Businesses care about productivity. At the core of their ability to create a profit is the simple formula of work produced per dollar spent.
Frederick Taylor used a stopwatch to revolutionize the production of cars and just about everything else. By measuring the output of each person on the line, he was able to dramatically increase how much a company like Ford could produce for every hour of labor it used.
Working in a system like this can be exhausting. While it brings the comfort of knowing precisely what’s expected in any given moment, it’s also an endless tug of war between humanity and profit.
Many in the idea economy haven’t recognized the rare situation that they might be in. Better pay, better working conditions and a job that’s hard to measure with a stopwatch. So you’ve got the chef for the Grateful Dead cooking you lunch and a purple couch in the lobby, along with a long series of perks and benefits. I had one friend who worked at a law firm for two years before they realized that he kept switching departments every few months so he could avoid being asked to bill too many hours.
But management has never stopped looking for a way to measure output. Sooner or later, they do, or the company disappears. It can vary from the insulation of paying for your time (but keeping track of impact created) all the way to paying by the keystroke, the click or the sale.
When bosses had trouble measuring output, they bought our time, and then layered ‘process’ and bureaucracy on everything as a stand-in for actual productivity. But now, measurement is everywhere, freelancers and contractors are easier to find, and work is being atomized. Being good at process is a weak stand-in for being good at work.
The shift to self-directed days, working from home, focusing on projects and not simply selling our time means that this push back to cottage industry management is going to be accelerated. Before Manchester factories were up to speed, this was normal–you did your work on your kitchen table and got paid by the piece.
The alternative is to double down on work that’s truly hard to measure, to sign up for emotional labor and experimentation and group leadership and working on the frontier. These jobs are harder to get, harder to keep and are fraught precisely because they’re less measurable. These are the jobs that create quantum leaps in value, but are hard to spec and manage.
Companies aren’t going to trust you because you asked them to. They’ll do it when they believe that you are one of the few people who can lean outside of the comfort zone and bring back something extraordinary.
It’s pretty clear to me that we’re unlikely to see much in the way of steady jobs where someone tells you what to do all day, allows you to allocate your own time and effort, but doesn’t measure your output. Because one thing that we all keep learning is that if something can be measured, it probably will be.
There is a story of a man who would come home every day and his wife would nag him about the chores he didn’t do, the things he promised to do and hadn’t and she would express how he didn’t meet her expectations. Naturally, he would look for things that she was missing the mark on so that he could defend himself, or at least even the score. If you are not aware, fighting negativity with negativity doesn’t just add to it, it multiplies negativity. In a brief moment of clarity, the man took stock of what he had. He realized that his wife was working hard to make their life good. He decided to focus on the fact that she was the best wife he had. (No, he didn’t have another wife.) When he changed his perspective, he changed his world. The interactions he had with her were different, the intent was different and the negativity reduced. When he realized that she was the best wife, he WANTED to do things for her and make her happy. He started keeping his commitments and she had less to complain about. Over time their relationship was much more positive.
I recently had a conversation with a leader who was irritated with a colleague for not stepping up and doing what they said they would do. I asked them, if this was their best employee, how would they approach it. They indicated that they would give the benefit of the doubt, assume positive intent and see what they could do to help them succeed. I then challenged them to use that same approach with the person they were challenged with.
What would your life look like if you presumed positive intent? What if instead of gathering evidence of incompetence, poor judgement, disregard or lack of commitment, you assumed they were the best employee, colleague, friend, spouse or child you had? What would the conversation look like? How would you approach them and support them?
Take stock right now: who do you presume positive intent with? Who do you not? What is the nature of those relationships and which one is better?
Whether we have decided to look for the negative or the positive we can find evidence to support and prove our position. What if the evidence you looked for was positive and presumed positive intent on the part of the other party? In addition to a nicer environment for those around you, I can tell you that your head space will be a nicer place too. When you decide that you have to gather negative evidence it takes a lot of brain space to hold it and remember it. When you presume positive intent, you don’t have to defend against anything so your brain space is less occupied and you get to lean in authentically be in relationship and collaborate to get things done.
