I have been seeing a few posts of late that reinforce some things that I have known and talked about for some time:
• We don’t just acquire talent or human capital; we hire and hopefully retain whole people.
• Contrary to everything you read Millennials are not slackers, uninterested in making a contribution, and generally the most awful generation ever…
• All Millennials are not motivated by the same things (imagine that)
• EVERY employer has an employment brand; some have an intentional one…
As a former human resources professional, c level executive, and management consultant I have watched the evolution of how we approach the attraction, retention, and occasionally engagement of staff for over three decades now.
I chose interesting timing (2008) to publish my first book, Managing Whole People, on my personal approach to managing talent. I say interesting because during the recession the concept of treating people respectfully, building engagement into your culture, and appreciating the return on investment of engaged versus unengaged or marginally engaged employees didn’t get a lot of traction.
I think we lost ground we had been gaining in that area for the ten years proceeding. With the unemployment numbers increasing I watched employer after employer fall back into their old habits.
The nice thing about the intervening years is that employee engagement is hardly conceptual. The studies are out, have been vetted, and clearly demonstrate the value of an engaged workforce.
There are still detractors who believe that engagement is voodoo or another fad, but the people who believe that also believe that Human Resources highest and best value is compliance and administration. Many of those detractors live and work in human resources departments. Changing your paradigm is hard…
We aren’t a whole lot better at managing talent than we were thirty five years ago when I entered the corporate world.
The problem is as employers we are facing an emerging workforce that sees themselves as equal stakeholders in the employment relationship.
They have expectations-
• They expect meaningful work
• They expect their employer to partner with them in developing their portfolio of skills
• They interpret loyalty the same way employers do, talk is cheap action is clear
I have to say I continue to be amused when I hear employers who used the recession as leverage to defer pay increases and hiring, reduce workforces, and off shore and outsource whine about how employees just aren’t loyal. Some of them even manage it with a straight face…
Todays’ employees, especially Millennials seem to have embraced some pretty interesting ideas promoted by several of my favorite pundits-
From Malcolm Gladwell they have embraced legitimacy-
Those whom are governed have a voice in the process; their input is sought and heard.
• There is a dimension of predictability and consistency in the application of the law or standards.
• The application of the law or standard has to be administered fairly and objectively, you can’t have disparate treatment without a clear and compelling reason.
From Stephen MR Covey they operate from an advanced interpretation and expectations around trust-
In his hierarchy the first level of trust is deterrence, trust that comes from authority or position. This was a broadly accepted concept for hundreds of years provided first to rulers or religious leaders and embedded in Calvinism that God only allowed “good” people to create wealth and prosper so they were endowed with that trust.
The next level of trust Covey calls competency based. In many cases there is an assumption that anyone who achieves a management role has that competence, but we all know better. In most cases their competency is limited to technical proficiency; their emotional intelligence capacity and social intelligence are rarely considered.
The highest level of trust in Covey’s hierarchy is identity based trust which incorporates both your competency and you character as demonstrated by your applied values and behavior to create credibility.
I personally believe (and Millennials seem to agree) that to a large extent leadership as opposed to management is founded in legitimacy. Leadership is entirely relational versus hierarchical, it was be earned rather than bestowed with a title or position.
This is a new paradigm for us old timers…
The other issue we must face is that the new workforce doesn’t rely on us to validate our employment brand, our work environment and how we treat our employee stakeholders.
Social media has provided them with a platform to research and validate or invalidate everything we say about ourselves.
Here’s a tip, if you think your website and recruiting brochures are your employment brand you are in deep shit.
If you think you don’t need to proactively manage your employment brand you are deluding yourself.
The competition for talent, especially experienced talent is increasing not decreasing. The Department of Labor estimates that employee turnover costs the U.S. economy over $200 billion annually.
Having a great employment brand is not going to guarantee that people stay forever, but it will help you attract the right people and have former employees promote you as a great place to work.
So two things to remember-
• Millennials represent the largest emerging sector of the workforce
• They see things differently…