love em or lose em

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

The 3 Essential Jobs That Most Retention Programs Ignore


by Lynn Cowart, Cile Johnson and Beverly Kaye
January 05, 2018

For more than a decade, leading human resource strategists have hit on a recurring theme: You want your star players working in the roles that matter most to the business. For example, in 2009 professors Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, and Richard Beatty estimated that in most companies less than 15% of jobs are what they call strategic positions and said management should focus “disproportionate investments” on finding A players for those jobs. USC’s John Boudreau, CEO adviser Ram Charan, and consultants at Bain & Company, McKinsey, and Korn Ferry have made similar arguments.

Building on these ideas, we have identified six leverage roles where you want to make sure you have — and keep — your highest-caliber people. But over and over again in our three decades of experience as talent development and retention specialists, we’ve seen that companies consistently overlook half of them. As a result, these companies risk losing highly effective people in positions that have much greater impact on performance than many leaders realize.

The roles that already tend to get lots of attention at most companies are:

  • Indispensable senior leaders. The chief marketing officers at consumer products companies, the heads of design at luxury apparel companies, and the heads of logistics at large retailers are cases in point.
  • Connectors in the middle. Although long ignored, these middle management positions have become increasingly recognized as critical to executing a company’s strategy. In sales-driven companies (think pharmaceuticals and industrial equipment), they are often field sales managers who direct dozens of salespeople in the highest-volume regions.
  • High-potential future leaders. These are up-and-comers expected to fill the organization’s top management positions.

But most organizations we know give little if any attention to retaining people who occupy three other roles. These overlooked roles are:

  • Essential experts. These are jobs in R&D, technology, and other areas vital to a firm’s strategic direction, product development, and process efficiency. These people tend not to have — or want — management responsibilities.
  • Customer experience creators. People in this role regularly interact with a company’s most valuable customers and determine whether they stay customers. The jobs are in sales, customer contact centers, and field service positions.
  • Critical contractors. They are not employees; they are contingent workers who are nonetheless vital to an organization’s R&D, marketing, and other key processes. They are different from the standard independent contractor in that they are high-priced free agents with extremely valuable, 
and rare, expertise that a company doesn’t possess.

None of these jobs are at the top of the organization chart, and with the possible exception of some customer experience creators, the people who hold them aren’t looking to move up in the organization. Because these aren’t management-track jobs, companies often overlook the importance of keeping high-performing people in them. Let’s examine each a little more closely.

Essential Experts

Essential experts possess crucial knowledge but don’t want to manage others. This role is common in technology, engineering, and life sciences companies, where domain expertise in narrow and arcane areas can be crucial to market success. But the role is becoming important in many other industries as well, such as creative arenas (for example, product design in retail) and communications.

Note that essential experts typically don’t want to manage others; they only want to manage themselves. That makes retaining them very different from retaining someone who wants to scale the corporate hierarchy by managing increasingly larger operations.

So how do you keep them? Competitive compensation is table stakes for these folks. (Some might deserve to make more than certain executives in your company.) After all, they can easily take their expertise elsewhere. But your work environment is also a chief concern. They expect to do work they consider meaningful and that aligns with their values.

As an example, look at Google and its investments in artificial intelligence. In 2014 the company shelled out $650 million to buy AI startup DeepMind Technologies and went to great lengths to keep that firm’s 50 AI scientists and engineers in place. For example, Google had to promise it wouldn’t use DeepMind technology for military or intelligence purposes. It also had to let DeepMind scientists continue publishing their research in scientific journals — knowledge Google might have regarded as proprietary and kept private.

Capability development is also very important to a company’s essential experts, especially gaining knowledge and applying it to meaningful projects. They are lifelong learners who often want to be regarded as leading lights in their fields. Helping them become recognized as thought leaders — by being published in prestigious publications, for instance, or speaking at notable conferences — can go a long way toward keeping them.

Customer Experience Creators

These employees influence whether visitors become customers, and whether those customers return. They may be salespeople whose customers need lots of handholding — think life insurance, for instance, or industrial machinery. Or they may be people who interact with customers after the sale. Think of customer reps who support the biggest investors at asset management companies like Fidelity and Putnam.

The two most important retention drivers to keep people in these roles are compensation and organizational reputation. Competitive compensation is a minimum requirement; they can often make more elsewhere.

Organizational reputation is also important because employees need to feel good about the products and services they sell or service. For example, Vail Resorts, a $1.9 billion company that operates multiple ski resorts, has grown to understand the employee retention value in reputation. About 80% of its more than 30,000 employees are seasonal hires, and many of them are customer experience creators — lift operators, ski instructors, lodge and restaurant workers, and so on. Mark Gasta, the company’s chief human resource officer from 2008 to 2016, said these workers were “essential to the organization’s success… [T]heir long tenure is important.” Ideally, seasonal workers will return, year after year.

Keeping key talent was essential for Vail Resorts’ return to prosperity following the 2009 recession, and one move that was instrumental in doing that was clarifying the company’s values. As a firm that strives to create great outdoor experiences for customers, it’s no surprise that protecting the environment became a core value — something that matters to employees at the front lines.

“It doesn’t matter how much you pay,” said Gasta, though he noted that Vail Resorts’ pay is competitive. “If you’re not in line with their personal aspirations, they’ll eventually leave. Employees want to know that they work for a company that does good, and then they want to know how they can contribute.” The company put sustainability front and center in external and internal communications. In 2017 it announced a bold initiative to end carbon emissions, reduce waste to landfills to zero, and eliminate adverse environmental impact by 2030.

When it comes to work environment, Vail Resorts introduced flexibility to give employees time off to pursue their passions. It offers ski breaks, for instance, and employee ski days. In fact, “having fun” is one of its six core values for workers.

Critical Contractors

Independent contractors have become ubiquitous. Some 20% to 30% of American and European Union workers are independent, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. About 30% of those 162 million people are free agents by choice, not necessity, according to McKinsey research. In fact, another study, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that 94% of the net new employment in the U.S. from 2005 to 2015 came from freelance work.

All that to say, independent contractors are here to stay. Consider the example of Ecolab, a $13 billion global company that provides water, hygiene, and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. About 6,000 of Ecolab’s 48,000 workers are contingent workers. Some of its most important contractors possess rare and deep expertise in key areas, such as sugar beets and how to refine them. “There are very few sugar beet experts in the world, and one of them works on a contingent basis for us,” says Laurie Marsh, Ecolab’s executive vice president of human resources. “He was retired and didn’t want to come back to working full-time. We’re glad he’s on call and on our team.”