Who is that person that you have been gathering evidence about? How has it served you? How has it impeded your ability? What if you started to presume positive intent on their part. What would that look like? What if they were your best colleague, teammate, employee or boss? How would you support and challenge them and partner with them to succeed?
If you are struggling with someone, I encourage you to presume positive intent, give the benefit of the doubt and see what happens. The conversations will look different, the relationship will grow, the trust will improve and the outcomes will astound you.
My wish for you is peace. Peace can come when we presume positive intent.
As many of us have heard, recent data suggests that the great resignation is coming. The term “great resignation” was coined by Anthony Klotz, a Texas A&M University associate management professor who has studied the exits of hundreds of workers. In his interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Klotz shares his prediction that many more people who had hung onto their jobs during the pandemic because of uncertainty are now readying themselves to quit.
Throughout the pandemic, workers have become accustomed to the flexibility of remote work, and are realizing that rather than being pushed back to an office or held to certain hours, the opportunity to work for themselves as freelancers is ideal. In fact, freelancers are projected to make up more than 50% of workers by 2027.
How will this shift to freelance work impact the overall job market? And what do corporate employees need to understand to make the right decisions about moving to freelance work?
To learn more about how professionals can determine if freelance is the right direction for them, and how companies can prepare for the freelance revolution, I caught up with freelance economy expertShahar Erez. Erezis a co-founder and the CEO of Stoke, an on-demand talent platform empowering companies to adopt a hybrid workforce model that scales as quickly and efficiently as needed.
A tech-scene veteran in Israel and Silicon Valley, Erez has fifteen years of executive experience in engineering, product and marketing under his belt at companies like HP, VMware and Kenshoo and has built a reputation as a strategic thinker who leads organizational change and drives growth by developing talent and promoting a learning culture.
Here’s what Erez shares:
Kathy Caprino: Shahar, from your perspective, what is the best way people can determine if they should become a freelancer or work full-time?
Shahar Erez: To determine whether or not you should become a freelancer, it’s important for people to think about what makes them happy in their jobs and workplace. I like to recommend that people ask themselves a few key questions.
First, what type of working environment best suits your personality? If you thrive in an environment that is predictable, or cannot get comfortable with instability, then freelancing may not be for you—and that’s okay. For some people, the unknown and ability to chart their own course every day is exhilarating—it helps them feel empowered when they have full ownership over their projects, workload, and income. People who work well under pressure, have ambition, and can navigate the unknown seamlessly often excel as freelancers.
Second, it’s important to think about whether or not you are truly a self-starter. As a freelancer, everything boils down to the work you do—the projects you get, the hours you keep, and where your next paycheck is coming from. The most successful freelancers have enough direction and drive on their own to succeed without a manager over their shoulders. However, if you need a team environment to motivate you or guide you, going out on your own as a freelancer may not be the best career move.
The third and most important question is why you want to freelance. Becoming a freelance worker gives you a level of autonomy you simply cannot get in a traditional employment setting. But it will take time before you’ll only work on projects or campaigns that you are passionate about, or those that leverage your unique skill set.
It takes time to build a name for yourself and gather enough customers so you can pick and choose your project. Until you get to that position, you’ll need to do projects that might be less than ideal and work with people or companies that might not be a perfect fit for you. The freedom to choose your customers as a freelancer may not translate to working only with people or companies you love as it’s a matter of supply and demand, but still gives you more of a level of choice.
Caprino: What are the full pros and cons of freelance work that people don’t necessarily understand?
Erez: Most employees believe that becoming a freelance worker will give them complete freedom to do as they like. It is true to some degree as you’ll have more control over your schedule and you will be able to decide who to work with and who not. Freelancing takes flexibility to a whole new level, since in most cases you are not dependent on other people to do your work and can decide where to work from and when.
Freelancers also have the opportunity to become an expert in a niche area since they work in the same area across many different industries or companies—which also allows them to work on a diverse set of clients. After developing this expertise, experienced freelancers have the potential to earn a lot more as they are paid for results and not time.
However, as a freelancer, you need to build a reputation for yourself so you’ll have enough customers to pick and choose from, and that is not easy. Many experts need to invest a lot of time to market themselves and the impact of their work to ensure they’ll be in high demand. Many freelancers report it can feel like a constant job search.
In addition, you’ll need to deal with a lot of administrative work that employees are not aware of like complex tax calculations, taking care of insurance, collecting late payments from customers and more. Not to mention you’ll need to build a financial plan as most freelancers experience busier and slower months which are not always predictable, and you’ll need to build vacation into your annual income as you won’t enjoy paid time off anymore.
Caprino: How can companies better prepare for the freelance revolution?
Erez: Similar to other processes, the first and most critical step is admitting you have a problem. All tech companies are complaining today they are unable to hire the talents they need due to a tech skills gap, but they are not changing their strategic workforce planning.
Most companies view their workforce as employee-based and hire freelance talent for specific projects per demand and not as part of their strategy. This means that HR teams are almost entirely focused on employees and there’s no strategy or processes implemented around sourcing, onboarding and managing freelance talent. This impacts the productivity of leveraging freelance workers.
Once there is a team within the organization focused on managing freelance talent, then it will be easier for the organization to identify the freelance talent needed, source them, onboard them per all tax and legal compliance requirements, manage them, and pay them.
If companies do not have the required tools and processes to properly manage their freelance talent, they will not be able to leverage them in a productive manner.
Caprino: What is the hybrid work model in existence today and why isn’t it sufficient to keep employees as full-time workers?
Erez: The main motivation why so many employees are interested in becoming freelancers is to gain freedom—the freedom to work wherever they want, whenever they want, on projects they feel passionate about, and with people they enjoy working with.
The fact that many companies are now transitioning into a hybrid model—meaning working some days from the office and some days from the home—will increase employees’ flexibility to some extent, but it isn’t enough to keep most freelance-want-to-bes as full-time employees because they have grown accustomed to more flexibility during the pandemic, and still crave that.
They want to work on their own time and from their own homes to achieve a better work-life balance. In many cases, executives think a formal return-to-office plan is best, but workers don’t necessarily agree.
Caprino: What is the disconnect you’re seeing between C-suite execs and junior staff and why is it causing people to quit?
Erez: A Harvard Business School survey found that C-suite executives are more visionary than lower level managers when it comes to the future of work. C-suite leaders believe more in empowering the workforce by giving them more freedom and increasing utilization of freelance talent.
However, it seems that VPs’ and directors’ attitude reflects a more realistic understanding of the administrative struggle that comes out of giving employees more freedom and relying more on non-payroll workers—and the reason for that is that the current processes, structure, and tools are not equipped to properly manage remote and freelance workers.
This is obviously a growing pain as the workforce transitions into a new model. However, the acceleration of this model due to the pandemic has increased the gap between the market need and companies’ abilities.
Agile companies are already changing the workforce processes to adjust to the new reality, but the main area companies should be focusing on is to enable their front line managers to execute the vision most C-levels agree on.
Caprino: What else do leaders and employees need to understand to thrive in today’s new environment?
The world of work is changing, and the changes are not over yet. We need to be able to adapt quickly, be flexible, and become accustomed to working with people in many different places, different time zones, and with different skill sets and strengths.
The main thing leaders must do is to acknowledge that the workforce has changed, and the majority of the current workforce wants the freedom to make their own decisions and drive initiatives. For that, leaders need to empower their teams by providing them with the tools and processes to act without constant approvals. This is why at Stoke, we encourage all of our clients to grant every employee or team a budget so they can do their job as they see fit within their budget, saving them from asking for approvals on any works they need to get done.
On the other side, workers need to understand that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Therefore, if given the freedom to act, they no longer get to use excuses for a lack of initiative or a lack of action. It’s their responsibility to get the job done, assuming the company has provided them the tools to do so.
For the class of 2021, our last year of college — supposedly the best time of our lives — was spent following restrictive regulations in response to the pandemic. Even though the circumstances leading up to our graduation were not ideal, we made it to commencement and into the job market.
After grinding through a virtual recruiting season, a lucky few have a handful of offers from which to choose. For this group — what you might call “top talent” — the conversation is less “Will I get a job?” and more “Where do I want to work?” We are ready to exercise the autonomy we lost this past year.
