The career landscape has been completely transformed over the past half century. The scenes in Mad Men seem absolutely impossible to imagine in today’s world of work.
Despite the huge contrast, several musty mindsets about employees and employers persist. In this post, I will focus on employer mindsets that need to be reset.
1. Retention is the key measure of HR success. Sure, attrition is costly and disruptive, yet reducing attrition should not be the primary goal. The goal should be to increase engagement, which in turn can translate into reduced attrition. Increasing engagement requires leadership to shift the focus to activating talent, not just keeping people in their places. When it is time for an employee to leave, it’s not necessarily a sign of failure; that departure might be the right thing for both the employee and the company.
2. The company is responsible for training employees. The one-size-fits-most approach of the past won’t work in training today. According to Kelly Palmer, CLO of Degreed, learning is becoming much more personalized and learner centric: “When you think of learning in this way, it becomes part of your daily work routine and is incorporated into the work you already do, not something that is separate from work.” The days of big-event, corporate-sponsored training are over. They’re being replaced by personalized, employee-driven development plans that feature bite-sized learning modules. Learning and Development’s role should be to help employees help themselves when it comes to learning.
3. Social media sites like LinkedIn are a threat to retention. If you fear you’ll lose your people because they are on LinkedIn or engaged in social media, you’re missing a major opportunity. Some companies still ban access to social media at the workplace. If fear is the driver in your HR policies, you’ll only alienate your people. Encouraging your people to use social media helps them do their jobs better and gives them the opportunity to promote the company by serving as brand ambassadors.
4. Employees are disloyal if they don’t conform to the company’s methods. When employees feel free to do the things they love and to create their own work system that integrates all aspects of who they are, that translates into empowered, satisfied people. Performance needs to be measured on the value created, not hours delivered or conformity with a specific way of getting the job done.
5. Onboarding is a single event that should focus on understanding the company. First, onboarding can’t happen in an hour, a day, or a week. Acquainting new staff with your organization takes time. More importantly, onboarding programs that focus on the personal brands of your people rather than on your company brand are far more effective. In a report in Administrative Science Quarterly, Daniel Cable, Francesca Gino, and Bradley Staats shared their Cornell University research, which shows that “to maximize employee satisfaction, new employee socialization should focus on personal, not corporate, identity. When your employees can be their ‘authentic best selves’ in the workplace, productivity and retention increase.” In this research, new hires who were asked questions such as, “What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performance at work?” had lower turnover rates, performed tasks more effectively, and showed higher overall engagement.
6. Employees who leave the company are disloyal. Good riddance, right? Wrong. Providing a good experience when employees leave, and staying connected to them afterward, are great ways to build brand ambassadors. In the new world of work, it is likely that they’ll return to your workplace or identify candidates for roles you have available. If the norm is going to be more people passing through your workplace with shorter stays, staying connected to those who are off-boarding is good for business.
7. Enforcing a 9 to 5 schedule ensures stability. That worked in the past, before we had access to the 24/7 work tools of today. Millennials just don’t work on a 40-hour a week, early-to-rise schedule. Perhaps surprisingly, they don’t seek work/life balance; they practice work/life blending. They email colleagues while in line at Whole Foods or pitch prospective clients on the train on the way to work. Flexibility is the key to employee happiness – especially for millennials.
8. Annual performance reviews are productive. Let’s face it, no one likes an annual review, and if that is the substitute for providing regular feedback, the employee and the company lose. Neither employees nor managers take them seriously, especially if the underlying goal is to justify stagnant salaries. Annual reviews are powerful only if they’re genuine, coupled with a respected system of regular, candid feedback. What’s the review process like at your company?
9. Employees are more likely to goof off if they work from home. Harvard Business Review reported on a study showing that working at home actually boosts productivity among workers. Allowing your people to work from home empowers them and engages them more in your business.
Which of these mindsets is getting in the way of your leadership? Are there others you would add to the list?
By William Arruda
The author surveyed 5,600 workers from various industries from January 2019 to December 2021, finding that worker dissatisfaction not only starts as early as age 25 — it’s been here since before the pandemic started. Her advice: aim for work-life alignment, not work-life balance. Find out what drives them as an individual — and reshape their jobs together. Engage them in the recruiting process.
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