Thursday, December 31, 2009

Retaining Top Talent in 2010

In my prior post, "Will Talent Head for the Door?," I started to summarize some of the key themes that emerged in response to my question on LinkedIn, Will Talent Bolt?

Most of those who responded said Yes there will be some movement. But there was also agreement that the best employees will stay in those organizations that demonstrate the right way to manage and retain top performers.

Let's distill some of the chief elements of the Right Way to take care of your top talent so that they do not head for the door.

1. Leadership - Art Worster wrote: "Good leadership has to be based upon principles of honesty, openness, and personal integrity. Many bosses can create the illusion of leadership skills in good times when conversations tend to be around positive things. However, when things get difficult, they tend to become insecure in these conversations and hide behind various screens. This is the time that true leadership steps out and truly leads. I think that hard times tend to evaporate the illusions and create a group of people who, having seen the lack of depth in their leaders, are ready to look for a place where personal integrity is not based upon good times."

2. Caring and Communication - Susan Schwartz wrote: "If you have treated talent fairly and kindly, given people interesting projects, not taken advantage, and communicated with them sensibly about the company's conditions, when the recession ends (fingers crossed), if you communicate again, bring them up to date on pay and keep the interesting work flowing, many will say "well, they played fair with me; why should I jump ship to a place where they might not?" Companies that treat talent as commodities that have to be chained to their desks not only will lose them when they have other opportunities, they probably deserve to."

Patty Foster wrote: "All too often, concern and care is given to the job applicant/candidate and then once he/she is aboard, there isn't a lot of attention given to them as an employee. People want to be valued! So part of the key to retaining talent is to appreciate your employees, get interested in them, ask them for their opinions on how to make your organization better and implement their suggestions when possible. Sometimes just the smallest thing can make huge differences to employees. Also, having the ability to help employees balance work/life can go a long way to the creation of job satisfaction. Employees don't leave companies, they leave managers. Train your managers, get rid of deadwood managers, ask managers to get up and get involved with their direct reports, bring enthusiasm to meetings."

And Joseph Paris wrote: "If you treat people poorly, then you will never create a loyalty. If you treat people fairly and communicate, then they are more inclined to stay because they believe they are a part of the organization and not just a 'resource.' "

3. Challenge: What kind of environment is best suited for top talent to thrive? In a word, challenging. Lisa Mortimer wrote: "Talented people are usually in high demand. Talented people are not impressed by anything but talented leadership. I have left perfectly good-paying jobs to take a star spot in a struggling start-up, or to risk everything starting up a new product because the challenge is there. Talented people live for the challenge (that is how they become talented in the first place), fairness (workload) in the workplace and talented leadership. If they leave, it usually isn't money; it's usually one of these."

4. Real Stake - Craig West wrote: "Many employees wish to own part of the business they work in and for. Look at profit-sharing or employee incentive planning as a means to retain key staff and create a valid leadership option for them. There is nothing better than having key employees within the business beginning to think and act like business owners in the same way that you do. Give key people a stake in the performance and success of the business. Imagine if your employees were able to think and act and innovate like business owners not employees."

Finally, David Kennedy wrote this nice wrap-up: "The drivers for change by employees are if they feel the company is not behind them, have not shown they value their work and have not provided opportunity to grow professionally or recognize them for their accomplishments."

OK Business Leaders: Now you know what you must do in 2010. Will you do it?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New You in 2010

A few minutes ago on Twitter, management guru Ken ("The One Minute Manager") Blanchard tweeted: "Think about redoing yourself and becoming a better "you" in the new year."

That tweet came at the right moment, the kairos moment.

For the past few days, my wife Joan and I have been enjoying the cable TV show Clean House, a home makeover show, where a team of home organizers descends on hapless couples who are drowning in clutter. A very entertaining show about "letting go" of the material things that weigh us down.

Imagine if you could apply the "clean house" makeover to your career and life?

One of the things I like most about this time of year is the many blog posts on setting New Year's resolutions. The other day, Curt Rosengren had a great one called "What Is Your Theme for the New Year?" where he says:

~ "What if, instead of a random hodge-podge of well-intended but potentially ineffective positive efforts, you created a unifying theme that ties it all together? What would your theme for 2010 be?"

Great idea! Instead of a list of resolutions, how about a theme? He adds:

~ "With a focused theme, the year becomes a space for you to take an immersion course in the theme you choose. It is a time for you to both learn everything you can about that theme and to practice putting it to work in the real world. Each year has the potential to be a learning laboratory. You can design your "course curriculum" for the year..."

Though it needs more time to crystallize into sharper focus, I'm choosing as my theme for the new year: Launching A New You (I mean, Me) in 2010!

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Will Talent Head for the Door?

When the recession ends, will your top talent head for the door?

Some recent surveys, indicating that employees are anxious to bolt, have warned HR managers and business leaders to get ready for a talent exodus.