To keep such critical contractors in the fold, Ecolab provides the “best set of materials to do the job,” Marsh said. “We spend a great deal of time ensuring that they have the latest technologies and the best research facilities.”

Compensation is also of utmost importance, as it is for other star employees, and capability development is too, specifically around personal brand. This doesn’t mean offering a career path inside your company; it means helping a critical contractor further develop their credibility in the marketplace.

An organization’s reputation is important to critical contractors. To put it simply, they want to work with winners. Companies with strong brands have a leg up in attracting critical contractors. Those with weak brands have a much harder time getting the best of the best, unless those critical contractors are up-and-comers and don’t yet have strong personal brands.

Keeping your company’s talented essential experts, customer experience creators, and critical contractors working for you and engaged in their work starts with acknowledging that senior leaders aren’t always the most valuable people in the company.

Many companies direct their retention strategies almost exclusively at top management and high potentials. But by ignoring other key roles — the roles that drive competitive advantage — you may be letting valuable talent slip through your fingers. Figure out which roles have the greatest impact on market performance — and staff them with stars.


Lynn Cowart is Vice President of Quality Delivery at Career Systems International, a consulting and training firm that helps companies retain and develop key talent.



Cile Johnson is Senior Vice President at Career Systems International, a consulting and training firm that helps companies retain and develop key talent.



Beverly Kaye is the Founder of Career Systems International and a bestselling author on career development and workplace performance. Her most recent book (with Lindy Williams and Lynn Cowart) is Up Is Not the Only Way: Rethinking Career Mobility.

  Wendy Tan   Jan 29, 2019   Career Development, Engagement   Comments Off on The 3 Essential Jobs That Most Retention Programs Ignore   Read More

Employee Engagement is a Two-Way Street

 Who owns the Employee Engagement Equation?

Reports and surveys and studies continue to cite employee engagement as fundamental to maximizing performance and to achieving organizational goals. Training programs prepare managers to reach out to team members and ask questions to better understand what employees need and want from their work and from the environment. Managers are instrumental in creating and maintaining the space in which work happens. Nothing grows without careful attention to the surrounding atmosphere. So, yes, managers own a piece of the employee engagement equation.

But what about the employee? Most of us are employees – even a sole proprietor reporting only to himself or the small business owner sharing her home office with her dog – they are both employed to do something, to create something, to achieve something. What piece of the employee engagement equation does he own? Does she own? What piece of employee engagement do you and I own? And if we own it, what can we do about it?

An organization in its simplest form is merely a group of people – of employees – who come together to do something. An organization is comprised of individuals working toward a common goal – to create a product, to deliver a service, or to accomplish a task. Employee engagement – the combination of the engagement levels of each one of us impacts our group’s ability to achieve whatever goals are set. When engagement of the individuals in the group is lagging or missing in some way it negatively impacts the combined efforts of the entire group. Each and every one of us owns some piece of this thing called engagement if we want to achieve something as a part of a larger team as well as individually. There are not a lot of people who yearn to be a part of a failing effort. So what can be done? What can individuals do, to impact the employee engagement levels in the group?

First, how about starting with my own engagement level? I can take a close look at what’s working for me and what’s not. Asking myself the question – When am I performing at my peak? What’s happening then? What does it look like? What am I doing? What’s going on around me? – can give me a clearer picture of my own employee engagement conditions. A colleague shared with me that she learned that starting her morning routine listening to a business podcast puts her in the right frame of mind to dive in when she sits down at her desk. A young professional I know is careful to create spaces on his daily calendar to exchange ideas and have a conversation with his teammates because he has learned that peer interaction is essential to his level of employee engagement. A friend who recently began working from his home office struggled with how to get into the “office mode” until he discovered that walking two blocks to his favorite coffee shop then returning to “the office” was what worked for him to set the stage for his day. Unless we do some reflection on what works for us, we may be missing some really simple things that can make a difference.

Second, when I find that something is missing or not quite right – something that could make my own engagement even better – I can talk about it, ask about it. Is there something a manager or a colleague could do to help? Often a simple change can make a very big difference. A manager in a recent program shared that he narrowly avoided losing a top performer because he didn’t realize how concerned the employee was about some upcoming changes in direction. Fortunately for the manager and for the individual, a candid conversation was all it took for the employee to feel more engaged in the organization’s future and for the manager to get a better understanding of this individual’s engagement level.

Of course, it’s possible that the one thing that’s needed might not be feasible at the moment – maybe the manager can’t make a change in the schedule to better match my needs right now, or there’s not a role at the moment in a particular project I wanted to be a part of – but at least I’ve made known that something is important to me, and put it on the radar screen so it might work out in the future.

The answer then is that the employee engagement equation is owned by employees – by each one of us – as well as by managers – and can be an equation with powerful and positive results!


  Wendy Tan   Aug 24, 2018   Engagement   Comments Off on Employee Engagement is a Two-Way Street   Read More

It’s Time to Prioritize Career Development

Given the nature of today’s workplace, there are a number of things pulling at business leaders’ attention on any given day. Instantaneous access to information coupled with pressure to consistently meet the ever-escalating expectations of customers and shareholders offers fuel countless priorities and to-dos every day.

But there’s one priority that might serve leaders better than any other and drive sustainable business results: career development.

Whereas in the past career development was frequently relegated to “nice-to-do” or “when you get around to it,” today it’s increasingly being viewed as a necessity. Study upon study links to career and talent development to valued business metrics, leading indicators, and positive overall outcomes.

Despite the quantifiable connection between a focus on career development and what matters most to organizations, too few managers and leaders focus on career development. A recent pulse survey we conducted found that half of the respondents felt that their managers are disinterested in their career development.

How would the employees in your organization rate managers overall? How would your employees rate you?

At the same time, this pulse survey also offers a hopeful message. Twenty-five percent of the respondents expressed their satisfaction and pleasure, indicating that their managers fall on the “prioritized” end of the continuum and act as active partners, supporters, and champions of career development.

Being able to learn, grow, expand capacity and work toward career goals is of vital importance to most individuals. It’s also of vital importance to organizations interested in exceeding customer demands, continuously improving products and services, and delivering shareholder value. Leaders who prioritize and put energy into career development find they are better able to deliver on both the business and human outcomes.

These leaders think and behave a little differently than others, putting daily behaviors and habits into practice that any leader can adopt. Try one or more of these priorities to demonstrate your commitment to the development of those around you.

Priority 1: Assume that everyone has the potential to learn and grow. 

Leaders who drive career development live by an abiding belief that every individual is valuable and capable of developing their skills and abilities further. This belief plays out in countless ways every day, conveying and inspiring greater confidence in others. Under these conditions, employees are willing to commit to learning, take risks, entertain instructive failure, and make enormous development strides in the process.

Priority 2: Focus on an opportunity-filled future.

Leaders who prioritize career development know how to generate enthusiasm, energy and a sense of hope by helping others envision the possibilities that might lie ahead. For employees, the future feels bright in the presence of these leaders because they consistently anticipate ways to connect what employees need to learn or experience with ever-changing workplace conditions. Because these leaders coach their employees to always be pursuing multiple, flexible scenarios, plenty of chances to learn and advance will always be available along some of the possible paths being pursued.

Priority 3: Cultivate peripheral vision.

Leaders committed to employee development are able to enjoy this confidence in the future in part because they are constantly scanning the environment. They keep their eyes on and continuously refine their understanding of the big picture. They remain hyper vigilant to the factors that affect the business, the organizational culture and future opportunities, and they teach those around them to do the same. This focus forward and toward the future allows employees to make decisions today that will serve them well in the uncertainty of tomorrow.

“Being able to learn, grow, expand capacity and work toward career goals is of vital importance to most individuals.”

Priority 4: Generously share information.

Hoarders of information typically make terrible developers of people. Think about the managers under whose leadership you’ve grown the most. They likely communicated a lot. These individuals probably believed in the value of transparency; they knew that with the right information, employees could make the best possible decisions, both for the business and their own careers.

Employees are hungry for candid, forthright information about things that affect them. They don’t want managers to tell them what they want to hear; they want what they need to hear — even if it’s unpleasant or scary.

And sharing big picture information about the organization, its strategies, where it’s headed and the challenges anticipated along the way will not only help people perform better but also give them crucial information about where they can add value and where opportunities might lie.

Priority 5: Dwell on strengths, talents, and capabilities.

Powerful developers of people don’t frame the effort in terms of fixing problems, shoring up weak‐ nesses or unraveling vulnerabilities. They know that the shortest and surest way forward and toward one’s career goals are through their strengths and talents. Employees who are fortunate enough to report to these leaders quickly learn to focus on what they do well and find ways to further magnify those capabilities. This approach is energizing and quickly establishes a positive context for development that infuses itself into all dimensions of work life, triggering an upward spiral of enthusiasm, engagement, and results.

Priority 6: Treat career development as a daily part of the leadership role.

Managers who prioritize career development understand that it’s not a human resources function — it’s a leadership function. They don’t see it as the annual exercise of checking boxes but rather as the daily exercise of checking in with others.

Research has shown that the more frequently managers meet with those who report to them, the more engaged team members will be. In customer service, it’s long been understood that every customer contact is an opportunity to build the emotional connection between the customer and service provider. The same holds true for managers and their employees. More positive points of contact build rapport, trust, engagement, and commitment.

Formal, scheduled connections like one-on-ones, performance appraisals, and individual development planning sessions are just a small part of the conversational repertoire. These leaders recognize and seize small moments within the context of daily work to connect, offer feedback, acknowledge the effort, praise results, explore learning, or just ask how things are going. These conversations are spontaneous, ad-hoc, unplanned and tremendously powerful in terms of institutionalizing career development.

Priority 7: View talent as an enterprisewide resource.

Our field research suggests that one of the key factors keeping managers from engaging in career development is that they are concerned about developing people only to see them leave for a better opportunity. A 2015 survey from advisory and technology firm CEB backs this up. Nearly 60 percent of the human resources executives who responded paint a dismal snapshot of managerial generosity, indicating that managers in their organizations don’t share talent.

Leaders who prioritize career development see things differently. They recognize that as skills and experience increase, employees might need challenges that are no longer available in their current roles. As a result, these leaders help find other opportunities — even if it means losing a key player. They realize that developing individuals raises the bar for the entire group. They also realize that the reputation they develop for helping others grow makes them a talent magnet, able to attract a steady stream of capable individuals.

Priority 8: Use the value of peer-to-peer support.

Leaders know that they can’t — and shouldn’t — do it all. They realize that each of their own direct reports has not only the skills and abilities to apply to their jobs but also the coaching and counsel to offer each another. They take advantage of this.

Others’ input benefits personal and professional growth in most areas. As a result, employees who can seek and offer feedback freely and effectively experience accelerated development. In the process, they also master a core supervisory skill that may prepare them for a future role.

Prioritizing career development is a good thing for leaders at every level — because it creates the conditions for people and organizations to thrive.

Besides, of all the things to prioritize, shouldn’t the growth of employees be at the top of a leader’s list?

“Leaders who prioritize and put energy into career development find they are better able to deliver on both the business and human outcomes.”

This is written by Julie Winkle Giulioni and Beverly Kaye, on http://www.

  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on It’s Time to Prioritize Career Development   Read More

Please Invade My Space

Picture a typical day at work. A manager leaves his office and heads to the cafeteria on the other side of the building. On the way, he passes Emma from the call center. He also makes his way past Lin, who works in the mail room, and the brushes by one of his team lead, Roy. The manager gets to the cafeteria, picks up a sandwich from the cooler and pays Pat at the register.

Who did he see along the way? It wasn’t Emma, Lin, Roy, and Pat. He saw no one. He only saw the screen on his smartphone, and he responded to an email from Roy. Yes, the same Roy he just passed in the hall. Seem crazy? It shouldn’t. It’s just another day at the office.

Why Talk When You Can Text?

With the emergence of email, Twitter, smartphones, instant messages and other technology-based communication devices, the art of making eye contact and even the simple act of saying hello in the workplace is becoming folklore for workplace blogs. Years from now, archeologists may write articles about how and when the art of a one-on-one conversation become obsolete. True, these advancements may make it easier to communicate faster and with more people at once, but it doesn’t always make it better, and it isn’t necessarily helping leaders engage and retain their employees.

Physician and writer Deepak Chopra talks about the link between well-being and a manager’s style. He suggests that if a manager criticises an employee, there is a 20% chance the employee will be actively disengaged. In contrast, when a manager ignores and employee, the chance of being actively disengaged jumps to 40%. In short, employees would rather be criticized by their managers than ignored. Research by Career Systems International confirms the importance of the employee-manager relationship. In a study with more that 17,00 respondents, a supportive manager and great boss rank in the top 5 reasons employees stay and remain engaged at work.

