Monthly Archives: May 2012

Building relationships by letting go

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How to retain people through learning to let go and why company-centric cultures are not any longer working.

In between restructurings, talent upgrading and performance management we seems to have lost the art of building long-lasting relationships – although it is so simple and all it needs is a little bit of an attitude change.

When I was in the University I was involved in an amazing non-for-profit organization. I was engaged, committed, worked day and nights simply because I believed in my work and shared the values of the organization. In fact, 5 years later, I still feel I am a part of it – because it united more than people currently working there – it united people sharing the same values and vision. 5 years after my last project with them, I would still gladly support, help and get involved if needed. How many people would gladly do that with the past companies on their CV? That is when the concept of “loyalty” takes the whole new meaning.

There are few lessons I believe companies can learn here about building long-lasting relationships with their current/past employees:

  • Build organization seen as community of shared values, vision, principles rather than an “employer”. Employers come and go.  Values stay for a lifetime.
  • Value employees for what they are and what they want to achieve in life, not only in your company. Allowing them to be honest and driven by their true passion, might cost you an employee in a short term (it would anyway), but would earn a future customer and informal promoter.
  •  Take pride in being a part of someone’s career on the way of unleashing their greatness. Of course you want talented people to stay and become the next CEO. But let’s be honest there’s only few roles of that level in the company, and we still want ambitious people with us – so maybe we should be ok with letting them continue reaching their ambition somewhere else.
  • Be ok with people not staying with one company forever. It is not even healthy – we all need diverse experiences, different perspectives, change to continue growing. Since we love hiring externally, maybe we should be ok with people consciously deciding to leave.
  • When employees leave  – don’t slam the door in their faces, keep it open. Regardless of whether they decide to go or their manager decided to let them go, keep the good relationship, celebrate what they did while being here, wish them good luck in whatever they decide to do.

There are already quite a few organizations in the world that have Alumni networks. Just by having one companies state that they appreciate people that were there at some point of their careers, regardless how long they stayed, they were part of a shared experience. These companies recognize the changing world and celebrate themselves as those who were and keep attracting the brightest minds and support those in their aspirations.

Many companies see this change of attitude as a risky encouragement of people leaving and failing making a long-term talent investments. But in reality, treating and appreciating people in this way would result in higher engagement, increased retention, better reputation on the market and would attract diverse ambitious talented people you always wanted to hire.

It’s time to realize that organizations on their own are not the centre of the universe. We are: the people regardless of the position or role. Because we change working places, we grow, we have our reasons to engage, and if we decide, the organization would cease to exist and something new would be created.

We all have our own paths and our greatness to achieve. All the roles and positions are simply the steps and tools to deliver the greatness. Organizations should understand that and change. As so should we by consciously  taking charge of our careers.

How do we treat “internal customers”?

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HR reflections on a non-HR related matter.

So last week I attended a sales training with a bunch of sales people. As HR, I wanted to have a better idea of what day-to-day challenges of our sales force are. Get the insider information. To save myself from trouble, before the beginning I approached facilitator to let her know that I will be a mere observer as I am not actually in sales, when she replied “well…maybe see it from perspective of HR, you also have customers, right? – aren’t employees your customers?”. Hmm. “Employees are our customers” – I heard this before. We also call them “internal customers”. But do we actually treat our employees as we would treat our customers?

Why customers? Employees are offering companies their only scarce resources – time and energy. Company pays back. However as in sales – there are short-term transactions and there are long-term relationships. First based on regular standard reward for services, the latter – on investing in the future, building trust and a long-term win-win partnership.

So here are some key learnings:

Know your customer.

Before even suggesting that you know what your customer needs – understand what they are going through. What is their long-term strategy? What are their key business objectives? What are their key challenges? What measurement of success is important to them?

What do we know about your employees? What truly motivates them? What are the key challenges they are struggling with that you might be able to influence? What is their long-term goal? When was the last time we were asking these questions?

Do not assume. Ask!

Any training will tell you , that if you don’t have information about the customer, making assumptions may lead you to offering a wrong solution or ending negotiations earlier than planned. Do not assume what’s important for the customer. Ask!

How often do we assume what trainings, what support, what working conditions the employee needs? Most of all, we assume what motivates people, while everyone’s motivation is different. Simply asking the right question will help you to understand what unique development support will help a specific individual strive.

Don’t sell a product – offer a solution.

Don’t push for a product sell. If you do everything right, you will know what your customer needs – offer a solution that will cover their short-term and long-term needs.

It’s not about getting everyone to go through that very important course or about giving employees n days of “some” training. Standard approach will not take you anywhere; you might only accidentally meet 5%or so employees’ needs. Work on customized solutions to meet individual needs; be creative; think out the box. This will bring you a motivated and engaged employee for a longer period of time.

Sometimes we really have to practise what we preach. Calling employees ‘customers’ doesn’t only mean we offer them services. It’s about how we do it. It’s about what difference it makes to them.

Post #1: the one about Great Jobs

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As organizations we all want to have people on board who believe they have a great job. Those are most motivated, committed, creative, productive people at work. As individuals we all wish we had a great job, as it would make us happier and more excited human beings. So what is a great job?

We learnt to believe that it’s not about only about the job content; that people don’t leave companies – they leave managers. I believe while bad managers can be a trigger for a final decision, there is more to work that makes it “great”, and not just “ok”. Here are some of the key parts of a Great Job:

  1. Job itself: what we do on every day basis, how much meaning we see in it and how much it inspires us. Let’s say, if it were your own business and if you didn’t need money, – would you still be doing this?
  2. The journey: are you supported in your journey with knowledge and development you need to be successful in your job? Do you know what ‘success’ means in your job? Are you clear on the direction you’re moving in? Are you recognised and appreciated for your work?
  3. Leadership: do you in heart support leadership decisions; do you feel ‘on board’ with the company’s direction? In day-to-day life, are you supported with the right type of leadership that helps you to be successful?
  4. Team environment: team spirit, team culture, team dynamics. If you could choose your own team, – would these be the people you’d surround yourself with?
  5. Working environment: does office culture encourage you to be yourself and appreciates your uniqueness? Are office traditions aligned with who you are and what you value?
  6. Working space: does your office physical space encourage development, innovation, exchange of ideas? Do you feel it’s a ‘playground’ for your every day work? Do you feel excited coming to office every day?
  7. The role of work in life: is your work an organic part of your life? Or does it stand on the way of living your life outside of office? Are conditions of your work flexible enough to accommodate your lifestyle and changes that might happen in your life?

Consciously or subconsciously, these are the key things that make you happy, excited about your work, motivated every morning to kick off yet another working day. And at some point these will be pros or cons for “should I stay or should I go” decision.

So these are the things I’m excited to explore further, write about, reflect on or challenge on! All with the belief that there’s a better way to work, and it is in our interest to find it.