Recruiting, Talent

Retaining Employees in a Job Market Full of Greener Pastures

Millions of workers are looking for jobs while millions of employers are having a hard time filling open positions. At this time last year, COVID-19 swept across the world and disrupted life as we know it. Millions lost their jobs while those who were still employed hunkered down and waited out the outcome and outbreak.

Now, as the country re-opens, industries hit hardest by the pandemic like manufacturing, restaurant, travel, sporting events, and more are struggling to find talent. While people need jobs, and according to MarketWatch there are more than 9 million available since May, many have reexamined their lives and discovered what they want out of life and their job.

As a result, many people have found they are no longer willing to commute two hours each way for work, prefer not working in an office setting after being remote, or simply do not want to stay in the same position for the next 5 to 25 years. No matter the reason, people are making a move and are taking into consideration their needs and wants before signing on the dotted line.

I recently sat down with Jeanet Wade, author of The Human Team: So, You Created a Team But People Showed Up!, to find out what employers can do to retain their employees in a robust job market that’s favoring talent.

Here’s what she had to say.

Is this level of turnover a good thing, maybe? Because if employees are leaving, and they do not want to be there, do employers really want to have them in their organization?

I think while it’s a frustration and a challenge, it’s a good thing. Right now, there’s a lot of people discovering what they really want to do well in the world. And I think some of what we’re seeing with people not wanting to stay in certain types of jobs and why we’re having trouble attracting that talent or keeping them is because they weren’t valued before.

I know, and this is my own personal belief on observation, having worked some of those jobs in my previous history, that it felt like, “I’m getting underpaid for this.” It’s considered grunt work on some level. It’s customer servicing industries a lot of times, and people treat you as if it’s grunt work. And so, you’re just like, “I’m realizing, after I had some time off, that I’m worth more than this.” So it’s not just about upping the pay. So clearly, they’re wanting to see that there’s organizations that will value them as human beings, as contributors, that will want to work with them and not just have them work for them.

Absolutely. I totally agree. It’s about value across the board. No matter the opportunity, yes, money is great, but also show me that you value me in other ways as well.

Exactly. I think we have an opportunity right now as a business community to innovate the way we treat people and the way they come to work and track them and retain them in ways that really look at the whole picture, not just an exchange of services for money, right. Not just, “I’ll pay you this amount and you come to work,” because that’s clearly not working. Organizations are upping the pay and it’s not working.

This could be a silver bullet here, but do you think organizations should increase wages to their existing employees for the purpose of retention?

Obviously, we need to be fair and equitable with our pay. I think a lot of times we, in the U.S., we take a very capitalist model towards the way we pay, right. And I think it’s got to shift a little bit because it’s not just about that exchange. With a capitalist model, there’s a lot of good, but there’s also a lot of greed, right. So it’s got to be set up in a way where there’s a win-win-win. And I think we can win, and there have been businesses that have proven with higher wages and valuing employees and looking at people as human beings, that they can get a win-win-win, and they still make good money, that they still see higher revenues.

People need support. They need to be coached. They need their confidence built up. They want to be considered. So, I think there’s a huge opportunity right now, and we’re sitting on it, for small businesses to come together and figure out, is there a better model to this where we all win?

In your book, The Human Team: So, You Created a Team But People Showed Up!, you talk about how employers can create effective, healthy teams of people by understanding “The Six Facets of Human Needs.” Can you share how those facets–Clarity, Connection, Contribution, Challenge, Consideration, and Confidence, can help employers retain talent?

One of the three main areas that employers typically don’t focus on until it’s too late is contribution, which would be, how do I ensure that everyone has their natural abilities brought to this team so that we actually all can contribute fully, so that they feel like, “I’m able to give myself to this organization.” And when you give yourself and you fully contribute, you become more loyal. So, contribution is key. We must figure out how to tap into people’s natural abilities, because they want to give them.

The second one that sometimes gets missed is challenge. A lot of times we don’t want to challenge employees because we’re worried about them leaving. That fear of losing people stops us from having a coaching mindset. It’s very counterintuitive, but we go, “Oh, I don’t want to push them any harder, because what if they want to leave because we push them?” And honestly, challenging them creates meaningful work. It also means that you’re investing in them. When I’m coaching you, I’m investing in you.” And so, by challenging them, they’re like, “Man, I’m becoming the best at this,” or “I’m part of a winning, successful team. Why would I leave? Because we get challenged here. It’s challenging work. It stimulates my mind.”

The third is confidence. Confidence leads to new capability and commitment and is the best route to meaningful ideas and innovation. I think Brené Brown does a good job of trying to bring this into her research. But we really need to create organizations of courage and bravery and vulnerability. And when we don’t have that, as human beings we wonder, “What am I really connected to? What am I really part of? Is this really real? These people aren’t real. I don’t feel real here.”

And failure becomes a bad thing, and everyone feels like, “I’m being micromanaged if I fail.” So, if I can build confidence in my organization, which means as leaders, I must embrace failure. I must create a safe space for innovation. I have to say, “We’re okay, let’s try again,” or “I’m going to be a real person and be vulnerable with you. Let’s have real holistic dialogue on your whole person, because you’re not just showing up at work, you bring work home, you bring home to work.” So, I must build confidence in my organization to achieve, but I also have to have confidence that we want to be vulnerable, brave, embrace failure, all those things that build trust.

Fantastic. So, confidence, challenge, and contribution are the three areas organizations, unfortunately, fall short on. Talk about the remaining facets of human needs and how they can benefit employers.

I think the first place most people go is, “Let’s give them clear direction and expectations. Let’s make sure we do team building and connect them to us,” which are fundamental. You must have clarity and you must have connection, absolutely. Without clarity, human beings are confused. People on teams must understand the purpose or vision of the team/organization, their role in it, and the outcomes/goals.

With connection, people also need to know that they belong on the team and in the organization. When feeling disconnected they become depressed, unenthused, dysfunctional, etc. I think a lot of times organizations think they have healthy teams or healthy team dynamics, only they find out they do not when really challenging times hit them, and then the team starts to fall apart, and they’re baffled by why people are not retained.

Finally, consideration is key. The need to be heard, acknowledged, and appreciated drives people on teams to have high trust, be vulnerable with one another, and are far more unified and successful than other teams. When humans are not considered they feel disregarded and can quickly become nonproductive.

These six facets of human needs that I’ve been sharing, clarity, connection, contribution, challenge, consideration and confidence, really lead to return on individuals, right, that ROI, that hidden ROI, return on individuals. When I’ve stayed places, I’ve stayed there because I love the people I work with. And we don’t use the word love often in work, but you think about it, you’re like, “Man, I loved working for that boss,” or “I loved working for that team.” We use it casually, and it’s true. And when you love the people you work with, you’re bonded to them. You care about them. It’s family almost, right. There are organizations that claim they want to have a family atmosphere, but they don’t really live it.

Should employers try to identify employees that are likely to leave? If that’s a good idea, how should they go about it?

I say no. I’ve had some people ask, “Should I worry about competition?” And I said, “No, worry about yourself. Worry about doing the right thing. You do the right thing by your customers; you don’t have to worry about your competition.” And I kind of feel that’s the same thing when it comes to people. If I’m doing right by them, and I’m investing the time and attention in my people, I don’t have to take the time to think about who’s going to leave me because I’m investing so much time in ensuring they never want to.

Because what you’re going to find is you create that list of all the things you should have done. Why not do those things now proactively, and not the should-have-dones? I see that in employee surveys all the time. Every one of my clients that does an employee survey, I laugh. I go, “I bet you get the same 10 results as everybody else.” They’re like, “Oh, no, we’re going to spend $10,000 doing the employee survey anyway.” And I go, “Okay, go ahead.”

And inevitably it’s we don’t communicate well. “My boss doesn’t care about me or spend time with me. I don’t know my role. I don’t know what they want from me.” It’s the same stuff that shows up. So, let’s be proactive, let’s invest time, and you don’t have to then do all this stuff to try to clean up the mess after.

Any advice for your peers?

Taking that challenge word, as leaders and managers, I challenge you to really try to figure how can you flip this business model on its head so that it can work for you. But the other challenge I have often is, we don’t look at people as a time and attention investment. It’s a reaction, “How am I going to retain these people? They’re going to leave me now,” or “How do I attract this talent?” Because what are talent wars? All reactionary versus investment of time and attention.

You have to be almost obsessive and have the discipline and consistency to do all six things I outlined. Otherwise, you don’t attract or retain. You don’t get return on individuals. You don’t get the people multiplier. And everyone says, “Well, what’s the magic bullet to this, Jeanette?” I go, “Your time and attention. That’s all they’re asking for. They want you to see them. They want you to spend time with them. They want you to coach them. It’s time and attention. Block it.” They’re like, “I don’t have time for that.”

It’s like, “You don’t not have time for that, because you’re complaining about your biggest issue is people. And if you don’t take the time, you’re always going to have this problem.” So it’s a root, systemic issue, that we don’t invest the time and attention necessary to give them the clarity they need, the connection they need, the ability to contribute. We don’t challenge them enough. We don’t consider them, and I’m not talking incentives and pay, I’m talking true human regard and respect.

Remember that we’re dealing with human beings, not human doings. I think sometimes we forget that because a lot of times we’re like, “I need people to do these jobs.” Yes, you do. But you really need some really good quality people that fit your culture, that can be part of your organization for a long time. Get some human beings on your team that fit you, and they will do the work. Don’t try to find just human doings, find human beings.