Wondering if this concern is well-founded, I recently asked this question on LinkedIn and got some very interesting responses.

In general, respondents said that some movement is likely. Especially in those organizations that did not do right by their workforces. Jay Foley's comment sums it up: "Organizations which were poorly led through the downturn and have lost the respect of their employees will likely suffer some appropriate backlash in the form of desertions. Those who were more careful, and did their best to maintain trust with employees during these times will reap the benefit of that effort."

But other organizations needn't be too worried about losing key talent when recovery comes. These employers have been doing the right things vis a vis their employees during the recession. What things? Here's a sampling of comments:

Frank Feather: "For companies to retain their best talent, they need to be able to reward them for staying on board and for helping the company survive and recover. "

Karl Stewart: "A key driver for high potential talent in organizations is ROI. They ask themselves, "Is staying in my current position giving me work I love that makes a difference? work/life balance that allows me to be with my loved ones? and the cash/security I deserve?" If not, they'll bolt when it's appropriate."

Harvey Hirsh: "There are several factors that can lead people to leave their current position. First of all how employers are currently treating their employees is critical. Those companies that show compassion, care about their employees and reward them, will be less likely to lose employees. However, companies that have shown little regard to their employee and have not rewarded their employee will most likely see much higher turnover rates."

If I were to try and sum up what the many respondents had to say, I'd point to the importance of genuine appreciation, open communication, and meaningful rewards.

More on this in a future blog post.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 29, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Safeguard Your Future

Yesterday, a financial writer interviewed me about ways to safeguard yourself and prepare for job loss. In particular, she wants to reach professionals that have been at one company for many years, who are often ill prepared for the "shock and awe" of the pink slip. What can they do today to get ready for the rollercoaster ride of being "in transition?"

Here are a few of the ideas, that I offered up for the article, for professionals who are still working but who see "the handwriting on the wall:"

- Take training now - Is your employer offering training? Sign up. Take as much as you can.

- Take charge of your own learning - What are the "hot topics" in your field right now? Green? Sustainability? Lean Six Sigma? Sign up for courses. Read books. Get courses "on tape" that you can listen to in your car or on the train while commuting.

- Read outside your field - Are you a chemist? An engineer? Then start reading articles and books from other fields. Art, history, finance, economics, business, strategy, and politics. The great management expert Peter Drucker said that you must develop expertise outside your field.

- Get active in your professional association - Activate your membership. Exploit the offerings. Consider getting more involved in the local chapter.

- Demonstrate your expertise - Offer to give a presentation on a topic you know very well. Offer to teach a class.

- Update your resume - If you do the above, add them to your resume. Be sure your resume exhibits your accomplishments. Strengthen the summary on page one so that it conveys your value proposition.

- Get on LinkedIn and start using it - Build a profile. Start adding contacts. Join some groups. Research companies of interest.

- Start networking now - Remember that networking does NOT mean "not working." The time to start networking is now. Start connecting with people. One simple way to start is to call up former colleagues and bosses to wish them a happy holiday. Ask how they are doing. Find out what they are up to these days. Have a conversation. Simply connect.

Final point: Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone before you are pushed out.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yay! Mr. Splashy Pants

Just watched a very entertaining and incredibly short (3 minutes!) TED Talk by Alexis Ohanian of about the effort to name the whale that was ultimately christened "Mr. Splashy Pants."

Ohanian's breezy talk ends with several key lessons from the world of internet democracy:

- Level the playing field
- No cost
- Be genuine
- You don't have to be serious all the time
- It's OK to lose control
- The message does not have to come from the top down

Can organization's adopt these lessons for their corporate communications?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 22, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gospel of Change

The word "gospel" means "good news." And what is the good news that the gospels proclaim? In a word: change.

As a faith-filled Org Change Guy, I have long been attuned to the messages about change that thread through the four Gospels. For example:

- "Repent for the kingdom is near" - Repent (from the Greek metanoia) means to turn one's self around, to change one's mind

- "He said to him, 'Follow me.'" - Conversion, from fisherman or tax collector, into apostle, can be quite dramatic, even astonishing to onlookers who can't quite figure out what has happened

- "Go and sin no more" - Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most poignant forms of change in that, when we forgive, we are choosing to let go of some past pain that we have been dragging around with us

- "With that their eyes were opened" - Whether one of His miraculous sight-giving cures, or in this case, the "aha moment" of the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, the Gospels contain moments of blazing awareness that signal decisive inner changes

Indeed, the great feast of Christmas, that we are about to celebrate in just a few days, celebrates one of the most fantastic transformations ever imagined: the incarnation whereby the Creator of the Universe took the form of a creature, a baby born in a manger, in the hope of changing the world.

