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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Sep 23, 2018

This week we are looking at how to motivate and retain your best people by helping to build their resume.



Welcome to episode eleven of the Leadership Today podcast. Each week we provide practical advice to address some of today’s biggest leadership challenges.

This week we are looking at how to motivate and retain your best people by helping to build their resume.

It’s no secret that leaders are struggling to retain their best people. Recent studies ( suggest that staff turnover rates are on the increase. It’s easy to see how repeated corporate downsizing has taught the current workforce that loyalty may not be reciprocated by their employer. Add to this increasingly high levels of education and mobility, and you have a recipe for high turnover.

So what should leaders do? Is keeping your best people all about table tennis. bean bags, and fruit boxes? Well, making offices more ‘cool’ only goes so far. Some organisations try to take these surface elements from companies that are known for their ability to attract and retain employees and inject them into their own offices. Like all transplants though, they’re often rejected. Cool offices are an outworking of the culture of organisations – they’re not the driver of the culture.

And we know that pay isn’t the answer. My own research indicates that 85% of people think their performance is above average, while only 3% believe they’re overpaid. A full 48% of people think they aren’t paid enough. It’s almost impossible to make the majority of your people happy about their pay when the vast majority think they are above average performers.

Here is one practical way to help retain employees. While it sounds counterintuitive, helping workers to grow and build their resume can make them more likely to stay with your organisation. That’s right - making people more employable can make them less likely to leave.

As we discussed last week, there are four main factors that motivate people at work - purpose, development, connections and autonomy. Helping to build someone’s resume directly addresses the development motivator. People are motivated when they feel competent at what they’re doing, and when they can build the capabilities that matter to them over time.

As a leader, you can consciously help your people to develop skills and experience that matter to them. Here are three ideas you might want to try:

  1. During your regular meetings with your people, make sure you set aside some time to identify what further development is of interest, and help to make that happen. It might be a training course. Or it might be using your networks to help pair them up with someone more experienced in their field for a once off mentor meeting. Or it might be an experience - something new that will stretch them. 
  2. Spend time together looking back at the previous month or quarter to identify the new skills and experience that they have gained. Sometimes people don’t notice the development they’re experiencing unless they stop and reflect. Making sure you discuss this helps to build awareness of the development that’s already happening.
  3. Help them to summarise this experience in a way that will fit into a resume or LinkedIn profile. I’ve had several team members where we actually worked together on their resume as part of our regular catch up meetings.

By highlighting and increasing their capability, you will be able to demonstrate that staying with the organisation will have value for their development and employability. And the approach works across all employees - it’s not just for those new to the workforce. Even as people approach retirement, providing them with skills they’re interested in that will help them to pick up part time roles (if that's what they want) will also be attractive.

Achieving this at an organisational level requires leaders who can have skilled discussions with employees. This is likely to involve some investment in development for managers as well. But, as we’ve seen, this development may also help to retain your best leaders.