The Lesson: Show your talent that you care about them by asking them regularly about their work experiences. Use a simple engagement tool like 15Five to keep a regular pulse on your talent’s engagement and hold leaders accountable for creating and sustaining an engaged workforce.
The Story: A few years ago, one of my good friends packed up and left Philadelphia for sunny California. Separated by three thousand miles, we meet up every summer at her parents’ shore house for a few days. Although our visits are short, I love them. I get to spend time with one of my oldest friends plus I get to hang out with her parents who I find to be very amusing, her father especially. He has a quirky sense of a humor. He’s a dentist, which is apparent from the fully stocked bathroom baskets overflowing with toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, and toothbrushes. It was during one of our annual visits that I asked my friend’s dad the question that had been on my mind for some time, but more recently because I had had 3 cavities filled. “Dr. Sullivan, do I really have to floss EVERY tooth EVERY night??” Valid question, right? I mean, who has time to floss EVERY SINGLE night?? I’m lucky if I take off my make-up and put on PJs before I go to bed. I will never forget what he said. To this day, it still sticks. “NOPE. Only the ones you want to keep”. And there you have it straight from the expert. Floss, people. Every tooth, every day, unless you want to lose them.
I feel the same way about taking care of your talent. I don’t mean salary and benefits although they are important. But a higher salary in an uncaring, unhealthy culture is not going to retain your top talent. When I say “taking care of your talent”, I mean the experience side. Do people like coming to work? Do they experience a regular sense of personal achievement or do they find themselves stuck a lot in a task? Do they feel supported by their manager? Are they growing professionally or stagnant? ARE THEY ENGAGED? A few months ago, I participated in a roundtable where I shared a few of the people initiatives my employer at the time, Vynamic, was working on including a monthly engagement and feedback tool. One participant made the comment that it appeared as though we were catering to our employees and realistically, did we really care how each team member felt and what they needed? It was a fair question and I understood the participant’s point of view. Before I had joined Vynamic, I was of the mindset that you went to work to make money and do your job, not to enjoy yourself and grow. But I had grown a lot during my time at Vynamic and I had enjoyed myself. I had experienced firsthand how this engagement thing worked, and my answer to the participant’s question was 100% heartfelt, “Only the ones we want to keep and we want to keep all of them.”
Do you want to keep your talent? Then show them you care by creating the right work experiences for them to thrive. Show them that you want them to be happy at work. You want them to enjoy what they are doing. You want them to grow professionally. You want them to feel supported. You want ALL of this because you know, that all these things make them better at what they do. When your talent is engaged, they go above and beyond and that’s good for the organization. If you are bought into this, then keep reading to find out how you can start engaging your workforce. If not, I hope you at least learned the value of daily flossing.
So, you want your talent to be engaged. Where do you start?
Begin by asking your team about their work experiences and keep it simple. This is not meant to be a 60 question engagement survey, although I can see the argument for maintaining that practice, if you have it in place. You get a lot of detailed information and information is good. Is there a better way though? Think about it, can your organization really wait a whole year to find out whether their people are having the right or wrong experiences? By that time, your high performers will have left or at least checked out mentally. And a “checked out” employee can be even more detrimental that one that has recently left because they are still there influencing others. I like checking in on team members monthly. Perhaps weekly is better for your team. Either way, it’s a structured, scheduled process to ensure that the RIGHT conversations are taking place on a CONSISTENT basis. It doesn’t have to be complicated or over-orchestrated. Here is what I ask, but you can customize it for your organization and culture, but always keep the 1st question:
- On a scale of 1-5, how happy are you? Tell us why! (Overall Happiness)
- What accomplishments are you most proud of from the past 30 days? (Achievement / Appreciation)
- How can you improve your performance over the next 30? (Professional Growth / Coaching)
- As your manager, how can I help you achieve your goals? (Progress)
- Organization specific question that changes every month (Org Commitment)
The above questions start the critical conversations between employees and managers.
Create accountability through an easy to use online tool. There are several online tools available today that allow you to keep a regular pulse on your team’s engagement without out a lot of time and effort. I personally love the tool 15Five because it combines engagement with performance feedback, and to me, those two things go hand in hand, and I can customize the questions however I want. But there are many other tools out on the market. Josh Bersin from Deloitte covered them in his article “Feedback is the Killer App”. Not ready to purchase? Use the free version of Survey Monkey to check in with team members. Either way, a tool allows every organization, even the big ones, to keep a more real-time pulse on engagement. They help facilitate conversations between employees and managers. Online tools also create c-level visibility and a layer of accountability through monitoring usage and feedback. I will cover an in-depth review of online tools in a future blog but you get the idea. A final word about online tools, they are NOT meant to take the place of the in-person informal discussions. They are meant to be used in parallel.
Acknowledge the feedback and next steps. Asking for feedback and not doing anything with it is useless. So before you embark on this journey, make sure everyone understands their responsibilities in building an engaged workforce. Employees take the time to provide honest input. Direct managers review the answers each month and have appropriate follow-up discussions with team members. Got an unhappy employee? Check in on them and see what is going on. You may not be able to do anything about it, but asking shows that you care. Perhaps the team member is not making significant progress in their work. As a manager, it’s your job to help remove the obstacles. Have a quick brainstorming session with your employee to identify solutions. For C-suite leaders, monitor that first question to see if it’s a recurring theme, is it isolated to one group or organization-wide, is it something that requires your attention or can it be handled by frontline managers. Continue to monitor the organization’s answers for trends and determine if broader action is needed.
Everyone has a role in engagement. It’s a big topic, one that you can’t possibly cover in one blog, but don’t let that deter you from taking steps now to start the conversation with your employees. If you want to keep your talent, keep them engaged. Need help? Email me at email@example.com.