Organizations are plagued by talent issues around the world.
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report suggests that only 21 percent of employees are engaged, and only 33 percent are successful in their overall well-being. Incidentally, South Asia (including India) has the lowest welfare (11 percent). So it should come as no surprise that talent issues give CEOs sleepless nights.
Individuals change jobs frequently and with short notice. Willis Towers Watson’s 2022 ‘Reimaging Work and Rewards Survey’ of Indian corporations found that over 75 per cent of talent attractions are facing challenges and 64 per cent are struggling to retain existing talent. All these talent management issues are also becoming ‘darling’ for organizations. The survey also found that 50-75 per cent of the firms surveyed are reviewing their salary structures; benefit plans; flexible work arrangements; health and wellness programs; And even retirement solutions.
Despite all these well thought out initiatives, there is no respite from the brain drain. All of the above tactical moves can provide some relief from talent migration challenges that provide temporary relief for pain from a deep wound.
My hypothesis is that this brain drain will be less if people take their soul to the workplace. Sadly, most individuals only take their bodies and related skills to work. They trade their abilities for salary. When someone offers a better salary for the same skill, they move on.
Some geniuses lament about the lack of meaning in the work. So, as a CEO, isn’t it imperative to ask: “What can I do to enable employees to put their spirits to work?”
Two recent books separately support my hypothesis. Professors in Humanism Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini argued for the need to put humanity front and center within organizations. The authors point to the growing fatigue of treating human beings as capital/property/tool to achieve the goal.
They call for embedding organizations with greater ownership, experimentation, competence, marketability, openness, community, and contrivance to ignite spirits within employees. Similarly, Hubert Jolie, former chairman and CEO of Best Buy, shows in his book The Heart of Business how bringing purpose to the lives of employees can bring about massive change with the betterment of employees.
Jolie is a well-known turnaround expert, and yet her book credits the revival of Best Buy with her efforts to uncover human magic amongst the Blue Shirts — connecting dreams; develop human connections; promote autonomy; to master; Keeping the wind on your back.
Both of these books identify the reasons why the question of whether the ancient stone carver or temple builder remains; And provide proof of why enabling employees to put their ‘spirit’ to work (read: temple-builders) is good business.
Burtjörg, a leading home health provider in the Netherlands, is a classic case-in-point. For a company with over 15,000 employees, their managerial overhead is next to nothing. Their organizational management costs are minimal and the growth potential is steep, simply because people enjoy putting themselves to work (for many of the reasons mentioned above).
Similarly, why do employees take pride in working for Patagonia, an outerwear retailer and poster child for the sustainability movement? Their retention rate in retail is evident. Adobe is another good example of where talent accumulates.
Close To Home, Lv In Hyderabad The lesser-known example is the Prasad Eye Institute, which houses some of the world’s most respected eye surgeons and scientists. These organizations attract top talent to come to them and make it difficult for them to leave, not because of salary or perks, but by providing an environment for employees to grow, contribute and find meaning in life. Behind this magic lies the silent hand of courageous leaders who ignore stardom: Jose de Blok, Yvonne Chouinard, Shantanu Narayan and Gullapally N. Rao.
Courageous leaders and bold measures are needed because putting one’s soul to work is voluntary. This is not achieved through improved pay and benefits design, or additional wellness programs. The CEO must understand that benefits and incentives (strategy) only prolong the inevitable resignation of talented employees. While it is true that some employees will still leave for a slight increase in pay; Many aspiring minds (especially talented ones) seek challenges, quick careers, a conducive environment to think and act entrepreneurship, and the chance to contribute to larger social causes. But creating these challenges, careers and environments requires courageous leadership.
A leadership that is opposed to short-term efficiency and invests in long-term causes. A leadership that forbids the use of the term human capital and refers to employees as ‘humans’. A leadership that focuses on enabling employees to perform better than their own wildest estimates.
Doing all of this requires a leadership that works hard to attract the right creatures together (the team); Aligns the team to the right cause (purpose); and create conducive spaces (environments) that allow employees to be their best selves (meaning).
Can you, CEO, provide these? If yes, then this could be the secret to turning your organization into a hive of talent.
The author is Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director – PGDM at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai.
26 August 2022