PROOF | internal & employer branding

How to retain and engage key talent in uncertain times

By Sascha Becker

Employees who give their very best every day and help make your organisation a success cannot be taken for granted, so you need to work continuously on the factors that ensure your people feel connected and engaged. But what are the issues today’s employees consider when contemplating whether to stay with an organisation? Or not?

Broadly, the issues cover three areas: organisational vision, personal opportunities and culture. So, for instance, a typical issue would be whether an organisation’s vision matches the individual’s personal beliefs. Or whether the organisation enables its employees by providing the appropriate systems and structures. Others include whether it offers sufficient opportunities for personal and professional development, whether employees feel that contact with their manager is positive and whether the organisational culture appeals to them.

The key to ensuring employees feel connected and engaged is to steer the organisational mindset and behaviour in the ‘right’ direction. But how?

At PROOF, we work with the McKinsey influence model (see figure), and this guides our thinking when it comes to dealing with change and designing impactful change communications strategies. Based on that model, we leverage four elements that can help change the mindset and behaviour of employees – and so, ultimately, that of the organisation: (1) having a clear story, (2) making the best possible use of systems, structures and processes, (3) knowledge and expertise, and (4) role models.

 

Influence model, McKinsey

1. Having a clear story: why, how and what?

An employee journey is founded on a clear promise to current and potential employees. This promise is known as the Employee Value Proposition, or EVP. The EVP is in turn based on the motivations of the talent target groups (triggers and barriers), how the organisation distinguishes itself from its direct and indirect key competitors, and the organisation’s identity, goals and ambitions.

These insights are gathered through desk research and discussions with employees and managers, and the goal is to reaffirm this promise at every touchpoint in the employee journey. Do this and you will be working towards the ideal employee experience.

You’ve now covered the flow or process aspects of your journey. What you don’t have, however, is an answer to the question ‘why?’. Why do we do this? To answer that, you need to link the EVP to the organisation’s mission and strategy. How? Br crafting a detailed and inspiring story.

This story explains why the organisation exists, the values it embodies, the challenge it faces and how it plans to address them, what it expects from and can offer its employees, and how it will support them so they can do their work appropriately. The goal is to bring an abstract strategy to life while simultaneously outlining the context in which the organisation operates and providing direction to the day-to-day work of employees.

2. Making the best possible use of systems, structures and processes is vital

The second way to engage your employees is simply to enable them to do their work! As an organisation, you should strive to get out of their way and enable them to work smartly and efficiently using east-to-access tools. ‘Enabling’ includes ‘hard’ aspects, like a useful intranet to share content, and smart processes, systems and machines that work smoothly, and ‘soft’ ones, like providing an inspiring and safe work environment that is free of internal politics. Also important is to have a clear vision on ‘vitality’ (mental and physical, with a focus on prevention rather than treatment) with the appropriate facilities and support. People perform significantly better in a healthy work environment.

Having these aspects in place will help employees cope with the relentless wave of changes organisations face, from technology, to customer demands to agile working and self-managing teams.

3. Knowledge and expertise

As well as a stimulating work environment, employees need the necessary knowledge and expertise to help the organisation achieve its ambitions. Employees who use their talents to best effect create a lot of added value for your organisation. But high-potential employees are not the only ones who deserve the opportunity to work on their professional and personal development. Every employee helps to make your organisation a success – even the over 50s and flex workers. The goal should therefore be to create an environment that encourages development and to focus on strengthening people’s talents and qualities, rather than ‘fixing’ their weaknesses. Think about how you can get the most out of the talent available and deploy it to achieve your company’s ambitions.

4. Role models

The last building block of employee engagement, but certainly not the least, is to have role models who embrace change and embody the desired behaviour. These need to be at different levels in the organisation and capable of influencing the mindset and behaviour of employees, senior management, managers and ambassadors.

The reason for this is that employees, managers, senior managers and ambassadors all have their own role in creating engagement and you need to reach all of them. Senior management drive change and strategies come across best when leaders share the organisational story, involve employees and encourage dialogue. This lends more weight to the strategy and creates a sense of urgency.

Managers shape how the organisation’s story is implemented day-to-day. They play a crucial role in informing, involving, motivating and challenging employees, especially in periods of change. They are frontrunners in the change process and, as such, set an example for employees. It is also down to managers to build teams in which every member feels comfortable.

Finally, your best ambassadors are employees who identify with and play an active part in the organisation’s story. These employees lead the change process and their efforts give substance to the story. Giving these employees a platform to share their personal stories makes change visible and provides comprehensive evidence of organisational change.

Continuously working on the factors outlined here will help your organisation ensure that your employees feel connected and engaged. However, we also realise that many organisations have a legacy culture that they need to deal with and which can sometimes make it difficult to implement improvements. If this is the case in your organisation, then start by identifying where the greatest obstacles lie when it comes to employee engagement and alignment, the factors involved, and address these first. Make plans for the short and long-term and start implementing your plan step-by-step. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

 

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