When you’re a business owner, you have to work harder to retain top people. The world isn’t getting any smaller and the workforce is becoming more mobile. Add to that generational differences and competitive pressures, and managing employees becomes a bona fide business risk that requires a dedicated effort. This subject seems to be a consistent topic of discussion with my clients.
A recent workplace survey identified that although organizations perceive a greater need to retain a talented workforce now than ever before, many are still taking a narrow approach to managing this issue. Businesses that say “it’s worked for us before” or attempt “one-size-fits-all” solutions are more likely to spend more money on retention with poorer results than businesses that align their people-management strategies to the organization’s overall business strategy.
The survey revealed that many business owners feel that the risks they face with their workforce relate mainly to capability and capacity. Capability is generally seen as the organization’s ability to build a breadth and depth of skills within its employees to allow it to compete now and in the future. Capacity is generally seen as the ability to retain critical people and teams including the ability to groom employees to fill critical roles internally. Specifically, survey respondents identified the following key risks:
- a lack of a good supply of internal candidates for critical roles;
- an insufficient pipeline of future leaders;
- difficulties in retaining key people; and
- a failure to develop the skills and capabilities which will be required by the business in the near future.
The survey respondents seemed much less concerned about factors that could help engage the workforce and possibly mitigate capacity and capability issues, such as:
- diverse workforces;
- willingness for business leaders to share employees across the organization; and
- business leaders’ ability to engage with, motivate and nurture critical talent.
This is somewhat surprising in that it is generally believed that the more engaged the workforce, the higher the retention an employer experiences. The survey responses seem to indicate a disconnect with respondents recognizing that an issue may exist with engagement of employees (and therefore retention) but not being concerned that business leaders may be unable or unwilling to adequately engage the workforce in this regard.
As an employer, there are some approaches you can use to mitigate capability and capacity risks related to your workforce. First, think beyond traditional sources of talent. Taking the same approach to recruiting — for example, appealing to the same demographics from the same sources — may not be the best way to ensure you are getting the best candidates. Being more flexible can help organizations tap into skilled and experienced workers, such as those who want to return after taking a break to start a family, those looking to change their career or employees retiring from another full-time position who might like to sink their teeth into a new challenge.
Another approach is to encourage innovation. If there is too much distance between the bright idea from the employee in the trenches and the person who can recognize, reward, sponsor and develop their ideas in the organization, those bright ideas can fizzle out quickly. Employers need to find a way to make their organizations a place where everyone can come forward with an idea and where everyone is motivated and comfortable doing so. This can be particularly important for organizations relying on a continuous pipeline of young employees who like to be recognized for their ideas and, if they do not feel they can contribute (or recognized for their contributions), are often quite happy to take their ideas — and themselves — elsewhere.
These are just a few of the approaches you can use to help your business attract and retain skilled employees. It’s an important aspect that organizations need to consider to maintain and improve your edge in today’s ultra-competitive environment.