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What talent wants


With unemployment at record lows and workers with particular skills already being hard to find, the battle for workforce talent is on. One Deloitte study of privately-held businesses found 67% of business leaders identifying the recruitment and retention of talent as their top obstacle. What steps might one take to lessen this struggle?

In his book Drive, Dan Pink lays out three intrinsic factors that motivate people that are often not consider while extrinsic factors such as pay, benefits, remote work policies, etc. receive most of the attention. The intrinsic factors identified by Pink are:

  1. Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed

  2. Mastery: the itch to keep improving at something that is important to us

  3. Purpose: the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond ourselves

Whether we are seeking to improve our recruitment and retention or are aiming to more deeply engage our people the question becomes, “How do we work provide these three facets to our people?” When looking at Pink’s three factors, the place to being is purpose, which mirrors Simon Sinek's Start With Why concept. How clear are your company’s belief and values articulated? Are they merely statements uttered or are they behaviors that are practiced and rewarded? When this becomes clear, you can then work with employees to find the overlap between their personal values and those of the company.

Once you are able to articulate and demonstrate the company’s vision and purpose, you are then in a position to take on autonomy and mastery. Why might you need to spend more time thinking about helping your employees expand their skills? According to a study by Randstad, 69% of respondents would be more satisfied if their employers better utilized their skills and abilities. If your employees do not feel like they are growing, they are a flight risk and in today’s digital world, if it is known your culture does not help people grow, word will likely reach prospective employees as well.

When it comes to autonomy, a couple of the best ways to think about this are in terms of how micromanaged your employees feel and if they perceive their manager trusts them. When looking at the causes for turnover or morale issues Gallup’s CEO puts it best,

"The single biggest decision you make in your job--bigger than all the rest--is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.”

This problem can feel overwhelming when you look at it in totality. The good news is, you can lean on the complex work done by Google in “Project Oxygen" when it assessed whether it needed managers and once it determined it did, sought to understand how it could make them more effective. Their research initiative uncovered eight traits of an effective manager

  1. Is a good coach

  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage

  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being

  4. Is productive and results-oriented

  5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information

  6. Helps with career development

  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team

  8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team

Other items Google implemented around this were

  1. A survey for employees to get their feedback on how well their managers did in executing on these items

  2. A course called “Start Right”, which was designed to train people on how to manage others. The reality of much of the organizational world is that high performing people are routinely promoted and eventually end up with people underneath them without any formal training in how to be a good manager.

The above items will take work. Ignoring these directives puts an organization on an unnecessary uphill climb in the challenge to recruit and keep talent.

Go Forth Boldly


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