A number of assumptions may be stopping leaders from having meaningful, face-to-face conversations:

  1. “My employee know my door is always open and they can come to me anytime.”
  2. “If they need something, they’ll ask.”
  3. “No one has time for chitchat.”
  4. “It’s a lot more efficient for me to communicate this way, and my employees prefer it.”

Rather than make assumptions, talent leaders would be better served to mandate leader-direct report engagement. For instance, a senior leader at a manufacturing facility could institute the “eight-foot rule” requiring all leaders to engage their employees in conversation anytime they come withing eight feet of each other. Managers won’t start walking around the building with a tape measure, but they will start looking people in the eye, saying hello and even stopping in the halls for quick conversations. The changes aren’t monumental, but they are noticeable.

Contrast this scenario with a manager at an aerospace company who chooses to attend his staff meeting via telecom. No big deal, right? In today’s virtual world, it’s not uncommon to talk with one’s team via phone. In this case, it was a big deal. The team meeting is 20 steps away from the manager’s office, yet he chooses to dial in on the conference line. If he’s not dialing in, he’s instant message tasks, questions, and updates.

Employees would rather work for the manager who notices an employee in the office and says, “Good morning,” not the manager who stays in the office keeping in touch by phone and instant messaging when he sits just down the hall. Employees want to have face-to-face conversations with their boss. When, where, what, and how often may vary, but relationships are built through conversations, and employees want a relationship with their boss.

Get Up and Start Talking

Research firm the Radicati Group’s Email Statistic Report for 2011-2015 reports the average corporate user sends and receives 105 emails a day. The good news is that the rate of daily emails is slowing down. The bad news is that email is being replaced by instant messaging (IM) and social networks.

In 2011, the number of IM accounts reached approximately 2.6 billion and worldwide social networking accounts hit some 2.4 billion. Smartphones keep folks in touch as well, with billions of global wireless users. With the ease of use and access to all this communication technology,  it’s understandable that leaders are using it to keep in touch with employees. It’s fast, efficient and accessible. It’s also can be a cop out. Technology doesn’t always deliver what employees want and need from their leaders. They want communication and information, but they also want to know they matter.

Getting up and starting to talk isn’t hard, but in today’s technology-based work environment, it does have to be purposeful. Managers need to leave their offices and leave smartphones behind. For instance, they can plan weekly face time with their employees by putting in on their calendars and sticking to it. Or, set and “out of office” message on email, and get up and get out with the sole purpose of making face-to-face contact with employees.

Despite myriad available development options, it’s not uncommon for leaders not to know what to say during face-to-face interactions. The following are all popular sentiments leaders use to avoid in-person communique: “What will I say? What if they ask for something I can’t give? I’m just not comfortable in one-on-one conversations.” It can be easier to hide behind and email message, but email is rarely cited as a big retention and engagement tool. Research does confirm, however, that employees are engaged when they believe their manager cares.

Talent managers should encourage managers to be curious about their employees. When people are curious, they are eager to get information. They ask powerful questions to learn more, and managers should actively listen to the answers.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

The key is to ask questions designed to get to know employees beyond the daily work they do. The career conversation offers this opportunity. It can help employees uncover skills, interests, and values, talking about career aspirations and goals, and learn what engages them and what doesn’t. In short, managers must ask questions and listen to responses. Consider these conversation-sparking, career-related questions:

  • What makes for a great day at work?
  • What interests must you in your current job?
  • Which parts of your job do you find the most challenging?
  • What do you excel in?
  • What do you wish you have more time to do in your work?
  • What skills do you appreciate in others that don’t come easy for you?
  • What’s working? What’s not?
  • How can I support you?

What managers can ask is limitless; It’s how they listen and how often they ask that matters most. Keep the distractions to a minimum and focus on the conversations. try the aforementioned eight-foot rule and see what happens. Don’t have time to stop for a conversation? Keep the smartphone in the pocket, make eye contact with employees in the hall and say hello.

However, all this talk about talking wouldn’t be complete without a word of caution. Not every employee wants the same thing. For some, invading their space may be equal to declaring battle. Engaging every employee in conversation takes finesse and a little bit of investigative work. For some employees, regular face-to-face communication may be every six months. Other wants a daily hello. Managers would be well advised to talk with their employees and get a sense of just how much conversation they want by asking:

  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • How do you like to receive feedback or work through issues?
  • When would you prefer a face-to-face conversation versus an email?
  • When we do get together to talk, what are some topics you would like to cover?

“Technology doesn’t always deliver what employees want and need from their leaders. They want communication and information, but they also want to know they matter.”

Make no assumptions – ask- and understand that what works for one employee may not work for others. Managers with geographically dispersed direct reports will have to make an extra effort to align employee expectations with the reality of time and distance separating them.

According to Radicati Group, there will be more than 1.2 billion wireless email users by year’s end in 2015. Reliance on technology-based communication platforms will continue to grow, with many positive results. The value of face-to-face conversations won’t diminish during that time; it will become more important as employees and managers week ways to connect and engage at work.

This article was written by Beverly Crowell, the VP of strategic client services for Career Systems International, on


Interested in something similar? Check out our new webinar happening in August!

This webinar is based on Robin Speculand’s new book, Excellence in Execution, providing leaders of today the right mindset, skillset, and toolset for execution, and the challenges of executing strategy in today’s turbulent business market.

Click here to find out more!

  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on Please Invade My Space   Read More

26 Ways To Show Your Employees You Care

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 10, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on 26 Ways To Show Your Employees You Care   Read More

Conversations During Times of Transformation and Change

In times of uncertainty, the risk of losing top talent are especially high. If you’re in the midst of, or just emerged from big changes, you’re at risk.

And in times of uncertainty, its easy for leaders to “lay low” in the spirit of not creating panic, raising issues or having to face tough questions where they may not have all the answers. But, in the absence of information, employees are likely to make it up. Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that engaged employees are “in the know.”

“They want to be trusted with the truth about the business, including its challenges and changes.”

Conversations during times of transformation and change are critical for engaging, retaining, developing and challenging top talent. Conversations can minimise the mystery and help employees understand where and how they fit amid the changes taking place inside the organization.

What can you do? First, share openly, honestly and often. You don’t need a crystal ball to do so. Focus on these four areas to start:

  1. Your organization’s strategic direction and goals.
  2. Your professional, industry and organization’s future.
  3. The emerging trends and new development that may affect career possibilities.
  4. The cultural and political realities of your organization.

