The past two years have cast long-standing IT talent challenges into high relief. From the challenges of leading remote teams, to working through burnout, to weathering The Great Resignation, the central question on IT leaders’ minds is how to retain top talent.
In an interactive presentation at CIO’s recent Future of Work Summit, Dr. Beverly Kaye tackled that question head-on, offering key lessons from her years of research and writing on the topic of talent retention.
What follows are edited excerpts of Dr. Kaye’s presentation. For more of Dr. Kaye’s insights, watch the full presentation embedded below.
On why employees stay:
When we looked at all our data about why people stay, we found that it was these specific areas that allow you to build a culture of growth and development.
And this is what we found: if people do not feel they are growing, they will not stay. If people do not feel that their leaders care about their growth, that they care about growing them right where they are, that enrich, that they care about people knowing that they have multiple options, that in fact the minute you bring in anyone new, you better start re-recruiting them, because others want that person now too.
On building connections:
I have never seen more poaching, more grabbing another organization’s high-fliers, than I am seeing now. And I am seeing heavily that individuals want that link. They want that connection—that many of them are not getting now—because many of them are remote. So, what are you doing to build those connections between people? What are you doing with your teams?
And they want to be mentored, meaning they want you to give them some attention. And when I write about mentoring in the book, I say, “All it stands for is you Model, you Encourage, you Nurture, and the T-O-R is you teach organizational reality.” You tell your own people what it has been like for you and what it might be like for them. And you also make sure that they are opportunity-minded. That even though the COVID has hit hard, that there are opportunities—multiple opportunities—for them to grow.
Every new recruit is thinking about these things. They are thinking, Will this be a job that will grow me? Will this be a job that will offer me multiple opportunities? Will I get connected to my colleagues even though we are remote? They are thinking about those very things. And the more you know about which one they are thinking about, the better.
On the importance of recognition:
What I hear during COVID now—even more than ever—is “I want my manager to rethink some of the unwritten and even written rules in our organization. I want them to go to bat for me, for what I need.” They are also saying, “I want to be noticed. I want to be rewarded.”
People want you to notice them. Providing recognition, means recognize, verbalize, and mobilize. Let them know when you see them doing something great, and even when you see them making a misstep. And maybe that is about truth. They want you to give them ongoing feedback. And they want to know how they are doing and what they can do to change. And what I heard—so strongly, during these last two years, during COVID—they really want you to hear them.
On creating the culture employees want:
More than ever, now in a remote work environment, employees are feeling they are not getting all the information they should be getting, even though we feel we are putting it out. So questions that managers need to ask are, “What information do you need, to do the job? To understand where we are headed, as an organization? What else can I provide?” They want that information.
And I saw that pop even more during COVID. They want you to encourage what they are passionate about. I think for every employee, there is something about what they do that most excites them. You need to know what it is. You need to notice what it is. And you need to encourage it.
Space. They want more space than they have ever wanted, and they have been given a different kind of space. So, when they come back to the hybrid world, will you ask them, “What do you miss that you had, when you worked out of home? And how can we make that happen for you here?” The culture comes to life by your attention to all of this.
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