In an age where the job is not really for life anymore, redundancy is increasingly the norm and at a time when we are at near full employment, switching companies and careers is becoming more prevalent. This is a big consideration for companies as the workplace becomes more fluid, gig working steps up, part time and flexible becomes the norm, they need to adapt and flex accordingly,
At the Grocery Girls, a networking opportunity for women in the grocery industry, Jo Whitfield talked with passion about how, as women, we need to support and develop each other to truly succeed. We need to invest and nurture our teams and support their dreams. She used a phrase that struck a chord with me… ‘Talent flows where it can grow’ . So it got me thinking a bit about what this means.
We spend a huge chunk of our early life in Education, learning new stuff every year with new syllabus to go through. For some that carries on at university. Then we join the workplace and start applying all that learning into the big bad world.
Now, for most roles I’ve been in, the first 3-6 months you are learning where the loos are, tea and coffee making places (one of the best places to find out the mood of a company’s people fyi). Meeting and greeting and trying to remember the names and roles of everyone that is key to making your stuff happen. the rules of the business and the cultural norms expected. You may meet customers, and most start learning the ropes of what’s expected of your role, hopefully under guidance of others. Then gradually you start to motor, to add value , to work off your own initiative and it’s and exciting time (hopefully)
Fast forward two years and you’re unconsciously doing your job, a bit like driving a car. You have some successes under your belt and some ‘feedback’ (there’s no such thing as failure only feedback, unless you do it twice or more :), then maybe there’s an element of failing to learn). The tasks and goals may alter a bit, but what you’re expected to deliver is pretty much done in a well known comfortable way. For some , me included you start to think what’s next? I need a new challenge and to keep on learning. What else can I do that challenges me?
How does talent grow, what does this mean for each person?
Well for me, having had exemplary appraisals, and being told on several occasions I was a top performer in the business, i would ask my employer what’s next… sadly they didn’t have the mechanics in place that would allow for agile thinking, to enable me to progress, or offer variety and so I moved on. Quite simply there was no where for me to go in the business within my timescales. The inflexibility of large companies to support and offer variety simply did not exist. But for companies to retain talent in this day and age they will have to adapt.
Today there certainly seem to be more opportunities than ever for people looking to pick and choose where they work and how long for. The economic crisis ten years ago spurred many people who lost their jobs to rethink their future career prospects, while others have chosen a different approach to earning a living to reduce stress levels and improve their work-life balance.
So for talent to grow this may mean they will consider:
1. More responsibility within their current role
Now this doesn’t mean piling on additional work with no rewards, to the point they become disillusioned, stressed and leave. This means carefully managing additional responsibility, with resource put in place, to take on some of the existing tasks. To stretch the individual and keep the learning cycle going and their interest piqued.
2. Changing roles within the company
Changing roles can often been seen as a negative by some people. But spending time in other departments, by role switching, can keep-interest high, help retain employees. For the employee it broadens their experience, keeps them learning and helps appreciate the challenges and opportunities each department faces. It’s why grad schemes work well in some instances. So maybe companies could think about implementing programmes for existing employees not just grads.
3. Being promoted
Getting promoted can be a great way to develop and retain key employees. The best promotions come through a well thought out succession plan, where individuals receive training and support to ready them for the next steps. A good succession plan ensures the best person for the job gets promoted not just mates of the boss.
4. Growing outside of the business e.g launching a side gig or taking up a hobby
Again, more and more people are launching side hustles, side gigs or taking up hobbies to keep the learning cycle going and to fit around their lives. These can all benefit the employer as new skills are learnt which can then be used within their day to day.
5. Getting experience in another business or industry
If a company does not offer a clear direction then quite often the path may well be to leave and gain new skills and learning elsewhere. In a time where we are at near full employment this is quite a viable option for most employees and even more reason businesses need to think about how to nurture their talent rather than regard them as a cost/overhead.
6. Opting out all together / taking sabbaticals /Not returning to work post maternity
Inflexibility, lack of opportunity, work overload and so much more are contributing to work place stress. People are taking ‘time out’ to consider their options and next steps. Businesses need to consider how they support this in the future to ensure their top talent remains engaged.
So how can businesses ensure they nurture and retain their talent.
Understanding the key triggers for change is essential, not however at the point they’ve been triggered (Aka the exit interview).
A fully integrated coaching and mentoring programme can help keep a track in the pulse of the business and how their employees are faring.
Businesses need to have growth and succession plans in place that are continuously assessed, not as part of an annual box ticking exercise, but as part of an integrated development and coaching programme.