By: Dana Brownlee
This article is first in a series focused on employee engagement.
With rapid changes in technology, demographics and social norms/lifestyles, the workforce is changing at break neck speed. The workplace of today is definitely not that of just a few years ago, and one area that has changed most significantly is employee engagement. With historically low unemployment levels, the days of hiring employees who are excited to just “have a job” may be a vestige of the past, and motivating and retaining the best talent has become as challenging today as it is important. Arguably an organization’s success is highly correlated to its ability to retain top talent and maintain high levels of employee engagement throughout the organization so let’s examine four key trends every leader should know.
Trend #1 – Non monetary benefits and perks have become increasingly important.
The simple truth is that it’s not “all about the Benjamins” anymore. Career Pathways Consulting President Barbara Mason shares her experience as a former HR executive. “Employees today are seeking an experience, not just a job.” As such, traditional compensation packages focused primarily on 401(k), bonus, etc. aren’t nearly as compelling as they once might have been, and flexible work options (e.g. job sharing, telecommuting, compressed work schedules and part time options) that enhance employee’s day to day experience are often more effective motivators. Furthermore, flexible work hours and telecommuting for example have become so commonplace that many employees have come to rely on them to support overall lifestyle, and benefits like paternity leave and wellness services – once viewed as exotic are now becoming much more commonplace.
There’s also increased focus on time away from the office. Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. points out, “There’s been an interesting blending of personal and professional time. Thanks to technology work doesn’t have a distinct stop time anymore.” He prefers the term “work life integration” to “work life balance” because the truth for so many is that 50/50 “balance” is rare if not unrealistic. As a result, vacation days or other paid time off has become an extremely valuable commodity in most work environments.
Indeed, time has increasingly become the more valuable currency for many workers, and many successful employee engagement initiatives are based on that premise. Ranked #1 on Fortune’s 2019 List of The 100 Best Companies to Work For, Hilton has implemented various initiatives targeted at providing team members greater flexibility to support healthier work life integration. Hilton’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Matthew Schuyler describes Thrive at Hilton programs:
“The ecosystem of programs that make up Thrive are designed to allow Team Members to focus on what is important to them as individuals, rather than prescribing a one size fits all solution. For some it might mean more flexibility to work around their children’s schedules or taking time off to travel and experience Hilton’s award-winning hospitality first hand using our Go Hilton program that provides access to discounted room rates at one of Hilton’s 5700 properties around the world.”
• Motivational skills: These are the activities that give you energy. When you are engaged with them, time vanishes. One client described it as, “What makes me get up before the alarm goes off.” These skills are usually transferable.
• Acquired skills: You’ve learned these types of skills to get a job done, such as mastering complicated software or training programs. Consider how they fit with your brand. They are features of your “product” and necessary to perform work. However, they are not solutions to problems. If one of your acquired skills is conducting training programs, translate this into a solution by demonstrating how your training made employees more productive. Supplement this with data or testimonials.
Now, let’s review your values.
Maybe you’re focused on moving up the next rung on the career ladder. Or, perhaps you’ve realized your job needs to reflect who you are. No matter your reason for pursuing a job search, these reasons are based on what I call “work values,” which change over time.
A few examples of work values include:
• Working independently.
• An organizational culture that supports a work-life balance.
• Work that is structured.
Do a periodic values assessment so you can take a look at what really matters to you in a new job. Otherwise, you could find you’ve been climbing a ladder propped up against the wrong building. Your search is about what you value.
Once you’ve identified your skills, talents and values, you can look for an organization that complements those attributes. Their values should mirror yours, and they should have a problem your “product” can solve — those are your target organizations.
The Launch: Developing Your Strategy
Because your search is like a product launch, your job-search strategy should include executive, networking and social media channels to help market yourself to potential employers.
• Executive search firms: When you rely on what I call an “executive channel,” you are waiting for a recruiter to reach out to you. This can be a component of your strategy, but keep in mind, a recruiter is looking for the best fit for their client’s company, not for you. Your experience and skills must match the job description. If you are making a pivot in your career, this is not the best bang for your effort. You should focus on the following two channels as well.
• Networking: This is the best option for a career pivot. Your goal is to develop your network so you can land a position that fits your skills and values. You are in charge and will act as a peer when meeting new contacts who could potentially hire you.
A resume can get in your way and can be seen as presumptuous when networking. The recipient might feel obligated to tell you if they have an opening, and if their answer is, “No,” it can close the door on future options. Instead, have an executive bio or profile that serves as your brochure.
Before approaching your network, do your homework on with whom you’d like to become acquainted. Find out who the decision-maker is, ask for an introduction, describe how you can add value and ask for recommendations on with whom you should talk.
• LinkedIn: In my experience, LinkedIn is now how many recruiters will find you. It demonstrates how you are viewed by the public and has evolved into a publishing platform with unlimited potential for candidates to position themselves as a subject matter expert. Sending a published article is a great door opener when you don’t have a connection in your network. You will become a resource by building up a bank of articles. Even busy recruiters will take notice if you periodically send them relevant information.
Look at the “About” section as a brochure. Different from an executive bio, it should be written in a more conversational tone. The “Experience” section is more like a resume. Your brand message should be incorporated into every aspect of your job-search strategy.
From my perspective, when you look at your job hunt as a product launch, position yourself as a solution and maximize your success in multiple channels, you brand yourself as an attractive potential hire. You might even persuade a target company to find a way to hire you, or you could start as a consultant, independent contractor or on a temporary basis.