Start a conversation around these areas and as you do so, your employees will learn to look broadly at their profession, industry, and organization and see trends and implications. They will also feel more competent and confident in their future marketability.

And what if you have to hold some information back? Remember, be honest. Tell them you are not at liberty to share and why. Be prepared that your response may not please people, but if you establish a track record of early, honest information sharing during these times of transformation and change, you will have more room to hold information in confidence when you need to.

Finally, it’s a two-way street when we have these conversations. Getting information is also a way of engaging, retaining, developing and challenging your employees. Don’t forget to ask what they want from you, when they want it and in what form what they would like to get it. People want to be heard regarding their jobs, the work at hand, and the organization’s goals and strategies.

So, stay in the loop.

“Keep your employees in the loop. It will help you keep your talent.”

Conversation kick-starters

  1. How is our workplace changing or not? How are these changes impacting you?
  2. What questions do you have about the changes we are undergoing in our organization?
  3. We are in the midst or making a lot of changes. What kind of information do you need from me and what is the best way to pass it along?
  4. What are the key issues or concern driving the organizational goals? How can you play a role?
  5. Given the changes taking place in our company, where do you think you have the most viable opportunities?


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 10, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on Conversations During Times of Transformation and Change   Read More

Ten Things You Can Offer Your Employees That Are Better Than a Raise

Raising salaries can be difficult when budgets are tight. But replacing a key person on your staff? That’s going to cost you about two times that person’s annual compensation! You simply can’t afford to do that too often.

So the BK Expert Directory is here to share the latest retention techniques recommended by our employee retention experts, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. We have adopted information and tops from their bestselling employee retention book. Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em (over 680,000 copies sold!) to help you figure out what you can offer your employees that is just as good – or even better than – a raise.

Not only do we share with you why employees choose to stay, but we also share Bev and Sharon’s recommendations for how you can give them what they want. Figuring out what employees really want and how to give it to them can be tough, but it’s a learnable skill. With enough study, every manager in your organization can become a master of the art of employee retention.

Are you ready for your crash course in employee retention? Time to get started!

“Figuring out what employees really want and how to give it to them can be tough, but it’s a learnable skill.”

The first thing that is better than a raise: Exciting, Challenging, or Meaningful Work

All right, we get it: not all jobs are necessarily exciting. We can’t all be astronauts, presidents, and ballerinas. But if you’re wondering how you can get someone excited about the mundane, everyday rigors of  data entry, customer service, etc., there may be more creative solutions than you expect! Let’s see what Bev and Sharon have to say.

Easy ways to Make Your Employees’ Work More Challenging and Meaningful

How can you make your employees’ work more challenging and meaningful? Go out of your way to find enrichment opportunities for them! But be careful: enrichment can take many different forms. Remember to ask your talented employees what they’d like to do and how they’d like to do it. Here are some techniques that work if you are careful to match them to individual wants and needs.

  1. Form teams. Self-directed work groups can make a lot of their own decisions. They can redistribute work so that team members learn more, have more variety, and follow more projects through to completion.
  2. Connect employees with clients. For example, a computer systems troubleshooter might be more effective knowing the needs of real people and units rather than only responding to problems as they occur. So give her a client. Clients can be inside or outside the organization. For instance, you could assign the troubleshooter to one department and make her accountable for that internal client’s success in using the company’s computer system. It’s amazing how many employees never see their clients.
  3. Rotate assignments. New responsibilities can help employees feel challenged and valued, and employees can acquire important new skills that add depth to the workforce. Do rotational assignments sound like chaos? Suggest the idea and let your employees propose the “who” and “how” part; you’ll be surprised at their expertise in making it happen smoothly.
  4. Increase feedback. Do more than annual reviews. Find ways to develop peer review and client review opportunities. Employees want to know about their performance, and continual feedback allows them to be their own quality control agents.
  5. Involve employees in decisions. Employees are empowered and motivated when they take part in decisions that have an impact on their work, such as budget and hiring decisions or ways to organize work and schedules. Involvement allows employees to see the big picture and enables them to make a contribution they find meaningful.
  6. Nurture creativity. When untapped, creativity dwindles. If employees rarely think for themselves, they lose the ability to contribute their best ideas. They simply go through the paces, undermotivated and disengaged. You can help by asking for and rewarding creative ideas, by giving employees the freedom and resources to create, and by challenging employees with new assignments, tasks, and learning.
  7. Ask employees to teach someone. Teaching another person is motivational for many. If an employee has a particular niche or specialty and enjoys passing this knowledge on, you have a perfect win-win!
  8. Support enrollment in learning opportunities. German law provides for a Bildungsurlaub, five days off per year to participate in an approved training course. Training doesn’t have to be directly connected to a job as long as it is approved by the state. Although not many countries have a law like this, the idea of enriching a job via a learning experience is something any manager in any organization can explore.

The second thing that is better than a raise: Supportive Management and a Good Boss

There’s a reason business expert Marcus Buckingham said, “People leave managers, not companies.” One of the best ways to retain employees is to make sure they have excellent bosses. So what makes a good boss? The best bosses empower their employees instead of micromanaging them. In essence, good bosses are willing to yield some of their power to their employees.

When you yield occasionally to your employees, you empower them to think for themselves, to be more creative, more enthusiastic, and probably more productive. You send your employees the message that you trust them and want to give them more responsibility. Sometimes managers have difficulty letting go of control because they want tasks to be done perfectly. But which is more important: a perfectly done task or an engaged employee who is motivated to stay, grow, and constantly improve?

Ways to Be a Supportive and Empowering Boss

To help you figure out how to be a supportive and empowering boss, Bev and Sharon have composed the following list of tips. Give them a try. Empowered employees will have great ideas or perspectives on tasks you may not have asked them to perform. They will put their own signatures on excellence. They may even take your breath away!

