The fight to retain top talent is tougher than ever and organisations need to look for alternative ways to differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace, in an era where annual, inflation-only pay rises are becoming the norm. Here Paul Hutchinson, Head of Product at Sparks Grove and Founder of 360 feedback and talent managements start-up Culr, discusses with CEO Today the alternatives to breaking the bank.
Before embarking on expensive programmes of work to improve employee experience in the hope of driving talent retention, leaders are better off implementing a few smaller ‘experiments’ to judge the impact on the workforce and scaling up as hypotheses are proven or disproven.
Below are five smart ways to invest in your organisation.
Marginal gains in productivity and increased job satisfaction can be driven by more meaningful and regular feedback
This first point is about instilling a cultural shift around performance, where an organisation moves from the traditional 6 monthly or annual reviews to one of continuous feedback. It’s no secret that particularly for millennials, instant validation from peers is expected now (think likes on their Instagram posts or retweets on Twitter). The basic premise is to collect feedback on a little and often basis, allowing the individual to make smaller, less disruptive ‘course-corrections’ throughout the year.
Traditionally, a lot of time, effort and money is spent on formalised employee reviews, meaning a spike in activity for the HR department at certain points of the year. In addition, employees can sometimes be left waiting six months or more for meaningful feedback on how to improve and progress in their career.
Using a continuous feedback tool frees up your organisation’s HR department, allowing them to undertake more of the important roles such as succession planning and wider talent management. From the perspective of the employee, an app or online tool which allows for feedback on a little and often basis accelerates their own development and career progression. They are able to learn and respond in real time, and ultimately, better personal development leads to greater job satisfaction.
Leveraging an organisation using tools such as Slack, Google Docs or Slack for a more collaborative and transient workforce
Harnessing and identifying the existing talent within your organisation is important. One way to do this is to encourage collaboration, by using a tool such as Slack, for example. Slack was initially launched as an internal communications and collaboration platform. As more users join their colleagues on the platform, the platform increasingly serves to connect disparate users who may be discussing a similar topic or having the same problem in a different geography.
Increasingly organisations are seeking to actually encourage a transient workforce and facilitate internal moves; if you’re going to lose them anyway, better to lose them to another department or location than a competitor.
As we built Culr, we wanted to find a way for our platform to link performance feedback and job mobility. Users are able to set their ‘willingness to relocate’. A profile provides information on their feedback, experience and skills, all of which serve to increase their visibility to ‘internal’ headhunters.
Using digital transformation as a way to empower employees
Engagement is key – make your employees feel valued by involving them in a particular project.
There will always be changes and new initiatives brought into the workplace, whether big or small. A simple but effective way of investing in talent in this case is by empowering employee led decisions about a proposed business change or integration of new technology. Tools such as ‘User Labs’ allow for this. Just because someone doesn’t have the official job title of CIO doesn’t mean that they don’t have ideas about how digital transformation might work best within the organisation.
Intelligent use of employee feedback – removing the silos in HR data to make sure insights can be gained across the organisation.
What we’ve seen is that through intelligent use of employee feedback, we can start to observe patterns in performance and make predictions about future capability. This allows us to pre-empt the need for specific training, a new role or structure before the pattern occurs. Moving towards a culture of continuous feedback therefore, not only helps employees progress but it also allows those in charge of talent management to identify a need before it’s a reality. Well-tailored training courses can then be designed based on someone seen with that particular career trajectory before.
Investing the smart way – get to know your organisation’s culture
If you want to invest in a change, pay close attention to the nuances of the culture than exists within the organisation and devise a change strategy accordingly. It is important to advocate an approach of continuous testing and learning, before investing heavily in a particular technology – if the organisation sees a solution for a problem they don’t recognise, the likelihood of adoption is slim. It is also important to consider the constraints that may exist based on the type of industry you operate in. We’ve witnessed the challenges of changing the culture of feedback in many different organisations and not one is the same.
In the long term, you need to invest, but invest in a way that aligns to your culture and build with employees, not for them.