We know you want to create a diverse, inclusive, and great place to work for current and future generations. However, you are often not given the unvarnished feedback for why it is so difficult to make this happen. For your sake, and for ours, let me clue you into our decision process and share what often goes unsaid.
If you’re still making the business case for diversity, your company isn’t the place for us.
As a freshman, I attended an investment banking event for underrepresented minorities where a recruiter told us about the efforts of the company’s diversity recruiting team. The team struggled to get adequate buy-in and investment to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace. What finally broke the inertia was a robust business case that proved that diversity was good for profits.
Although the recruiter didn’t intend for her story to be received this way, our big takeaway was: When it comes to DEI, that firm would only make progress if it was directly framed around profits, not because it was the right thing to do. It told me that they may not value ideas I bring to the workplace unless there was a direct link to revenue growth. I stopped considering working there after that session. As one of my peers recounted, “If you care about your people, you care about what your people care about.”
We want companies to take a stand.
Gen-Zers grew up in the era of social movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. For most of our lives, we’ve been immersed in fast-paced political discussions on social media. Regardless of our political leanings, though, we’ve always known the importance of taking a stand.
For us, it’s more about our values and expectations of social justice than politics. A fellow Black student leader turned down a coveted internship at a renowned aerospace engineering company because the CEO and the company failed to make a statement after the George Floyd protests. Unlike other engineering companies, they did not have an explicit plan to address the striking lack of gender and racial diversity in their workplace. As my colleague said, “It was as though I was expected to be comfortable in a work environment where [I would be] one of few women and one of even fewer minorities. Why would I want to do that, especially when there are other options?”
We are works-in-progress.
Gone are the days when Ivy League admissions were just for the nation’s elite. Today, programs that provide financial aid and assistance have broadened the socioeconomic representation in top schools.
We are America’s most diverse generation, but many of us are still the “firsts” in our families and communities. We’re not fluent in the language and social conventions of corporate America. We need to learn a new vocabulary to belong.
Consider the case of another classmate who completed an internship at a top management consultancy. She was raised in a household where, “If someone is in charge, your job isn’t to confront them [about their ideas] but to accept direction, keep your head down and do your work… and that doesn’t translate very well into many corporate cultures.” She notes that, “the biggest thing isn’t what I learned at home, it’s what I didn’t learn … like how to take up space, how to properly introduce myself, how to have networking conversations.”
Not surprisingly, her performance evaluations consistently surfaced these as opportunities for improvement. Even though she received a return offer, she turned it down because the institution had a number of blind spots when it came to understanding the needs of people from different upbringings. She says, “When I vocalized my frustration, it was turned back on me. [My boss] said, ‘Well you should have asked for help in this area proactively,’ but if I don’t even know what to look out for, I am not going to know to ask for help.” We don’t want special treatment — just help us level the playing field by understanding our context.
We want to be ourselves.
From TikTok to Clubhouse, we love expressing our unique identities on social media, and our career prospects have benefitted from the exposure. As digital natives, we can be assets to the companies where we work. We’re adept at a range of technology tools and services — whether it’s Facebook marketing or Google ads or gamification.
So, when we’re presented with a multi-page compliance manual that severely limits — or worse, forbids — our use of social media, we’re inclined to search for an environment that can provide similar work and pay while allowing us to bring our whole selves (even our social media selves) to work.
A friend who worked at a prestigious global consulting firm left to pursue entrepreneurship because, as a part of the firm’s requirements, she was bound by a restrictive set of social media guidelines and higher-ups discouraged her from using social media entirely while working there. “Salary isn’t as attractive as it used to be,” she says. On the flip side, when I completed a fellowship at ghSMART, I was encouraged to build out my LinkedIn, TikTok, and personal website by sharing insights related to social justice and business leadership. We want to be positive ambassadors for our companies, and we understand that our views are our own and we should be held responsible for consequences should we cross the line.
We want to make an impact.
Gen Zers are highly motivated to support social progress in our nation. For many of us, this is no longer a “nice-to-have.” We want a workplace where we can support nonprofit and social impact organizations and take on passion projects that do well for society.