  1. Trust your employees to come up with the answers. Even if you would have done a task another way, consider the approaches they create and support them all the way.
  2. Manage your reactions when you yield and they crash. Powering down and yielding are sometimes risky, and failures will happen. Instead of punishing, collaborate with your empowered employees to learn from their mistake. Focus on what they can do differently next time around, rather than using the rearview-mirror approach of what they should have done.
  3. Serve your employees. Be a resource to them. Yielding doesn’t mean you take the next exit. Empowerment spells disaster in too many cases where the manager tosses decisions and workloads at his employees and then moves on to bigger things. The “no answers” approach works only if you are willing to brainstorm with your employees when they are stumped and to give them guidance and feedback along the way.
  4. See them as colleagues, not just subordinates. Show it by occasionally doing work that may seem “beneath you.” Working side by side with your employees will strengthen your relationships and increase their respect for you.
  5. Listen to and use their ideas. Author John Izzo’s research suggests that people want a seat at the table. Employees tend to withhold their ideas and they take less initiative to make improvements when decisions are made without their input.
  6. Stop micromanaging. Let go. Stop looking over your employees’ shoulders. Ask them what level of inspection, critique, or control they want you to use as you manage them. Negotiate ways to get quality work done while letting them do it their way.
  7. Give the spotlight away. This may be the toughest of all. As the hero, you may have received applause from your employees, and they may have credited you with the team’s success. Powering down means sharing the stage and the applause with your team members. Ironically, your stock will go up with your employees as you increasingly give them room to perform (and get credit for) brilliant, creative work.

The third thing that is better than a raise: Recognition for Work Well Done

Multiple studies around the globe tell us that a majority of people leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. What about your employees? Ask them how they are recognized and appreciated. If they immediately respond with “You notice my contributions” or “You thank me all the time,” then you’re doing great. If they stare blankly at you and then finally say, “Do you mean my paycheck?” you might have some work to do in the rewards department.

The challenging thing here is that people really vary in what makes them feel valued. Some people crave official praise and awards. Others would prefer something more tangible, like a day off or a new opportunity. The key is to get to know your individual employees and figure out what kind of appreciation motivates them most. What makes them feel truly valued?

Examples of Requests People Have Made for Recognition

Bev and Sharon have compiled the following list of different forms of appreciation real-life employees have requested from their managers. As you read this list, ask yourself, “Which of these would my employees most appreciate?” Of course, when in doubt, ask! Call your employee into your office and say, “The company’s looking for a way to recognize you for your great work. Which reward would mean the most to you?”

  1. An award, preferably given in front of my peers
  2. A plaque to hang on my wall
  3. A thank-you, in writing, from my boss
  4. A note to my boss’s boss about my excellent performance
  5. Frequent pats on the back
  6. My boss actually implementing one of my ideas
  7. A chance to be on a really exciting, cutting-edge project
  8. A day off
  9. Words of praise in front of my family
  10. A chance to go to lunch with senior management
  11. An opportunity to work with people from other parts of the company
  12. A chance to be on one of the important steering committees
  13. A change in my title
  14. Some flexibility in my schedule
  15. More freedom or autonomy
  16. A seminar or training class

The fourth thing that is better than a raise: Career Growth, Learning, and Development

In a constantly changing world, people crave learning more than ever: it’s the only way to stay at the top of your field. Young employees in particular are hungry for learning and will go wherever their quest for knowledge takes them. So you have to make sure there are plenty of ways people can pursue their quest for knowledge inside your organization! Don’t leave them in the dark about their next steps, either: they’ll want to know where their new knowledge will take them.

To help motivate your employees to stay, have career conversations with them. What your employees really want are two-way conversations with you to talk about their abilities, choices, and ideas. They want you to listen. They may not expect you to have the answers, but they expect and want to have the dialogue.

Listening to them is a great way to show your commitment to their learning, growth, and development. As you listen, ask the questions that will help them find their way. Work with them to draw up a career plan based on their intrinsic interests. This is a great way to win their commitment and inspire loyalty.

Questions to Help Your Employees Draw Up a Career Growth Plan

Try asking any or all of the following questions. More importantly, help your employees draw up a plan to act on the results. If they see a clear path to advancing in their career with you, they are less likely to leave.

  1. What skills would you need to gain to help you achieve your goals?
  2. What abilities do you already have that would help you toward any of your goals?
  3. Who is in your network already who might open a door for you?
  4. What training could I make available to fill the gaps you see?
  5. What kinds of on-the-job development could help you move closer to several of your options?

The fifth thing that is better than a raise: Flexible Work Environment

Sometimes the organization has no rule about working from another place, but the manager says no anyway. If you are one of those managers, ask yourself why. Is it a lack of trust in your employees? Is it concern that they will not be productive without your ever-vigilant eye? If so, consider managing based on results. Be clear about your expectations: what do you want them to produce or create? By when? Consider letting your employees get those results from whatever location they wish.

Of course, sometimes the barrier to spending time with family is not the geographic location but the working hours. So what about offering flexible working hours? True, you may feel restricted by your organization’s lack of family-friendly programs or policies. Yet you have tremendous opportunities to get family-friendly within your own work group. What you do (and fail to do) as a manager can mean so much to your employees as they juggle work and family. And much of what you can do as a manager costs you and your organization little or nothing.

Ways to Give Your Employees More Flexibility

Here are some great examples of cost-efficient ways to make your team flexible and family-friendly.

  1. If employees must travel on weekends, offer something in exchange, such as time off during the week or allowing family members to travel with the employees.
  2. When your employees travel to areas where they have family or friends, allow them to spend extra time with those people at the beginning or end of the trip.
  3. If company policy absolutely prohibits bringing pets to work, considering hosting a picnic in a park where those furry family members are welcome.
  4. Give your employees a floating day off each year to be used for a special occasion. Or suggest they go home early on their birthdays or anniversaries.
  5. Have a party for your team and their families. Invite the kids (or hire sitters for small ones), and go for pizza together.
  6. When an employee asks about working from home, really explore that possibility. What are the upsides? Downsides? Get creative about how that might work to benefit both the employee and your team.
  7. Consider subsidizing your employees’ home internet service costs. The monthly costs for Internet use are small compared with the productivity you’ll get in return. This allows employees to work effectively from home.

The sixth thing that is better than a raise: Job Security and Stability

Research shows that employees want security and stability. The question is, how can you deliver? In today’s environment, you may not be able to realistically or truthfully promise job security. Layoffs are increasingly a tough reality of today’s business world.

So what do you do—throw up your hands and give up? Absolutely not! Believe it or not, you can give your employees a greater feeling of security (even in an unstable environment) by demonstrating consistent habits of honesty and transparency.

Yes, we understand that in some cases you may not be fully empowered to share all the information you have. But if your employees know that you always tell them as much as you can—as early as you can—they’re much less likely to feel fear and apprehension about what’s going to come next. The more information your employees have about the situation within the company and their place in it, the more empowered they feel. Even if the news is bad, being up-front wins their trust and helps them prepare for changes, positive or negative.

