Well, don't forget what your customers are saying but let's put that same focus on employees too.
Earlier this week, I spotted a very cool job posting for a disruptive role from a prestigious brand that I thought would be perfect for someone I know. She is an incredibly talented and successful executive leader. She balances the being strategic and operational with ease, is a real visionary, very personable, is able to execute and super intelligent. A true catch for any organization. I flipped over the posting thinking she would be excited about it but instead, she was hesitant. She had heard rumours about culture issues at this company and wasn't planning on applying.
Let this sink in for a minute. I am not exaggerating when I say they would be lucky to have her and yet the reputation this company has, which they may not even be aware of, is preventing top talent from even applying.
If you are running an organization in any competitive industry (and I am really not too sure what industries are left that aren't competing for top talent) and you don’t have a robust employee engagement strategy (and I’m sorry but a recognition program, suggestion box, team bowling night and soft seating spaces just isn’t a strategy…nor is just “saying” you care about employees) this should shake you in your seat. Not only are you losing the talent that is exiting your organization (more than 50% of companies globally struggle to retain their top talent according to this study by Willis Towers Watsun), you are cutting yourself off from attracting top talent, manifesting in ways you will never see or even know occurred. I am not being overly dramatic when I say if you don't address this, you are dooming yourself to either stagnate or fall farther and farther behind the competition and in the worst cases, cease to exist as others sprint past you in droves.
"...you are cutting yourself off from attracting top talent, manifesting in ways you will never see or even know occurred."
So let me play this out for you. I said I knew some key folks at the organization and I would look into what they thought about it. So I did and I was told by several sources that the culture was, in fact, varied. Depending on what department you are in or what location you worked in, the culture could be great or extremely toxic. Now, you might think I would advise that the goal of any organization is to make the culture “consistent” but if you have read any of my other articles, posts or have seen me speak, you already know how I feel about the word consistent. Consistency is too often the killer of greatness.
No, the goal is not to make departments consistent or "the same" as this risks causing homogenization which suppresses ideas, innovation and dampens employee engagement (which occurs by removing important elements of freedom to personalize how your leaders operate and removes empowerment by limiting authority). However, the response I got truly helps to illustrate that without a clear strategy and focus on employee engagement, you are limited to what a handful of great leaders can create (and often rogue leaders who are bucking your organization’s stale employee practices).
In a robust and balanced strategy, you can build purpose driven, role-based employee journeys that become woven into your culture with enough flexibility to not only allow unique and innovative leadership styles but actually have systems to capture, celebrate and share those approaches to better the organization as a whole.
So let’s keep playing out what happened. I passed on the information I got to my friend. On the bright side, my sources told me that the department the role was in was actually one of the few that has a great culture. In particular, they said the executive leading that department was phenomenal. So what does this mean for my friend? What choices will help her to determine if this is worth leaving her current role? Does she chance that she will be shielded from the culture that exists outside of this department? But she is pretty senior and has had a fairly vertical career trajectory (as talent often does), so for how long she be shielded? And what about this executive the role reports to, what if he leaves and is replaced? What are the odds that the new leader will be able to sustain the same or better departmental culture or prevent the more toxic culture outside of the department in?
I honestly don’t know what my friend will do, but I can tell you that what has transpired so far should be a wakeup call for any organization wishing to attract and retain talent. Talent not only has the luxury of scrutinizing possible employers, they are actively doing so. They are investigating you as much or more than you are investigating them. This includes indirect research meaning you will never be aware of, or have the opportunity to address these concerns directly. Your culture, like a product, has to speak for itself. Gallup pegs actually engaged employees worldwide at only 15%. You would think the alarm bells would be ringing in executive boardrooms all over the world but sadly, they are not in most. Yet can you imagine how some of these companies would react if their customer satisfaction was at 15%?
"...what has transpired so far should be a wakeup call for any organization wishing to attract and retain talent."
Marketers sit for hours in fierce debate over how customer's would describe their products and what they would ideally like customers to say about them. They coordinate multi-channel strategies to reinforce brand messaging across all mediums. They conduct pricey but necessary research on what consumers think and measure rigorously, the impacts of each effort and each product change. They map out customer journeys to ensure pain points are identified, fixed and proactively reduce customer effort. They measure things like net promotor score to understand if the customers who will praise their products whether face to face or in social media outweigh the customers who will trash them, knowing that most people will buy or not buy a product based on what others have to say about those products.
Much in the way that a study by Podium, found that 93% of purchases are influenced by online reviews, talented candidates are influenced the same way. With more and more sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Seek and others offering online reviews of your workplace, we can start to expect the same influence on top talent’s decisions to apply with your company. In fact, a recent Linked In study found that 75% of candidates research a company online before even applying! Yet how much effort is put into your culture and employee engagement and in turn, your workplace brand? When top talent asks around, what is being said?
If you think about your employee as your customer (and servant leaders do this naturally) then culture is your product. How would you change things tomorrow if you are started to think of it this way? Would you rest on having a bi-annual employee survey as most companies do? Can you imagine only conducting customer surveys every two years? Would you rest on an employee recognition program (which is akin to a product feature, not a product itself)? Would you think your job is done after creating an employee value proposition document? Would you relax because you pay competitively but have no robust employee strategy, which is sort of like having the best priced product but perhaps the poorest quality? Would you sit back and say ‘job done’ because you have a good leadership ratio but aren’t investing in developing your leaders or empowering them to make decisions? Sort of like having product support staff ready to answer the phones but that are either not trained to solve your concern or not allowed to without transferring your call or escalating to their leader, and their leader, and their leader…
The bottom line is, top talent is doing their due diligence. Like customers with products, employees share their feedback. That feedback has decision making influence. What do you think yours are going to say? If you are scared of the answer…what are you going to do about it?
About the Author: Neal Dlin is founder and “Chief Customer Obsessed Officer”, ChorusTree (www.chorustree.com), which provides best practice HX (Human Experience) encompassing CX, employee experience and contact centre consulting. Neal is also the founder of Unsung Heroes Productions (UHP), a charitable project he started in 2011. UHP produces musical theatre fundraisers for Leukemia, Mental Health and Poverty. By 2018, UHP had raised over $350,000 for these causes. You can learn more at www.unsungheroesproductions.com.