The UK has a labour shortage. This was underlined by the Chancellor’s spring budget which focused on trying to entice many of those that have left the workforce to come back, through measures like more funding for childcare. This means, despite the economy being forecast to shrink slightly in 2023, holding on to talent is crucial. But keeping that talent is just part of the picture. Making sure that talent is as engaged and productive as possible is just as vital.
In a recent webinar, I discussed this issue with Jessie Jensen, HR Director, Business Partners at 360Learning. With my background in performance management and Jessie’s in learning and development we can see this issue from different angles, but the approach is remarkably similar.
The focus for both of us is changing the dynamic away from employees being told what to do and expecting managers to have all the answers. We want to reach a place where employees take the lead and learn from each other, not just those in more senior positions.
It’s all about capturing that elusive gold dust - high employee engagement. Unfortunately, highly engaged employees are a rare breed. According to Gallup only 21% of employees are engaged at work. When employees are highly engaged, they have energy and enthusiasm, they drive innovation and are fabulous brand ambassadors. Disengaged employees are going through the motions, doing just enough, never going the extra mile. They suck up valuable management time and reduce customers’ faith in the brand. Not surprisingly engagement and high performance go hand in hand and more than 90% of leaders understand this link (I’m not sure what the others believe!).
There are several ways I would suggest to increase engagement and retain employees:
- Regular “stay” conversations – semi-structured, personalised one-to-one conversations, a bit like exit interviews, but designed to understand what talented employees value about your company so that you can keep hold of them. They also allow you to clearly communicate what career development opportunities may be available.
- Taking meaningful action based on the findings of employee engagement surveys – really listening to employees and making meaningful changes
- Creating a working environment that employees love and want to work in
- Effective continuous performance management
- An ongoing commitment to learning and development
Get these right and you’ll build a positive, vibrant culture that retains existing employees and attracts new ones.
To build a performance management strategy that accelerates growth from within, companies need to identify and update any old-school, outdated aspects of their process which may inadvertently disempower employees. Conventional performance management focused on managers having to critique and assess their employees via elaborate scoring and rating mechanisms. The primary emphasis was on judgement, not development.
Continuous performance management is very different – it focuses on empowering employees to take responsibility for their own performance and growth. The most progressive managers are learning to coach their employees rather than to simply direct them which releases employees to maximise their own contribution. This is a new style of management which takes time to master but pays dividends.
The role of HR changes too. In conventional performance management, HR were the drivers of all activity, with full control of the performance calendar. In a continuous model they become the facilitators. HR plays a key role to ensure managers and employees understand overall expectations of check-ins and reviews, and then stepping back. This gives HR the opportunity to look at the bigger picture, spotting areas of strength and potential gaps where they can lend support and make a key difference.
This approach also fits with a collaborative approach to learning, where employees can take the initiative. Instead of a top-down approach where leaders unilaterally decide what development employees need, it involves employees in the conversation, letting them drive the agenda.
Both models acknowledge that managers don’t have all the answers. Seniority does not necessarily equate to being a source of knowledge on every topic. A progressive approach to both performance management and learning encourages employees to learn from their peers and seek out the experts within the business who can help them the most.
To find out more about continuous performance management and collaborative learning and how they can work together to energise and empower your employees, watch the full webinar now.