Ways to Build Security and Trust via Information Sharing and Honesty

Here are some great transparency practices you can implement as a manager that will help your employees feel secure (even in insecure situations).

  1. Don’t treat the people you manage like children: you don’t need to tell overly positive stories about the company and downplay threats and upcoming changes. Your employees are adults. They can handle bad news. In fact, consistent transparency around bad news will actually help your employees feel more stable and secure because they will never need to wonder if the company is hiding anything.
  2. Don’t withhold negative feedback. The last thing you want is for employees to burn up their energy and confidence trying to guess whether or not you view them negatively. It’s best to be up-front about things so they can focus their energy on improving. The measurable progress toward improvement will also help them feel more secure in their jobs.
  3. When you have bad news, give it face-to-face and as soon as possible. If you make a mistake, confess, tell the truth, and accept responsibility. Your personal stock will go up, and so will the trust level on your team.
  4. Don’t play power games with information. Managers sometimes hold back information in the belief that it makes them more powerful or that it is better for their employees not to know. There are good reasons to withhold information sometimes, but a power play isn’t one of them.
  5. Give your employees the inside scoop, whenever possible. We love working for people who are in the loop and being looped in ourselves. Your talented people will feel like they count when you share important information with them early.
  6. Share information about your organization’s strategic direction, emerging industry trends that may affect career possibilities, and the political realities of your organization. That way, your team members will learn to look broadly at their profession, industry, and organization and see all the implications. They will also feel more competent and confident in their future marketability.
  7. Forward articles about your industry to your employees: you might have access to industry-based blogs, newsletters, reports, and magazines that they aren’t aware of. Share critical information that can help them make decisions about their career development.
  8. If information is important, don’t just share it with your own direct reports; be responsible for making sure it gets passed through the whole organization. Hold managers accountable for passing the news down.
  9. Share information face-to-face, especially if it is difficult to deliver or will affect your employees significantly. Let your supervisors give the news to their direct reports also. Research shows that people believe and react more favorably to news when it comes from their direct supervisor. If it has to travel through several layers, double-check to be sure the message is getting through.
  10. If people ask you for information you can’t share, be honest. Tell them that you are not at liberty to share, and tell them why. For example, you could say, “The information is sensitive or proprietary” or “I have been asked to keep it confidential, and I need to honor that request.”

The seventh thing that is better than a raise: Drawing Purpose from the Organization’s Mission or Product

According to a report by global brand consultancy Calling Brands, corporate purpose is emerging as a powerful driver of attraction, retention, and productivity. “The survey revealed that, on average, 57% of respondents (64% Germany, 58% US, 48% UK) said they would favor joining an organization that has a clearly defined purpose. Moreover, an average of 65% claimed that purpose would motivate them to go the ‘extra mile’ in their jobs and 64% claimed it would engender a greater sense of loyalty towards the organization they work for. Purpose will be increasingly recognized by corporations as an important driver of engagement.”

That’s all well and good if you work for an organization that saves lives— like the American Red Cross or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—but what if you work for an organization that is comparatively more ordinary? Well, you can still do a lot to build a meaningful connection between employees and the greater purpose of the organization. Sometimes all it takes is a discussion about the history of the company, its founders, its reason for being, the important needs it meets, or what customers say the company has done for them through its product line or service.

Ways to Build Pride and Purpose

Here are some other practices to help your employees feel connected to your organization’s purpose.

  1. Have regular open-forum meetings. If employees feel they are being heard, they will feel a stronger connection to you and the group. Allow diverse opinions and disagreement. Where possible, give your employees input into the organization’s purpose.
  2. Give employees opportunities to hear the president, CEO, or other senior leaders speak about what the company is all about. While mission statements capture the underlying principles of the organization and seldom change, the goals of the organization are dynamic, and hearing them straight from a leader can be very meaningful.
  3. Get your employees involved in community service. For some, these activities are a major reason for choosing one organization over the next or staying with their present one. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, “88% of graduate students and young professionals factor an employer’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rating into their job decision. And 86% would consider leaving a job if their employer’s CSR performance no longer held up.”
  4. Start something! If there are no pre-existing CSR or volunteer initiatives you can join, you can support community projects your employees are involved in or build your own. Either way, promoting a cause within your department or company gives employees a sense of pride, promotes teamwork, fosters a bond among employees, and provides skill development.
  5. Get creative with how your company might support the larger community. Companies have involved their employees in classrooms, community centers, charity runs, bicycle tours, public housing projects, outreach to the elderly, and many other life-changing activities.

The eighth thing that is better than a raise: Fun Work Environment and Great People

The president of a major airline company has these words of wisdom: “Fun is a state of mind. Leaders can create this state of mind—but to do so, they must care about people, show trust and appreciation, be humble enough to join in and believe it is a good use of time! Joy is the lasting by-product of having fun and being with folks that give you energy. Leaders can bring joy to people’s lives, even when things are tough. Creating a sense of being a part of something very special is the key.”

Research shows that a fun-filled workplace generates enthusiasm—and that enthusiasm leads to increased productivity, better customer service, a positive attitude about the company, and higher odds that your talent will stay. A lot of the time, all that is required for fun is just having a way to connect with your awesome coworkers. It doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot of money.

Examples of Spontaneous Workplace Good Times

Here are some real-life examples of simple fun times people had at work.

  1. “We decorated my boss’s office for his birthday. We used five bags of confetti from the shredding machine.”
  2. “Spontaneous after-work trips to the local pizza parlor.”
  3. “Verbal sparring with my brainy, funny colleagues.”
  4. “When we had a huge project, a tight deadline, and we had to work all night. I wouldn’t want to do that often, but we had a good time, laughs in the middle of the night, and a thrill when we finished the project.”
  5. “Receiving this poem from my dedicated, funny employees whom I sent to Detroit on business: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, it’s 30 below, and we hate you.’”
  6. “In the midst of a big stressful project, our boss took us to a local park for a volleyball game during lunch. We still talk about it.”

Ways to Help Your Workers Connect With Each Other

Here are suggestions for you to help your employees connect with each other and have fun.

  1. Use your company intranet to help boost team collaboration, find organizational resources, and acknowledge and celebrate successes.
  2. Reinstate lunch. (Kudos to you if it still exists in your organization.)
  3. Encourage people to enjoy it together.
  4. Encourage teams, task forces, and employee resource groups, where people form new links and new friendships.
  5. Sponsor a departmental sports team, or have sports outings with other departments or companies.
  6. Have family events—picnics, bring-the-kids-to-work day, bring-your-dogs-to-work day.

The ninth thing that is better than a raise: Good Benefits

Even if benefits aren’t a decision within your purview, you can advocate as much as you can for your employees to receive good benefits. In particular, health and wellness benefits like gym memberships, health savings accounts, or healthy office snacks can help you create an environment of office well-being.

Benefits Most Valued by Employees

For reference, here’s a list of the most sought-after employee benefits according to an employee benefits researcher. Yes, some of them might be outside your control, but highlight the ones you might be able to influence, and draw up a proposal about how to improve them. Send out a survey to your employees asking them what benefits they care the most about improving; that way you can base your proposal on some hard data. Make sure your proposal emphasizes the employee retention advantages of amping up benefits.

  • Excellent health care
  • Retirement savings
  • Paid time off
  • Workplace flexibility
  • Wellness program
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Flexible and family-friendly schedules
  • Pay raise or performance bonus
  • Life insurance
  • Telecommuting
  • Workplace perks
  • Professional development and training

The tenth thing that is better than a raise: Respect

People are most likely to feel loyalty and commitment toward people who respect them. The one behavior that talented people seldom tolerate for long is disrespect. If you wish to keep your employees, it is absolutely critical that you recognize each person’s unique qualities and then demonstrate your respect in consistent, undeniable ways.

Make sure that everyone feels the same level of respect, regardless of ethnicity, religion, skin color, gender, and age. You cannot respect and honor others unless you respect—even celebrate—the differences between people. Most of us readily accept the notion that diversity of talent and perspective strengthens a work group and contributes to excellent results. Yet if we are honest, we admit that differences can also get in the way. We all need to take a good look at our preferences and prejudices, our leanings. These leanings pop up when we mentor and coach, promote, reward, punish, and hire (research shows we are most apt to hire someone like ourselves). Once you take note of your leanings, you can begin to see the impact they might have on your employees.

Part of treating everyone fairly is making sure you’re doing a good job managing your moods. Have you ever worked for someone with roller- coaster moods? You know, one day they’re up; the next they’re way down. While it is human to have ups and downs, the mature thing is to manage those moods so that they do not hurt others. We call moods that have run amok sloppy moods. They are simply uncontrolled. Whatever is felt comes spilling out and slops all over employees (or family members). Learning to control your sloppy moods can help your employees feel so much more respected!

It’s also important to acknowledge your employees in positive ways. When employees talk about the disrespect that drove them out the door to a new job, they sometimes refer to a feeling of invisibility. You might be simply lost in thought when you pass your employees in the hall and fail to acknowledge them. But they will notice and may feel less than honored or respected.

Ways to Make Employees Feel Really Respected

Here are some practical tips to make sure that you don’t just feel respect for your employees—you also express that respect in compelling and noticeable ways.

  1. Get honest feedback somehow. Before you can work on improving, you need a clear picture of how you look to others. It’s easy to unintentionally come across differently than what you intend—so this honest feedback is crucial.
  2. Invest in diversity training, especially if disrespect issues related to differences between employees are surfacing. Make the training relevant to the specific issues of your workplace.
  3. Appreciate and use individual strengths, styles, and talents; leverage the differences between your employees. Roosevelt Thomas, a diversity consultant and author, defines diversity as “the maximum utilization of talent in the workforce.” When you value people’s unique traits, it helps them feel respected.
  4. Decide to change. Practice inclusion and fairness. Consciously avoid discriminating in the old familiar ways. Your employees will notice.
  5. If you are guilty of sloppy moods, take notice and take control. Get away from others while you work through your difficulties. Go to your office; take a “time-out.”
  6. If you happen to lose your temper with someone, apologize. To err is human, and most people appreciate an apology; it is a sign of respect.
  7. Notice your employees. Pay attention as you walk down the halls and say hello to them by name.
  8. Smile, shake hands, greet your employees, and introduce them to others, even those of higher rank.
  9. Unfair treatment translates to disrespect in many employees’ minds. Check out your communication approach and your actions with your employees. How do they view the decisions and changes that you make? What seems fair or unfair to them? Do you honor their ideas, and do you care about their reactions? If you don’t, you will lose them.
  10. Be aware and take steps to help employees in their times of need (particularly if those times involve illness or bereavement). They will pay you back a thousand-fold.
  11. Listen to your employees’ wants and needs. Even concerns that seem small or insignificant are clearly important to them. Respond to their requests quickly. Don’t wait for them to nag you.

“With enough study, every manager in your organization can become a master of the art of employee retention.”

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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 10, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on Ten Things You Can Offer Your Employees That Are Better Than a Raise   Read More

Three Tips for Managers To Engage and Retain Employees

Managers play a critical role in engaging and retaining their employees. Following are three tips to ignite engagement across generations.

1. Activate CAREERS: Every individual has different ideas about what makes for satisfying work. A manager has the ability, as a career coach, to create common ground. Encourage employee responsibility for their career and provide support. Consider:

  • Scheduling career talks with all team members.
  • Coaching to explore opportunities for all members to achieve career goals.
  • Giving feedback.
  • Helping build skills in place.

“When leaders ignite engagement, they recognize the individuality each person brings to work.”

2. Create CLIMATE: Every manager has the ability to create their own “micro-climate” within their team – one that is attractive to all team members, that reflects each individual’s approach and outlook. Consider: 

  • Increasing camaraderie-building events.
  • Being open to new ideas and innovation from employees.
  • Being flexible with work schedules.
  • Delegating more tasks and learning opportunities on to team members.
  • Encouraging work/life balance.
  • Scheduling lunch dates to get to know your employees better.

3. Emphasize COMMUNICATION: Communication remains the number one area needing improvement from employee satisfaction surveys. And the truth is, the managers don’t need to know all the answers – they just need to ask and listen, then respond with what they know and be straight about what’s unknown. Consider:

  • Shifting to 25% talking, 75% listening.
  • Asking for frequent feedback.
  • Sharing the significance of each individual’s contributions regularly.
  • Beating the rumor mill – be a proactive communicator.
  • Linking employees into other teams’ meetings to network and learn with others.
  • Being visible and available to all team members.

When leaders ignite engagement, they recognize the individuality each person brings to work. When employees are engaged, they are committed, loyal and productive corporate assets!

Blog post written by Katie Wacek, Career Systems International, 29 November 2016.

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 10, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on Three Tips for Managers To Engage and Retain Employees   Read More
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