Unarguably, talent is the trump card for businesses in today’s economy. According to a study by ManpowerGroup, an international research and advisory firm, 38 percent of global companies say they are having difficulty filling their open positions, the highest such figure since 2007 (Talent Economy: February 12, 2016).
This void can create a reduced ability to serve clients while impacting competitiveness, productivity and ultimately revenue. Replacing an employee who quits costs, on average, 21 percent of their pay (HBR.org: March 2017). The war for talent is real and more pervasive than ever.
What can companies do to retain their top performers?
One simple and free act can be a difference-maker in whether someone chooses to stay or leave – and, it’s not the pay, promotions or the perks necessarily. We can stop worrying about the color of the sweatshirt, the amount of the gift card and the style of the coffee mugs. In Fortune’s annual study of the 100 Best Places to Work, some of the comments from employees who were surveyed communicate clearly that staying is about knowing, “my work has special meaning”, “I make a difference here,” and confidently stating, “When I look at what we accomplish, I feel a sense of pride.” (Fortune: March 14, 2016)
There’s only one thing standing in the way of employees knowing the impact of their work – your consistent feedback as a manager and leader.
As I work with current and emerging leaders in pre-rapid growth organizations, this is a recurring theme in many of my meetings. Leaders aren’t giving regular, ongoing feedback to their team members. Or, the leaders themselves are craving kudos or thanks for extra effort or even keeping the wheels on the bus during fast-paced growth periods. Team members simply want feedback – good or bad – to get a sense of where they are and how they need to improve to get to the next level of improved performance.
Why isn’t it happening more frequently?
1- There’s a misconception that the annual review is for feedback, and the generosity of a mid-year review provides plenty of additional opportunity for this exchange. Why provide more? Unless of course there’s a big problem or mistake, then the team member can take a trip to the proverbial woodshed. Here they finally get attention and learn about the error or behavior which may have been prevented if there had been regular communication.
2- Many leaders use the excuse of “busyness” as a reason for lack of immediate feedback, weekly or bi-weekly meetings. It’s a daily sprint during the rapid growth phase. So, just getting the work done is often the order of the day. Attending to the essence of leadership, which happens to be leading and developing others, takes a backseat.
3- The leader feels it’s HR’s job or the coach’s role to fix an issue or recognize excellence. Change happens most frequently when there are multiple and reinforcing feedback points. HR and the coach only know about what is reported, while the leader knows about the behavior sooner and typically firsthand, allowing for more immediate feedback to correct or compliment.
The most effective leaders make their people a priority.
Servant leadership involves the sacrifice of time and energy to make others successful. If you’re not investing time in your people, this may be a good opportunity to revisit what’s most important in the role of leadership. What are you omitting that you should start committing to?
Do you want to start committing time to feedback but don’t know how?
1- First, recognize and commit to what the role of leadership embodies. People can’t perform to the highest level of expectations if those aren’t communicated and feedback on them isn’t delivered on a regular basis.
2- Set up regular meetings and respect the other person enough to HONOR them and the time – weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on the tenure and need for communication for each team member. Nothing says, “You’re not important to me,” like forfeiting time or constantly cancelling meetings with them.
3- Balance the feedback by using a positive-negative-positive approach. The goal is to build up, not tear down.
4- Make sure it’s a dialog. By asking the person their thoughts on a specific situation or performance first, you can set the stage for a conversation, not an oration.
5- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Reflect on when you were at the same stage in your career. What was most needed? Most likely you’ll arrive at the answer of communication and feedback.
Simply put, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates