The 5 Steps To Stickiness
How to retain more of your talent and be more attractive to new talent in 5 simple steps.
Employee engagement and culture change specialist, and founder of Bizjuicer, Andy Goram, offers up a simple pathway to retaining more of your top talent and being more attractive to new talent, or as he calls it “Getting Stickier”.
Recruitment continues to be a battlefield. In the UK the number of candidates to vacancies ratio is now 1:1. It’s the lowest it has been since the early 70s according to some sources. Having your pick of the available talent is a fight. In today’s times of financial volatility and uncertainty, the importance of paying a fair wage has grown too, not that we should be surprised by that, and we have seen companies use wage inflation to try to hang on to their talent and use it to attract new people. But it is not a sustainable model for many businesses to keep throwing money at the problem.
As far as retaining your people, paying a fair wage is just a table stake. If you don’t do that in the first place, don’t be surprised if you are losing people for pence and pounds on the hourly rate that someone else offers down the road. You cannot sustainably compete on wages alone. You have to offer more. In fact, today, people are demanding you offer more.
The challenge of employee engagement can be an overwhelming and almost impossible task to fathom for many businesses and leaders, and is seen as a never-ending pursuit. The thing is that’s right in one regard. It is never-ending. Engaging your people isn’t a one-off job, performed at a conference or team meeting. It’s a constant.
That’s very often what deters people from focusing on engagement and retention strategies. But it needn’t be as daunting and off-putting as some make it out to be, and besides the benefits you see like, higher retention, lower recruitment cost, increased productivity and quality, more innovation and increased profitability more than pay back on your effort.
In my experience, there are five key steps to engaging and retaining more of your people, and the thing is, by doing these things, you increase the value and perception of your employer brand at the same time, making you more attractive to new talent, who will strengthen your business even more. The secrets lie in uncovering, articulating, and connecting what drives the business, with what drives the people within it.
Step 1: Create and tell your business’ engaging story.
This is an authentic, personal story that conveys where you’ve come from, where you’re going, why you need to go there, and what it’s going to take to do that. It’s often referred to as Purpose today.
But do your employees really need a story? Yes, they do. The old command and control method of leadership was very controlling. People were told what and how to do things. So they had some certainty. Today’s world is more complex, and command and control is no longer fit-for-purpose. As humans, we’re not great at dealing with uncertainty. Having and telling this story consistently, helps employees feel more certain about what the future holds, and how they factor in that. This is a huge factor in successful attempts to engage and retain your people.
Critically, it must allow your employees to see themselves in that story. If it’s just a story about how shareholders will benefit, it won’t work (unless they are all shareholders!). The story must help them see the part they play in delivering the future success you are sharing.
Step 2: Equip your leaders and managers to engage.
It might sound weird, but the second step is to actually equip your managers and leaders to engage with their people. But what does that mean, and how do you do that?
Well, this is firstly about building self-awareness. It’s hard to manage others effectively until you properly understand yourself and your behaviour and motivations. Then it’s about working through how to intentionally build relationships and trust, which are the bedrock of high-performing teams, and giving them the tools and training to do so.
Without trust, it’s hard to achieve anything, or truly engage a team in common goals. If you don’t trust each other, you won’t challenge. If you haven’t worked things through as a team, you won’t get individuals to commit to the team action. If there’s a lack of commitment, then people won’t take accountability, and if there’s no accountability, then they won’t pay attention to the results of their efforts.
So, it all starts with trust and helping them manage for trust.
Step 3: Encourage, listen, and respond to the employee voice
A big part of engagement comes down to employees feeling valued and respected at work. Feeling like you matter and are encouraged to contribute and be involved in the business is an important part of that.
Employees need to feel like they have a voice. A voice that is listened to, understood and where appropriate acted upon. It’s about setting up and encouraging genuine listening and conversation mechanics in the business, both formal and informal, and then using and acting on the precious data that comes out of them to best effect.
Whilst engagement and pulse surveys can provide a useful backdrop to employee sentiment, it is also about ensuring that there is space, facilities, and support for people to openly comment, appraise, consult and participate in conversations about the things a business and its people are doing, without fear of reprisal.
And if you’re going to ask for comment, have the courtesy to respond, whatever your answer. If you were having a conversation with someone and they asked you a question about your feelings on a topic, which you answered honestly, and they just blanked you, how would you feel? Would you bother answering the next time? Well, that exact thing happens every day at work, and people wonder why their team isn’t engaged, or they get low response rates to surveys.
Step 4: Match the promise to the reality
Authenticity, integrity, and consistency are also key traits in businesses with high retention and engagement. This is where step 4 comes in. This is about ensuring that the promise you talk about how the company operates and what it feels like to be part of it, matches up to reality.
It’s about understanding what your culture is really like now, and what it needs to be like to succeed and being really honest about that. Don't try to be someone else, or portray something you're not. If you're signaling what you're trying to be, but still on a journey, be honest about it. The surest way to lose someone early, is when the thing they thought they were joining, turns out to be something different.
It’s about making sure that the values the business holds dear and the behaviours that actually exist, align consistently, and contribute actively to the mission of the business and add real value to your employees, every day.
It’s about having no “say-do-gap” and about everybody, but especially the leaders, showing that these values and behaviours are important through their actions, not just words.
Yes, it’s also about reinforcing & celebrating where you see the good stuff, but it is also just as important to nip the bad stuff in the bud, or you risk nullifying the positive benefits of these things. This includes how people talk about you as a business when you’re not in the room, which ultimately affects your employer brand and your ability to attract great, new talent.
Step 5: Wrap it all up in consistent, engaging communications
Finally, you need to wrap it up in clear, consistent, relevant, and engaging communication.
You don’t retain and engage your people with one-off blasts of information downloads, or the broadcast of random, seemingly unrelated comms pieces.
This is about finding and using the appropriate channels, to have the appropriate dialogue with your employees, with the goal of keeping them informed and involved in the progress the business is making in the pursuit of its mission you spoke of in that story.
How are we doing? Where are we winning? Where are we losing? How can you help? What do you need?
It’s about consistently aligning all the various messages people receive, to the strategy and story. That way it’s not just a tsunami of random communications, but an ongoing conversation about where we’re headed, how we’re doing, how people are contributing, and what’s next.
So that’s my 5 steps to stickiness and how to begin retaining more of your great talent and being more attractive to new people. Hopefully, it’s demystified the challenge a bit and given you a simple pathway to follow. The road to improvement starts with the first step.
Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.