The recent VISTAGE Confidence Index, in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the positive perception local business leaders have of the future of our economy. While it’s important to note that this confidence was measured pre FATFA decision, the issues surveyed remain relevant.
Confidence, aligning with the UK and US Vistage surveys, comes through in aspects such as investment, recruitment, increased and pent up demand for services and products by consumers, and the expected increase in tourism. However, the Index showed that Maltese business leaders have similar concerns as the UK and US CEOs in delivering this growth; Human Resources, supply chain costs and times and the hybrid workplace.
In her intervention, Anne Petrik from Vistage Research in the USA, explained the main problem with Human Resources as the balance between creating competitive salary packages to attract top talent, and the retention of current employees with attractive benefits, ESOPs and other long-term retainers which, whilst affecting profitability, don’t cause your wage bill to skyrocket. So what else can companies do to retain their talent, rather than go into a salary war in a marketplace with ever-increasing job mobility? Here are four ideas you can explore.
The survey showed that whilst in Q2 our CEOs had come around to the idea of a permanent ‘hybrid’ workplace with a number of days working remotely, with the remaining days in the office, this has changed. More CEOs would like to see their employees return to the office full time. Perhaps this is because the office vibe is so positive now that people are back, and people missed their colleagues? Will it sustain this ‘high’ or will things settle down after we get used to being social again? I suspect the latter.
Employees surveyed in a multitude of other ways all claimed to want to have some level of remote working indefinitely. It makes sense, because it allows for greater productivity and focus, less interruptions and distractions and less wasted time commuting. It also allows parents who had to work reduced hours to continue to work full time with some of those hours at home.
With this evidence, it makes sense to have flexibility. Perhaps business leaders need to think about flexibility-first approaches, rather than the idea of a hybrid workforce if it doesn’t suit their needs. Work that requires focus, such as planning, report writing, email messaging and other work can be done remotely, perhaps in the morning to avoid the traffic or in the afternoon when parents need to be home. Work that requires collaboration such as in project teams, brainstorming, training, coaching and performance reviews have greater impact face to face. There are plenty of exceptions where fully remote teams get all this done effectively, however.
Many employees cite personal development and career growth as their reason to stay with their organisation, outweighing marginal salary gains by leaving. With this in mind, we need to consider investing in leadership development (which is a mix of personal and business skills) at all levels within the business. Autonomy, (in other words self-leadership) increases productivity, ‘responsibilises’ employees and reduces bureaucracy, increasing agility and reducing costs.
So, the win-win approach here is clear; put all your employees on leadership development programmes of different levels. Vistage, for example, provides Emerging Leadership and Advanced Leadership programmes for junior and more experienced employees that are run in-house and provide practical guidance by coaches and mentorship using your own more experienced employees. This learning-by-doing approach is more practical than formal training. It’s important to note that training is an enabler of potential, but ultimately its the business that needs to shift to a more delegation-friendly culture for it to pay off.
How big is your problem? Unless you ask your employees, you don’t know! Tools like Engagement Multiplier allow leaders to survey their employees anonymously to hear what they really have to say about their workplace. This is the first step in taking the right actions to improve retention. Perception can be managed with open and transparent communication, which all employees expect nowadays. They need to know where the company stands financially and sustainably, as well as clearly understand the purpose and values of the business, customer expectations and long term vision. These are not exclusive to the C-suite or senior management team, if you want to retain people at all levels within the organisation.
Our attention spans are decreasing and the routine is not always welcome in today’s working environment. While some find the routine comfortable, many reasons why high performing people leave is because of boredom, repetitive work, no new opportunities to learn or try something new. Innovation is key, and it has to become the culture. Whilst think tanks and innovation drives are useful to kick-start innovation, we need a mind-shift to ‘innovate everyday’ approaches to doing business, and it must be driven from the bottom up. Everyone can innovate and change the way they work to increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness, however not everyone understands innovation that way. It’s up to leaders to embrace a failing forwards culture that allows people to experiment, until they find a better way.
The workforce is changing, and we need to stay ahead of the curve. What worked so far won’t work in the future and if we wait for the future to arrive, it will be too late. The companies that thrive have a strong performance culture where everyone is empowered and expected to contribute. Expectation for performance and action is key if we want to balance the equation with talent, or we will simply fall foul to a salary hike. Pay more to get more, whilst investing in your current people to raise their game and unlock their potential.
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