I recently had the opportunity to connect with senior leaders from the investment industry to discuss human capital. In a large group forum, we addressed the extraordinary challenges firms are facing as a result of the Great Resignation, along with the difficulty of reintegrating and engaging people back to the office after two years of remote work. The criticality of the topic led to a dynamic and exceptionally productive conversation.
It was great to hear that many firms have refreshed their leadership playbooks to develop new and creative solutions to engage and retain talent. The dialogue was so compelling that I wanted to share several of their insights to encourage change, where merited. We had polled many of these same leaders in Q4 2021 on similar issues, and those findings are published in our 2021 Talent Trends Report.
#1: Increasing Transparency is Driving Leadership Change
Becoming an attractive destination for great talent in an increasingly transparent world means firms are under pressure to rid themselves of toxic leadership. It’s no longer a secret if a management team is perceived poorly. Glassdoor.com and many other sites rate a firm’s management and culture in real time. With many firms struggling to attract and retain talent, no one can afford multiple negative reviews nor the slide toward a poor reputation. Winning firms are being more decisive and less tolerant of leaders who don’t build out the skills and abilities of their teams in a positive manner.
Firms motivated to enhance their reputation to attract talent are investing in more constructive leadership programs. One idea mentioned in our leadership forum was an internal advocacy program to connect Next Gen talent with senior leaders. This is highly effective. Mentorship and exposure to senior leaders sends a strong message that up-and-coming talent is valued and that their leaders are champions of their success. Leaders who promote candid dialogue, offer guidance during difficult career decisions, or help individuals navigate complex conversations, are well-received by employees. These conversations can travel beyond the four walls of your organization and enhance your brand.
Leaders keen on focusing on the vital human dynamic lost or damaged during two years of remote work are also instituting “buddy programs” for new hires. These programs typically work by pairing a new hire with an existing employee who can show them the ins-and-outs of the company. The new person will have a much better opportunity to understand and integrate into a company’s culture, their political landscape, and be included in social activity or dialogues with the help of a firm veteran.
#2: In the Midst of a Talent Shortage, Firms are Being Intentional to Highlight Internal Opportunities
Firms successful in talent development and recruitment today are helping their people realize what opportunity exists at their own firm, rather than watching them walk out the door. These firms encourage career and personal growth by fostering exploration within their company. By contrast, firms that don’t open doors elsewhere in their firm, even for their best performers, risk losing these employees altogether.
Another facet of the same idea is internal “internships.” Some firms have created a path for an employee to shadow other employees to get a better feel for different functions and divisions within the business. Allowing people to gain greater clarity about the work performed by other parts of the business can lead to cross-pollination of talent. Even more importantly, it can create a greater understanding of each department’s contribution to the company’s mission and success. Internal internships are being leveraged as a tool to help retain employees. This approach can be another selling point in employee recruitment efforts as well.
#3: Enhancing Employee Engagement Requires More Interactive Communication from Leaders
To facilitate transparency, empathy and engagement in field-based sales organizations, some leaders have initiated “Listening Tours.” These internal roadshows allow leaders to engage with small groups of employees in different geographies to solicit their feedback on a variety of topics. The goal of these candid conversations over several months is employee-inspired action plans that can be deployed in various ways. Not only does this kind of active listening foster positive change, but it also motivates teams to buy in to the implementation of the proposed ideas.
While most firms are bringing their employees back to the office on a hybrid schedule, there’s an opportunity to complement these face-to-face meetings with other more personal engagement. To strengthen a firm’s social fabric and create collegiality, some leaders have been creating a team newsletter online to discuss hobbies, children, vacations, sports, March Madness picks or Fantasy Football teams. Posting pictures akin to an Instagram feed are avenues for building connectivity specific to a team or business unit.
The Bottom Line
As the Great Resignation continues, it was encouraging to hear these industry leaders have pivoted and built defensive strategies to retain and develop their talent. The labor shortage, which isn’t going away any time soon, has demanded that leaders step up their game. They need to focus on team building and engagement to be an attractive destination for the limited talent that’s available. It was rewarding to facilitate a conversation in which leaders shared their strategies for intentionally rebuilding their own tool kits and investing in their people. The dialogue was also clear evidence that this engagement and sharing of best practices is what has been missing from Zoom calls over the past two years!