So one can say, without much exaggeration, that the Gospels are about change.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 18. 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Give the Gift of Wisdom

Sybil Stershic, at her blog Quality Service Marketing, suggests that you give yourself and others the gift of a free e-book on employee engagement. It is chock-full of wisdom from a global community of 200 consultants and managers.

She writes: "This holiday, give the gift of employee engagement … and it’s free! Employee Engagement Advice Book is a new e-book written by members of the Employee Engagement Network (EEN) and compiled by network host David Zinger. EEN members (including me) share advice - limited to one sentence each - on how an organization can improve employee engagement."

Great idea.

Filled to the brim with such themes as caring, connecting, playing to strengths, communicating (especially listening), valuing employees, energizing and empowering employees, recognizing their efforts, growing and demonstrating leadership, and participative involvement.

Sybil adds: "It’s worth scrolling through to find the quotes that resonate with you. Pass it along and share it among your colleagues … to inspire them and/or reinforce their employee engagement efforts."

Happy Giving!

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Gift

They say that the best gift you can give is your presence. That may be truer in this economy than ever. In that spirit, I want to give you a gift that comes right from me.

It's a free e-pamphlet for job hunters called "Galvanize Into Action," that you can download from the app on my LinkedIn profile. If you have any trouble obtaining it there, feel free to send me an email (terrence dot seamon at gmail dot com) and I'll send it to you.

"Galvanize into action" is a quick guide to accelerating a job search, comprised of material published on this blog, Here We Are. Now What?, during this past year.

If you are seeking re-employment, I hope you find it helpful. If you know someone who is out of work, please feel free to forward it to him or her or them.

Best wishes to you and yours for much joy in this sacred holiday season.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Leaders and Systems

With the publication of Henry Mintzberg's new book on managing naturally, there has been a flurry of discussions about managing and leading. Are they the same or different? Do managers need to be leaders? Can an organization thrive without leadership?

All very interesting. All "right up my alley," so to speak.

Lately, in working with some client organizations, I'm sensing that the current leadership model in practice is quite different from the one we may sometimes espouse (i.e. leaders as visionary, wise, virtuous, courageous, role models etc).

The folks I've been working with lately (managers and professionals in the health care sector) describe their workplaces as fierce and stressful environments that are not for the feint of heart. Places characterized as:

~ lean, driven, and aggressive
~ production-focused, numbers-oriented, short-term
~ having high sense of urgency; valuing speed
~ where everyone is being asked to do more with less
~ where employees are expected to sacrifice for the sake of the business

Workplaces that are going in over-drive, filled with exhausted and fearful members, hanging on to what they've got because they don't want to end up on the unemployment lines.

What sort of leaders are heading up such workplaces?

Years ago, I once shared a plane ride with the CEO of a rapidly growing telecom company where I was a member of the Training and Organization Development team. I asked him what keeps him up at night. His answer: "People and systems."

As the years have rolled on, I've come to the conclusion that People and Systems are two of the most critical things that smart managers keep their eye on if they want to stay in business and thrive. Within each domain, there are key skills, including leadership skills. So yes, effective managers acquire and use leadership skills. These are very helpful with the People aspect, as well as in managing the business itself and its many stakeholders.

What is not as well understood is the Systems side of management. What are the Systems skills that an effective manager acquires and uses? Perhaps an analogy will help.

In the human body, there are many interacting systems; for example, the digestive system, the circulatory system, the neurological system, and the respiratory system. Each is integrally related to the other. A fault in one system affects the others, as well as the whole organism.

A smart person keeps close tabs on their own inner systems (i.e. their health) by paying attention to the indicators that are constantly monitoring the systems. In other words, by listening to the body.

Coming back to organizations, today's managers are motivated to have high performing systems, systems that produce repeatedly, reliably, on time, and on budget. Systems that, as Stephen Covey reminded us, deliver the golden eggs.

Where does "health" come in? To paraphrase Covey, it's in taking care of the goose.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 13, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Spiritual Change Management 2009

In Isaiah, we read: "Prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight a highway for our God!"

John the Baptist proclaimed: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

This is Advent, the time of year when Christians get ready for the great feast of Christmas. The time to prepare the way of the Lord. Time to repent.

Repent. A word that is seldom used in the 21st century. What does it mean to repent?

Literally, to repent is to turn away from, to change one's self (the Greek term metanoia means "to change your mind").

To convert.

Spiritually speaking, whether Christian or not, the Advent season is sorely needed in this violence-filled world of ours. If we don't begin the disarmament of our hearts, we are headed for destruction.

The world (all of us) needs to repent, to convert, to turn away from violence.

Repentance means changing the mind, waking up, seeing things as they really are, and recognizing the error of our ways, leading to change of behavior, change in action.

To repent means realizing what gods have defined you and shaking off the chains of intolerance, addictions, and idols.

But most important, to repent means to forgive and to seek peace.

In Psalm 34, we read: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

What will you do, this Advent season, to repent?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Dec 6, 2009