Most organisations spend huge amount of energy and resources on high calibre talent acquisition. There is no company that will ever admit that it compromises on finding, attracting and capturing the best talent available. However, would you agree that the value derived from talent is only sensible if the talent can be retained long enough to tap all its potential.
We all enjoy a chase, solving a problem, gauging people to hire them. However, the thought of owning the reward, maintaining and nurturing it does not give the same heady dopamine spike one feels during the hunt. It is the same with retention. Having selected top talent, it becomes hard work to draw out its potential, develop its capabilities further and satisfy it to make it want to stay. Leaders are now beginning to see how much of a drain on resources this becomes when ignored.
In this environment of high turnover, low commitment, and job-hopping it becomes so difficult to spend time and energy in helping people with their career progression or pathing knowing that they may leave soon. Ironically, if we don’t do it, the chances of retention become even lower; it becomes a vicious circle.
Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey from 2015 demonstrated that employee engagement and culture issues were the number one challenge companies were facing globally. Through approaches such as design thinking and employee journey maps, HR departments are now focusing on improving this complete experience. They are implementing several tools to measure employee satisfaction. About 80 percent of executives rated employee experience important, but only 22 percent believed their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.
Now let us stand back and understand why in the current corporate environment in India employee engagement is low. The country is growing rapidly, there are several opportunities available for people if they are really interested. Employees look at two critical things – pay and title. In our country with history of sharing resources with larger population, and as we move towards a more capitalistic society, success is measured to a large extent by the amount of money you make and your role in a hierarchy. So often the misconception is that this is what people want, in-fact people themselves believe that this is the primary reason to stick with a job. This and also doing challenging work and learning new technology so you become more valuable again to get higher salary and title.
I believe the key to a lot of engagement issues lies with the people whom the employees “engage” the most with, don’t you think? This is usually the direct line manager. Grooming them to understand the nitty-gritty of engagement is where one part of the real solution lies. The job of senior leadership and HR is to communicate to the people managers that they are the best people to figure out engagement for the entire organization. Then, be there to give them the tools and resources to get good at it. It becomes the responsibility of the people managers to get the employees to look at the larger picture and think beyond pay and role. You can be a VP in a startup but when you go join a much larger company they may peg you as a manager, so the role really is quite relative.
One important thing people managers must start doing is this: Often the employees themselves are not very clear on their own long-term vision. The managers can help them identify this by asking questions like where they see themselves 5 or 10 years from now. For any kind of career pathing, this becomes the first step. After that, look at where the employee is at and where they need to go with respect to their vision and what could be the gaps, pitfalls or strengths that can be leveraged.
The executive level team understands this however are often not able to implement it because it takes time. To tackle this, I am working with several companies on a subscription model where an executive coach is there to fill in for the leader on several leadership issues they have questions about.
If the following three areas are conducive, organizations can easily channel their employees to move internally.
1. Availability of real career opportunities
The typical mindset about traditional career paths is that are hierarchical, based on technical proficiency and past performance and usually in the same vertical. It is not based on potential. Such thinking shrinks the number of opportunities to only a few options in an already small pool. If you could tap the latent interests, experience, education and skills in your workforce and apply them in ways previously unused it would unlock tremendous potential.
The mindset needed to recognize and leverage these opportunities is that lateral career paths are driven not by hierarchy alone, but by the interests, passions and possibly hidden skills of your workforce.
2. Awareness of other lateral opportunities
If your employees cannot see the available career paths in your organization, there are no opportunities. It should be the manager’s responsibility - correct? Here are three reasons why managers may not be the best channel for promoting lateral career moves:
1. Managers may have a vested interest in keeping their team exactly where it is.
2. Many managers are not skilled in handling career discussions and mentoring.
3. Very few companies list building and retaining their talent pool as part of their KPI (Key Performance Indicator) so where is the motivation?
While managers should be responsible for helping with understanding vision, talents skills etc. this part should be handed over to the HR folks.
It is not just managers though. Roadblocks can exist in poor internal career management policies on areas like transfers and promotions. Empowering employees and giving them data and information using sophisticated technologies about roles, skills and locations to map dynamic career paths could be an effective way to take career progression to the next level.
3.Culture of encouraging and supporting internal career moves
Very few organisations invest as much in its internal career management platforms, processes and practices as it does in hiring. To be fair, great technologies supporting career management have arrived late in the talent management space. It will be a while before companies will upgrade to cloud-based systems with powerful functionality from in-house manual or proprietary software.
Career pathing is quite tightly linked to employee engagement. It requires a thorough analysis of the culture of the organisation to address the root cause of the problems.
The views expressed in this article are not those of Fortune India
The author is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a global Leadership Development company based in Bangalore. She is a Leadership Development Specialist, an ICF Certified Executive Coach [PCC] and author of the book Team Decision Making.