Many of our potential employers allow for this by way of internal “extracurricular” programs or social service days. While admirable, this only serves to draw a line between our “work” and the “positive impact” we want to make. Carlos Brown Jr., a student nonprofit leader and community organizer at my university, says, “Making a positive social impact just can’t be an optional add-on, it should be built into the way work gets done.” Whether it is documented on employee evaluations or calculated into paid work time, an employee’s dedication to making the world a better place should be credited and encouraged. After all, the leadership skills we gain with social impact initiatives make us better leaders in the workplace and raise the profiles of the companies we represent in the community.
Gen-Zers will soon take over Corporate America. We are coming in with high standards for ourselves; we want to contribute to the companies we join and the societies of which we are a part. My hope is that this “straight talk” is a step toward building a bridge between generations and mindsets, so we can collectively create an inclusive and prosperous future.
What Executives Need to Know Urgently about the PrintNightmare Attack
by Mike Foster | Jul/2/2021
Update: Microsoft released an update that addresses the PrintNightmare attack. This is one of those updates that requires your IT Team to go beyond installing the patch. Microsoft provides them instructions: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/kb5005010-restricting-installation-of-new-printer-drivers-after-applying-the-july-6-2021-updates-31b91c02-05bc-4ada-a7ea-183b129578a7 They will continue to get updates and find details of combatting PrintNightmare here: https://msrc.microsoft.com/update-guide/vulnerability/CVE-2021-34527
(Originally posted on July 2, 2021)
Microsoft confirmed that attackers are exploiting systems now using a PrintNightmare Attack. As of this moment, there is no security patch.
IT Pros are so busy managing other projects and initiatives that they could be unaware of this new exploit.
Forward this message to your IT team so they can, if they haven’t already, review Microsoft’s recommendations to mitigate the problem: https://msrc.microsoft.com/update-guide/vulnerability/CVE-2021-34527
After they’ve had time to review this, preferably today, you can discuss the pros and cons with them. Fortunately, the mitigation is reasonably straightforward, and Microsoft provides two options. Your IT team might want to address Domain Controller servers first.
Remember that allowing remote workers to use a family computer instead of company-issued equipment to access your office is dangerous.
Please forward this to executives you know to confirm their IT teams know about this new exploit and take steps accordingly.
I have searched for peace for decades. Peace is the foundation for all the best things I accomplish. During the pandemic I became aware that I was not at peace, and that I could influence whether I was or not. The isolation, the mundane repetition, the lack of human contact other than those in my own
household was making me cranky. I was fueling it too. In my practice to find peace I realized that I could control where my mind was taking me. If I got cut off in traffic, I could get irate, or be at peace. If my to-go order was not right, I could get upset or find a way to be at peace with it. It is amazing the power we have that we just don’t access. Gratitude has been touted as a transformative method to change our lives. It is true.
Just the other day, we had all of our kids over for a meal. Our millennials now think that they need to bring their dogs with them everywhere they go. (Or maybe that is a COVID thing). Anyway, my daughter’s dog bit me; a dog I had tried to steer her away from adopting. I did not react well. I was really upset, really mad and it hurt. It didn’t just hurt physically, it hurt because she didn’t listen to me in the first place, she didn’t apologize for the dog biting me and I felt really disregarded. That energy was not good for anyone. I was hijacked for about 2 days. And I clung to the hurt. In the process, my mind started to tell me all the things that were wrong: my kids didn’t love me, my kids didn’t respect me; my kids didn’t regard me, and now that I was mad, they weren’t going to come around anymore and I was going to die old and alone. You get the point. It is very easy to go down that road.
It’s just as easy to go down the other road. After about 2 days of wallowing, I decided to shift my thinking. I started with gratitude. Remember, I was still mad, and felt justified in my anger and hurt, but it really wasn’t serving me in any positive way. So, I stopped and intentionally started to think about the
things I could be grateful for: my daughter is very responsible, my daughter has maintained a GPA during the pandemic and online courses that has kept her on the Dean’s list. My daughter is a hard worker, and she is caring. My daughter lives by the values that I taught her. My daughter and I have a
solid relationship that we can deal with these kinds of upsets and talk through them eventually and be OK on the other side. And when I wanted to think the “yes, but” thoughts to negate any of that positive stuff, I would say, “thanks for sharing, but I am grateful for…”. It helped shift my mindset. That
intentional gratitude brought me fresh peace.
