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During the pandemic, people’s views on how they want to work changed. The result is the Great Resignation and companies needing to excel at retention.

This applies not just to your office teams, nor even just to your direct hires but to freelancers as well, who have also learned to be choosier about who they work for. I spoke to three experts who can offer some great advice based on their experience: Alex Aldhous, who works with growing companies: Alex de la Vie who works with companies to enhance performance and well-being and Ian Nairn, an entrepreneur who has achieved incredibly high staff retention over the last ten years.

Learning, well-being and Leadership

Alex Aldhous is a Management Consultant and the founder of ARC Virtual Solutions and has in the past worked in the recruitment industry, most notably as the HR and Operations Manager of a fast-growing international recruitment agency.  Recruitment and retention remain key themes as she now helps her clients build for successful growth.  Alex cites three crucial themes to staff retention.

The first is learning and development opportunities, which both upskill and aid retention.  76% of Gen Z employees believe that learning is the key to a successful career and they use learning to advance their career internally within businesses. The LinkedIn Learning Workplace Report 2021 also showed us that Gen Z doesn’t just want to learn skills to perform better in their current roles, they also want to learn about topics they are personally interested in.

When we look at this alongside Dan Pink’s analysis of Motivation, and particularly his “Motivation 3.0” model from his 2009 book Drive we can see that if we give employees the freedom to do the work they enjoy, the autonomy to choose how they do it, and the ability to master new skills, they will be highly motivated which leads to them thriving in the workplace. This is particularly pertinent in innovative and creative industries where you want your employees to stay ahead of the competition at all times.

Alex says that poor work-life balance now ranks in the top 3 reasons for leaving a company and is one of the most preventable when it comes to retention.  Employers should focus on output and productivity, over time spent at their desks. Research by the Gartner 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey shows that “where employees have some choice over where, when and how much they work, 55% are high performers” as opposed to 36% when they work a standard 40 hours per week in the office.

Alex’s third crucial area for retention is the training of managers to work with and communicate with people at all levels and be able to adapt their management style to suit their audiences.

There are many personality types, and ways to test and define them either with a Jung or a Myers-Briggs methodology but the outcome is largely the same; different personality types communicate in different ways. Therefore, to get the best out of their team, managers need to recognize the personality type of each team member and adapt their style accordingly.

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, recognizes that some of the greatest leaders in modern times are introverts; Warren Buffet, Larry Page, Bill Gates to name just a few. In her popular TedTalk she says

“Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees, they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can, quite unwittingly, get so excited about things that they’re putting their own stamp on things, and other people’s ideas might not as easily then bubble up to the surface.”

Alex continues “While this doesn’t mean that your leaders need to be introverted themselves, it shows that stepping back and allowing the employees to take the stage, utilizing Dan Pinks motivation model, will often present the best opportunities for an innovative motivated, and content workforce.”

Digital Culture and Retention

Alex La Via is the founder of Live More Offline. She specializes in helping leaders and teams to enhance well-being, performance, and belonging.  She achieves this by helping to create a healthy digital culture in an age of constant connection. Alex says she has observed that digital culture is very closely linked to retention. Digital working is likely to be the future. A Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers showed that 70% want flexible work options to continue but this remote working brings challenges. In fact, workers report that email overload and video overload would lead them to quit their jobs.

People are indeed re-evaluating what they want from their jobs, but equally, ‘the Great Resignation’ brings an opportunity for workplaces to create a culture that attracts increasingly mobile talent.   Therefore, cultures that result in retention, which enhance well-being, performance, and human connection at work, become a strategic asset.

In Live More Offline’s framework, there are Three Pillars of a Healthy Digital Culture®; productivity, well-being, and connection. Well-being is achieved when you move away from digital overload, blurred boundaries, unbalanced working, and insomnia to sustainable remote working, enhanced self-care, and work-life balance, leading to increased job satisfaction and, in turn, mental clarity.   Productivity increases when digital distractions decrease, giving clarity, easing mental fatigue, and increasing focus while bringing clearly established team norms.   Lastly, when you have effective virtual connections, communication improves, and the feelings of isolation decrease.   Remote meetings and clear communication give a sense of belonging for the team members with much more meaningful communication.

A healthy digital culture is about investing in the human side of digital transformation. No longer a “nice to have;” a healthy digital culture is vital for the digital age and we have two choices; invest today or risk tomorrow.

Work life balance is key to retention

Autonomy crucial to Retention

Flat structures, with little or no mid-management between top and bottom, as opposed to hierarchical, pyramid ones, are becoming increasingly popular.   Employees have more responsibility and more involvement with the big picture.  Decision-making is faster without layers of management to wade through and the focus is on achieving the goal or task, as opposed to ticking performance and timesheet boxes.  It is not suited to every type of organization.

Ian Nairn set up his global cloud software business C-Learning ten years ago.  In those ten years, only two of his team have left, which is the sort of retention many would love to emulate.

Ian had developed very clear ideas about how he wanted his company to be when working in the corporate world.  He had run many projects that were task-orientated, with no group hierarchies, and it was this flat structure he knew from experience could produce better happier results.

At C-Learning, they choose how they work, be it full-time, part-time, contracted, or employed, and group together to achieve tasks with task-relevant leaders.   From day one, they all worked remotely.   With staff aged from 18 to 75, the common thread is the passion that everyone has to help the customer and this is achieved by everyone helping each other.

Conclusion

While not every company can be run on a flat structure, what is clear is that rules and regulations do not lead to happy people and high retention.    If being office-based is a barrier, I would urge you to read educational psychologist Craig Knight’s work as he quickly explains how to give ownership of any and all working spaces.

And undoubtedly a good work-life balance is also going to mean higher retention or your team will burn out in the end. But most of all, retention is about treating them as adults who want to do a great job and are capable of making their own decisions.

Another TED speaker you may want to listen to (and you can read about him here) is the inspirational Sid Madge of Meee plus I also wrote this one for Undercover Recruiter earlier in lockdown but many of the top tips still hold good.

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