One day I received the following question from one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. They asked me: ‘how employees will be working in 2020 and how employers will be able to retain their talents?’
When I saw this question, I found it a fantastic opportunity to be proactive and answer them while hoping that my voice will be heard and respectively can lead to change.
Moreover, as an employee myself for the past several years, I found it an excellent opportunity to make some honest confessions about some of the most significant mistakes that I saw happening in front of my eyes within several organizations, as well as to write about some of the challenges that faced other friends and colleagues of mine working in big companies around the world.
Below is a part of my answer which I sent to the consulting company:
To be able to visualize how employers will retain talents in 2020 we have to consider two main factors:
1- The future of technology in the next coming years – Which is the answer to the first half of the question: ‘how employees will be working in 2020?’
2- The main reasons why employers lose talents NOW, or in other words ‘’why do employees quit?’’- Which is the answer to the second half of the question: ‘how employers will be able to retain their talents?’
From the two factors mentioned above, I can confidently say that factor number two is more important. A company can have all the technology and automation in the world but without self-fulfilled employees- which are the backbone and the main success story of any company- the company will not be able to make it.
Take the past years as an example; you can see that technology developed fast and companies started using automation more and more. On the other hand, you can see that the main reasons why employees are quitting their jobs are still the same for 30 years and more.
I firmly believe that sometimes companies focus more on the technological side. And that’s why I will leave the answer to point number one above to the imagination of the leaders of each company and for how much they would like to invest in improving their technological backbone, and I will focus mainly on answering question number two or: ‘’why do employee’s leave companies’ and what can companies do to retain them?’’
1-Companies and leaders should carefully consider the fact that ‘’people are different’’. Respectively, companies can retain talents by offering a faster career path to employees who show genuine interest to learn and grow faster than the others, and also by giving them challenging tasks which can make them stretch, develop and prepare them for the future.
Checkpoint to the reader: does your company (or you as a leader in a company) consider those differences and offer fast career development opportunities for people who are having growth potential?
2– Based on statistics, one of the major reasons companies lose talents is due to bad managers and weak leadership skills. Decision makers in companies sometimes need to understand the fact that, if an employee is great technically in his functional area or an operational role, that does not make him a great leader or qualified for a leading position.
In fact, the more that you go up the career ladder, the more you need less operational skills related to the functional area, and the more you need more soft skills and higher emotional intelligence. So ensuring that companies pick good leaders will help in retaining talents.
In parallel, Human Resources departments in companies should be empowered to play a more significant role in selecting the correct leaders. They have to work with the upper management hand in hand to identify potential leaders. After identifying them, they should monitor those potential leaders individually for some time, to be able to judge:
- How is this possible leader dealing with or influencing the people around him in general (and not only his direct boss) in his current position?
- Is he a resonant leader who affects the people around him positively, and can help facilitate cooperation between different departments? Or is he a dissonant leader?
- How big is his area of influence?
- Does this potential leader have the potential to be a great leader or not?
What happens usually is that the management of a functional area (Engineering, Marketing, Procurement…etc.) can nominate a person for a leadership position because of his good performance on his daily job, and the Human Resources department most probably just approve this nomination or interfere only to negotiate his new benefits package. (Let us be honest with ourselves, when was the last time you saw or heard that, a person nominated by someone from the upper management to take a leadership role was rejected from the HR side, only because the nominated person is lacking the core leadership skills or is not prepared still to lead?)
Unfortunately, it takes a company just one wrong decision to start a domino effect in the organization. Imagine with me this scenario: the leader of a department or a company makes a wrong decision by appointing a wrong manager who lacks leadership skills. Do you think that this ‘’wrong manager’’ will be capable later of choosing the ‘’right’’ next generation of potential leaders or managers?
Checkpoint to the reader: how does your company (or you) select future leaders? Is it just based on the opinion of their direct bosses or gut feeling? Or there is a specific methodology that your company is following to ensure that the right person is filling the right place?
3-After selecting your potential leaders, how do you prepare them for their new leadership role? Do you offer them as an example 6 months extensive program to make them truly understand what leadership means and what’s expected of them? Or your company just selects a new leader and then tells him: ‘’Congrats, you are on. Now learn by doing’’? Companies should care more about how to develop a newly appointed leader and not just about selecting him and filling an opened spot in the organization.
Checkpoint to the reader: how does your company prepare newly appointed leaders for their new roles?
4– One of the reasons talents leave a company is due to ‘’uncertainty’’. The employee can be creative, perform great actions and maybe sometimes thinks outside the box, but what he gets as a response from the management sometimes is ‘’deadly silence’’ or in other words no feedback. So the employee starts step by step to become demotivated and start wondering if somebody knows about his existence in general.
One of the solutions to retain talents is always to recognize employees who add value to the company. To make them feel heard and to give them the freedom to be creative. The other more important solution is to openly share with them ideas and plans about how they can play a significant role in the company in the future.
One sentence from a manager to an employee such as: ‘’you are doing a great job, and you are moving in the right direction. Keep it up because we are having xxx plans for you in the next coming xx year(s).’’, can boost the enthusiasm of this employee and make him feel recognized.
But what happens, in reality, is that most of the companies have mid-year and end of year performance reviews, and most of the managers speak with their employees about the targets, plans, future…etc. Only during those reviews. Moreover, even when they talk through these performance reviews they mainly discuss the new objectives that the employee should achieve, or how well did he perform in the last fiscal year compared to his given targets.
Checkpoint to the reader: does your boss (or your company) makes you feel recognized and shares with you plans about your future to the extent that you can see them as if they were in front of you? On the other hand, if you are a boss do you recognize your employees and share with them future plans to eliminate uncertainty?
5-With reference to the previous point, usually companies encourage managers to hold a mid-year and end of year performance reviews with their direct reports. During these reviews, the manager assesses the performance of the employee concerning the given targets (i.e., did the employee achieve those targets which were agreed with him beginning of the fiscal year or not?). But the Managers, as well as the companies, miss one crucial thing which is: ‘’what’s in it for the employee? In other words, what motivates the employee to reach those targets and even stretch his limits to exceed them?’’.
Any successful relationship between two parties should be a win-win situation, but the question now is: ‘’where is the win situation for the employee?’’. Is it only: ‘’Congratulations, you kept your job for another year?’’.
Managers should know the personal targets of each of their employees and what they are aiming for, and work hard on linking their employees’ goals to the company targets.
If a manager knows well what’s the purpose of his employee and what does he want, then a very healthy agreement and discussion between them can take place such as: ‘’If you reach your yearly targets, then you will be promoted or have a bonus or relocate to another global location that you prefer….etc.’’. Only through this, we can align the employee’s targets with the Company’s targets.
Checkpoint to the reader: do your boss link your targets and vision to the company targets? Do you get the chance to have transparent discussions with him through the year, or only in mid-year and final year assessment reviews? And if you are a boss, do you already link your employee’s vision to your Company’s vision?
Finally, I believe that before we fly so high and think about 2020 and technology and other factors, we should mainly focus on the employees themselves and what makes them leave companies NOW.
If you cannot find suitable simple answers for the questions mentioned above, then let me tell you that the technology, good salary, benefits or even the company name will never help you in retaining your talented employees as a company. When companies find the solutions and start gradually applying them now, then they can keep the employees later.