What is that issue you need to find something to be grateful about? Who is that person that you need to find something to show gratitude for? Start with the easy ones. Start with the small positive things and exercise that muscle, then move to the thing or person that you feel you could never be grateful for. Find one thing. Then look for another. Pretty soon, if you let yourself, you’ll find peace.
You may have heard the term ‘change leader,’ but what does this leadership style really entail? To be a change leader means that as CEO, you have the ability to inspire and motivate your employees even in the face of rapid change and uncertainty — you are adaptable and can detect the tide of change and respond to that change appropriately. The reality for CEOs today is that they must be able to adapt to change — and adapt quickly, or become quickly obsolete.
So how does a chief executivestay resilient and flexible to an ever-changing competitive market, economic landscape, workplace culture and more? Begin by understanding the advantages of change leadership and start putting into practice some of the effective habits of change leaders as outlined below. Soon enough you and members of your team will become change agents — one idea at a time.
Characteristics of an effective change leader
Change is often discussed from a technical point of view — I like to talk about change and how it ties to curiosity. I feel that if you are not curious, you are not changing. A true change leader practices curiosity and is comfortable with challenging the status quo. They know that curiosity is the key to innovation and to instigate positive change, and so they nurture a culture of curiosity at their organization. They are able to combine curiosity, humility and humor to deal with change.
Change leaders are also excellent communicators. They connect with their employees and know how to effectively communicate the vision for the business and the strategy for how to get there. Typically, change leaders are superior communicators because they have high social and emotional intelligence — they are in tune with the undercurrents of how their people are feeling and doing as this affects the overall health and vitality of the organization.
>>Related Content: What is servant leadership?
How to become an effective change leader who grows people and the business
1. Be humble.
When I went suddenly blind, and my family, friends, co-workers and Board of Directors were reaching out to help, I pushed back thinking that accepting help would be a sign of weakness, a sign of my limitations. If the definition of humility is “the ability to accept help” I most certainly was not being humble. And how can you expect your team to challenge the current thinking if they don’t know that you are truly humble and that humility extends to the entire management team? Change leaders practice humility — it goes a lot further than many CEOs may think.
2. Assess, don’t judge.
When new ideas bubble up to the surface, many times we judge them based on our current beliefs, prejudices and preconceived ideas — this is looking backwards. But when you assess, you force yourself to look at the potential of something — to look forward.
Be aware that there is an inherent risk in assessing only the first layer of the onion and judge it inedible due to the skin. True change leaders assess the potential of version 2.0 and 3.0 of an idea, situation or scenario before making a conclusion about it.
3. Expect curiosity from everybody, and start by modeling it yourself.
Talk to team members, ask questions and practice deeper listening. Do this with team members, fellow Vistage members, vendors, clients, and yes, past clients. Read the Business Journals and join the association that represents your industry. Change leaders are role models for learning and professional expansion.
4. Expect initiative — or else nothing will happen.
Notice I said “expect initiative” and not “encourage initiative.” A change leader expects employees to be proactive and take initiative to help drive the business forward. I truly believe that someone who takes initiative but makes the wrong decision is a better employee than one who is unwilling to stick their neck out. So how do you encourage initiative without compromising the standards you have in place? Show the team that you encourage initiative in changing the HOW but not the WHAT we do. You can certainly set up a process to challenge WHAT we do in a more formal way.
5. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Make yourself vulnerable. Vulnerability goes hand-in-hand with humility, and when you demonstrate these qualities, people around you will open up. Yes, be firm and have a vision, but be open to new ideas!
In conclusion, change is hard. Change is disruptive and expensive. But the bottom line is you are either the disruptor or the disrupted, and change leaders are the disruptors. True change leaders are curious, choose to assess rather than judge, and are able to pivot when they sense a changing tide. Change leaders also expect all team members to be engaged. That engagement will most likely pay off in loyalty, advancement of ideas, and a fulfilled team that embraces your change leadership.
