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Are You Attracting, Retaining and Engaging the Right Players?

July 9, 2015

Looking for the municipality article from SBAM’s Power Boost? Click here.

By Ed Holinski, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

It is indisputable that attracting, retaining and engaging talent – i.e., the right people who bring learning agility with them – heads up most management agendas. There are numerous views on how to do that effectively. Many companies believe that their industries, companies and regions are all different and therefore need to customize approaches that work for their individual dynamics.

That may be true in the general case, but the findings from the 2015 Job Seeker Nation Study provide insights that all industries, companies and regions need to consider. In the study conducted by the recruiting software company Jobvite, 35% of all respondents and 43% or respondents in their 30s cited “growth opportunities” as the reason for taking a new job.

This phenomenon presents both a problem and an opportunity for those who pay attention and are nimble. Many Millenial workers recognize that the traditional psychological contract between the employer and employee is dead. In the coming decades we will rarely see employees staying with the same employer over an entire career. Those employees know that employers will keep them only while they serve the employers’ immediate interests. That awareness is turning us into a free-agent nation.

Employees have concluded, quite logically, that the smartest investment they can make is in their personal development. It will help to equip them for whatever is next. Therefore, they seek employers who provide development opportunities and are willing to sponsor and champion their development. They are attracted because of the opportunities themselves, but also because the employer cares enough to provide the opportunities. It is proof that they “get it.” These employees want to be in an environment where learning is woven into their work experiences. Formal programs are helpful, but most learning will happen through experiences, and they want to be with employers who understand this fact and will facilitate ongoing learning at every opportunity.

Taken at face value the statistics understate the size of the opportunity. That is because, arguably, those 35% will likely be better contributors to their organizations while they are there, given their personal orientation. If their interest in learning is an indication, they may get to full productivity faster and continue to reinvent themselves in response to market needs. Companies need more people who can adapt to changing conditions and help their organizations do the same.

Where might you start to make your organization more attractive for these job seekers? Increasingly, companies are developing private or corporate universities to address peoples’ development needs. In most cases, the corporate university includes an amalgam of tracks, or academies. It is not unusual to have tracks for leadership/management; sales/service; technical; technology; and compliance. Leadership and management development may include a range of skills that go increasingly deep into the organization. Today, it is expected that the practice of leadership and management will happen at all levels in the organization; employees who follow someone else one day might lead a project the next day. In fact, we would be well served to dispense with the term “soft skills,” which tends to be discounted by many managers even as they bemoan the frustrations that come with dealing with difficult people. The term “leadership skills” captures what soft skills are really all about and gives them the proper sense of urgency.

How might you start to develop your own university? First, get the top-down view by developing workforce and succession plans to determine the capabilities that will be necessary to win in the marketplace over the next three years. Afterward, shape an approach to develop these key behaviors through a combination of programs, experiences and support. Second, survey employees to determine what is required to equip them for their responsibilities today, and to prepare them for tomorrow.  Consider surveying candidates too. Third, inventory formal and informal training underway across the organization since each one is a solution to an already felt need. Finally, equipped with these inputs, shape an appropriate university framework. To start with, the framework should include branding, learning tracks and a representative set of impactful programs. The framework and offerings will be highly iterative. A talent development governance council, made up of key executives, could be a worthwhile mechanism to guide and prioritize the needs.

Do not overanalyze or over-engineer the design. It is important to be thoughtful and to build strong management support. However, it is just as important to start with something as soon as practicable and then continuously improve the structure and the offerings.

SBAM members can also utilize the SBAM Talent Exchange to get connected quickly with potential employees.

Source: “Untethered Talent Wants Training,” Chief Learning Officer 6/24/15

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