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The War for Talent is Over, and the Talent Won
Published Monday, November 13, 2017

Bank of NH in Laconia fosters teamwork. Courtesy photo.

2017 is shaping up as the year your firm’s disengaged employees are saying, “enuf!” Your employees hung in during the recessionary dip and through the recovery. But after eight years surviving countless organizational layoffs, job eliminations, mergers, reductions in training and development investments, and few promotions and pay increases, employees are again in the driver’s seat.

Why You Should Care
Employee turnover is expensive. Many studies show that the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5- to two-times annual salary. Consider the real cost of losing an employee:

• The cost of hiring and onboarding a new person (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring).
• Lost productivity until the employee is trained.
• Lost engagement and therefore a loss of discretionary effort.

Project management and client service are also affected as new employees have a longer learning curve. And there is the Pied Piper effect; whenever someone leaves, others take time to ask, “why?” and “should I be looking?”

Researcher Wayne Cascio, author of “Investing in People,” says after rounds of layoffs, it can take years for surviving employees to recover their pre-layoff level of commitment and engagement.

Now that unemployment is nearing record lows, and companies are accelerating hiring, your employees are so confident in the job market that some are resigning without even having another job. “I’ll simply find another,” they’re saying with renewed confidence.

Dealing with spikes in turnover will be exacerbated by the fact that many firms are growing and need to hire even more talent.  Growth means adding to head count but in reality, organizations will be adding and replacing departing employees.

Who is Sinking Your Boat?
This isn’t alarmist. Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report concludes that only 33 percent of the workforce are engaged.

To put this in perspective, imagine your company is a crew team. As you look behind you, you discover that only you and two of your crewmates are rowing your butts off, while five of your fellow rowers are casually looking at the scenery and remarkably, two are attempting to sink the boat by bringing water on board. Can your crew team win the race? Of course not. But according to the Gallup study, that is precisely what is happening in the workforce.

Essential Engagement Practices
Your retention and engagement investments, and goal to become “the employer of choice,” should not be analogous to a light switch—you shouldn’t just turn them on or off. You need to have a strategy in place that can sustain the good times, and the not so good times.

Think of engagement investments and efforts as a dimmer switch; during financially challenging times, you lower slightly, and during boom times, you elevate slightly while continuously communicating with your employees the realities of your business challenges and successes.  

Companies need to focus on their engagement and retention strategies today to be prepared for tomorrow. These strategies need to focus on the following essential engagement best practices:

1. Create a line of sight describing where the company is going, how you’re going to get there and what role all of your employees play in helping you get there.

2. Train your first line leaders on creating an engaged culture with their employees. Why? Because the number one driver of employee engagement is people’s relationship with their boss.

3. Create a robust communication culture built on transparency, honesty and consistency.

4. Drive high performance because “A” players want to work with “A” players.

5. Foster a culture of celebration and recognition.
6. Do well by doing good. Identify both the “what” it is you do (what you sell), along with your “why” (your purpose or mission). This will enable you to crystallize your purpose, which will allow you to win in the marketplace. In fact, according to research by Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” firms that focus on purpose outperform their peer group six times.

Bob Kelleher is the founder and president of The Employee Engagement Group in Woburn, Mass., a global survey, products and consulting firm. For more information, visit employeeengagement.com.

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