Improve Employee Retention By Taking a People-First Approach
By Stephen Day
The opposite of employee retention is churn, and it’s a big problem for many companies. A normal rate of churn is just part of business; it’s rare for employees to work at one company for their whole career. A high rate, on the other hand, presents a number of challenges. Replacements — if you’re lucky enough to find them in the middle of a widening, cross-industry skills gap — aren’t cheap.
The average costs associated with replacing an employee total between six and nine months’ worth of that employee’s salary, and data suggests that companies aren’t doing a great job of keeping the need for such expenditures down. A 2018 survey found that 30% of job seekers have left a job within the first 90 days.
The first question is: Can this be managed? The answer is almost certainly yes. It’s not an accident that some companies succeed in minimizing churn. The next question, then, is how?
It would be a mistake to suggest that a single factor is responsible for employee retention, but there are crucial elements that every company should be aware of. At the top of that list is the degree to which they are people-focused.
Creating the right environment for retention
Organizations that want to minimize churn need to build an environment that people want to be, and stay, a part of. The simple fact that employees are unique individuals, each of whom has their own needs, goals and dreams, cannot be overlooked. Modern workers increasingly want their employers to respect them on a holistic level that takes all these aspects into account.
This is also why companies with high retention are typically those which offer value to employees beyond pay and benefits. That value can come in a number of forms: personalized development plans, skill training, support for continuing education and mentoring programs are just a few examples of initiatives that companies can use to show their employees that they’re seen and appreciated.
As social consciousness continues to grow as a corporate concern, a specific value-creation strategy is becoming more and more common in companies around the world: the creation of emotionally supportive processes and spaces that allow employees to express themselves fully and freely.
This idea of safe spaces creates a convenient topical segue from individual employees to overarching workplace culture, an equally important factor in churn rate. Even if employees’ roles are rewarding on a personal level, the broader atmosphere created by colleagues, leadership and brands themselves plays a major role in retention.
Respect, tolerance and equality should go without saying. Unfortunately, many businesses are still struggling to promote them authentically. Modern companies are often multicultural in makeup but fail to match the diversity of staff with diverse ways of being proactive and innovative. It’s one thing to increase the number of women or minorities in the workplace, but leaders also need to ensure that those groups aren’t hamstrung by cultural undertones of intolerance.
Whether in creating a cultural strategy for a new organization or attempting to revamp an existing, problematic culture, effective communication should be at the core. Employees need reliable ways to be heard across departments and throughout hierarchies without any fear of being marginalized.
Winning teams are created when everyone involved feels capable of expressing their ideas and perspectives freely and in a way that is best for them without being shut down or disregarded. This can mean rethinking the way meetings are held or the gates through which communication must pass, and it’s up to leadership to make it happen.
Flexibility can be discussed as a function of both how a company treats its employees, and of its broader culture. As many as 35% of employees indicate that flexibility on the job is more important to them than having a higher position or better job title, and 80% would give preference to a job with a flexible schedule. These statistics are especially poignant in the current work environment, as employees returning to “regular” work post-pandemic understandably expect some continuation of the flexibility that was afforded due to Covid.
Clearly, employees want flexibility on an individual level, and offering it can help reduce churn. It could take the form of flexible working hours, autonomous goal-setting or substantial parental leave options (preferably all of the above). However, embracing flexibility as a cultural principle in the workplace is also key to retention. Approaching problems with a one-size-fits-all mindset tends to stifle innovation and snuff out consensus before the building process even begins.
The great awakening
The reality is that companies don’t intend to treat employees poorly or foster a culture that spits employees out faster than it can bring them in. Rarely are people and ideas consciously pushed to the margins. And yet, it happens anyway, largely as a result of executives operating with outdated perspectives in a new and emerging cultural landscape.
Other factors compound the issue of churn: a decline in population growth rates, evolving employer needs that are fueling the skills gap and a relatively slow uptake of automation in many industries all contribute to the fact that talent has choices.
The goal for leaders who want to help bridge the gap shouldn’t be to criticize the old, ineffective modes of business, but to model radically superior ones — taking all of the above factors into account — within their own organizations. Creating companies that employees never want to leave will not only maximize profitability, it will also indicate progress in the push for social equality and light the way forward for those still lagging behind.