One of the most impactful managers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside told me that I was going to be worth $25,000.00 more than when I started. A year in, that rang true and it has undoubtedly served as the catalyst to other great opportunities. I left because that manager had moved on and new leadership did not view employee development through the same lens. We spend so much of our time strategizing over talent attraction, how to properly position ourselves while competing with the bigger, the sexier, the strategically located. But how do we ensure that our current employees are feeling valued and confident about their long-term potential? So often our focus is set on competitors, the employers that are poaching our top talent and the allure certain locations hold over others. While this data is important, retention should be pursued with the same degree, if not more, of fervor. It costs far more to fill a position than it does to equip our team members with the tools they need to make an impact.
There is a difference between a constant need for affirmation and a productive course setting with constructive feedback. Employees feel most secure in their positions when leaders and cross-functional contacts provide insight into assignment based and/or overarching performance. Team members who are kept in the dark are shown to feel more insecure about their role and are unclear about expectations. Acknowledgement and response tends to lead a more stable path toward empowerment.
There is a reason companies took pause to reevaluate their internship programs a few years back. Summer hires were once upon a time tasked with fetching coffee and making copies, holding little to no value for the enterprise as a whole. Someone along the way raised their hand and pointed out that this model was chock full of missed opportunities. The same expectation that we now hold our intern managers to should be applied company wide. “Busy work” can now be spotted from a cubicle away and aspiring professionals are no longer going to sit idle while spreadsheets fill their inbox. Even if it’s simply sitting in on an executive meeting or taking part in a strategy huddle, bringing your employees in on these initiatives will help broaden their business acumen while heightening their exposure.
Has anyone else noticed that these are typically reserved for our Leadership Development Program and internship population? Why is that? Why are we not presenting the employees who joined us through channels other than an LDP or a targeted school with the same opportunities to cultivate relationships? Networking is such a low hanging piece of fruit and can usually be pursued over a lunch hour, a coffee break, or a sit in on a panel of sorts. The best way to ensure that your team members are connecting with other professionals who will add value to their network is to make the introductions. Knock on a few doors on their behalf and pave the way toward fruitful dialogue. Relationship building should be among the first stops during the onboarding process but it’s your org chart awareness that will help initiate those discussions.
Courses and Certifications
This is probably one of the most neglected areas of focus as it pertains to an employee’s development. Leadership will often take a back burner approach to certifications or online courses. Nothing beats real-time, practical experience right? Wrong. There are so many resources available to us in this digital age that to not take advantage of them really only reveals a legacy mindset, certainly one that does not foster progress. Whether it’s an online certification through a site like Lynda.com or perhaps a course taught internally, informing your team of these opportunities and encouraging them to take a closer look serves as a reminder of not only your interest but your investment. Coupled with this approach should be the assurance that you are going to equip your team members with the tools they need to be successful. I’m not talking about a functioning laptop or printer access (yes, those too are important), I’m talking software, access, a direct line of sight to the gatekeepers that are going to prove invaluable to getting the job done efficiently. As a manager or team member with tenure, that is your responsibility.
There are many who will peruse this list and think, “yes, of course”, but the turnover across the 1-3 year tenure demographic remains alarmingly high. We’re fixated on gaining insight into where these employees are going and not paying enough attention to the causes behind their departure. While there will always be those who seek out more money and bigger title, there are those of us who find the highest level of satisfaction in the moments we are feeling most challenged and most valued.