useful to you, check out our upcoming career planning and career coaching workshops on 20 and 27 Mar 2017.

Having sat through the entire career development session, we found the content relevant, insightful and inspiring. We enjoyed the stimulating and interesting ways you conveyed the key points. The engaging exercises helped us understand and remember the key concepts too. 

– Andrew Fung, Director, Caliberlink

Thank you so much for conducting the career development session and gave us a lot knowledge for clarifying our career roadmaps as well as doing our jobs in better ways.

– Gordon Chen, Corporate Trainer, Aegis Media

  Wendy Tan   Feb 09, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on The Five Signs of a Struggling Career Culture   Read More
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