Dr Graeme Codrington continues from last month’s e-zine article looking at creating an attractive culture for talented young people. In this second of two articles on the subject, he focuses the spotlight on four key areas companies have to manage in order to attract and retain talented young people, and develop loyalty in their staff and customers.
2. Social and community
2.1. Outputs-driven Environment
Many companies have experimented with work-life balance, flexibility and staff members working from home (virtual offices and home offices). Many of these companies have reported that the experiments were unsuccessful, resulting in decreased efficiency and productivity, and/or were not accepted by staff. One of the main reasons for the failure of â€œwork-life balanceâ€? interventions is that you cannot simply change systems and processes without also changing the measurement and remuneration/reward strategies that form the foundation of those systems. Most companies still remunerate and reward staff for visible hard work (normally equated with hours in the office), rather than the quality, speed and accuracy of their outputs.
Let me illustrate this by asking you one simple question: if I worked for you and consistently finished all of my work by 2 pm every afternoon – day after day I was finished my allocated work early – what would your company do for me? Would it pay me more money and reward me for my obvious brilliance and genius? Would I be allowed to go home every afternoon when I was finished? My guess is that 99% of companies would do neither of these things, but would rather give me more work to do. Does that make any sense to you at all? Why would a talented, intelligent young person, who puts family, personal and health issues above company contribution put themselves in such a position?
Talented young people are prepared to work hard, and put in long hours, as long as they are adequately rewarded for it. Maybe, more honestly, you need to realise that because of their different priorities, they are constantly trying to work out what the minimum required inputs are for the required level of outputs. The â€œminimumâ€? might be 18 hour days and 7 day weeks. Talented young people are prepared to work hard, and long. But they want reward for it, and they want to know that their work makes a difference. If theyâ€™re not rewarded for the effort, or if their work is simply â€œfilling spaceâ€?, then theyâ€™d rather go home. They have an outputs-based mentality, expecting to be paid for what they produce, rather than the standard inputs-based systems which pay you for simply being there.
Even in top professional services firms, where outputs-based remuneration should be fairly easy to implement, the tyranny of the timesheet prevails (it’s even worse than that – it’s the tyranny of the billable hours per timesheet that prevails!). This is possibly the most important change companies can make to their culture â€“ to shift to an outputs based mentality.
I am sure that you know of people who have moved to part-time and half-day positions, and have somehow still been able to do almost as much work as they were doing when they were employed on a full-time, full-day basis. This is just another example of the lunacy of an inputs-based system. If you understand nothing else about talent, and accept nothing else from this advice, then please understand this one thing: talented young people expect to be paid for what they produce, not where or when they sit in a chair in an office. Until we change our remuneration and reward structures, we will not get significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and passion from today’s talented young people. And if you think that in your industry you can’t really apply this thinking, then pick up a copy of Ricardo Semler’s books and see how he changed a 24 hour, continuous production line factory into an outputs-based system, simply by paying each shift for the units they produced rather than the hours that people spent at work. He allowed each shift to democratically allocate the money paid to them to each of the individuals, according to their contributions. If he can do it, then anyone can.
One of the other critical components to an outputs-based system is feedback. Today’s young people require constant and detailed feedback on their work and efforts. It is no longer good enough to do an annual review. They want a performance review after every single project – whether the project is three years, three months, three days or even three hours in length. To the older generations, especially the Baby Boomers, this can appear as a lack of self-confidence and is off and subconsciously frowned upon. But the more feedback you can provide, the better the outputs will be.
The feedback should be:
- Frequent – at a minimum, once a month, but certainly at the end of every project.
- Accurate – by this we mean it must be honest and focused. Standard, generic, “tick the box” feedback forms are not helpful – they might keep HR happy, but today’s talent would much prefer a chat over a cup of coffee.
- Brutal – no sugar coating. If I’m not doing my job, I need to know; and if I don’t fix it soon, I need to go.
- Specific – no vague generalities and innuendos.
2.2. Better Use of Technology
In order to successfully implement some of the things we are talking about, it is absolutely essential to have technology that supports your staff and systems. Companies across all industries have spent millions and millions of dollars over the past two decades implementing new technologies and implementing computer-based processes. One of the biggest problems is that these companies have very often simply automated all the manual systems, rather than unleashing the promise and potential of new technologies. In addition, in the past few years, new social software and interactive technologies have begun to change the face of the world, especially the online, digital world. Web 2.0 technologies are shaping the 21st century landscape â€“ companies need to find out about these and make use of the power they promise. There is no excuse for anyone being â€œleft behindâ€? in the technology game.
3. Work and Corporate
In order to achieve the type of culture we are talking about, changes need to take place throughout the organisation – not just changes in programmes, that deep-seated changes to the company’s DNA. Although there are many ways in which this can happen, two of the most important are highlighted below:
3.1. Mentoring and Training
There is a danger in using the words “mentoring” and “training”. These are often used to describe Feely generic and formulaic programmes, often implemented by outside service providers – and badly executed. We are not talking about “programmes”. Rather, we are talking about responding to what almost every piece of research indicates is the number-one factor that talented young people require to be in place in an employer of choice: the ability to learn and develop themselves on an ongoing basis. This is not just related to the job specific, technical skills, but related to a full spectrum of development opportunities.
In particular, but today’s young people are looking for mentors. They have more access to more information than any people have ever had in the history of the world – the Internet provides this had to push of a button in a fraction of a second, and their university studies have put them at the forefront of up-to-date research and information in their profession. So they don’t need more training courses. What they want is to learn this stuff that the geniuses in their industry appear to know â€“ the unconscious competencies of people with years of experience. Most of this can only be caught, not taught.
It is in the company’s best interests to make this type of mentoring and training available, because we can no longer have the luxury of new recruits having a slow buildup of experience and expertise over a decade or more. Because of the imminent retirement of an older generation of leaders and technicians, and the massive war for talent, we need to help new recruits to hit the road running. This will require a lot more direct involvement of senior leaders than currently exists in most organisations.
In choosing developmental plans for each individual, it is essential to work from a strength’s basis. The best book to read on this is Markus Buckingham’s, â€œNow Discover Your Strengthsâ€?, which clearly lays out a strategy for taking the things you already do well and turning them into world-class expertise, rather then spending time working on your weaknesses and raising them to average capabilities.
In this environment, employees become “associates”, and managers become “mentors”. It is absolutely essential that there is a process of wisdom transfer built into the culture of the organisation, fully supported by senior leadership and underpinned by individuals with great self understanding and emotional intelligence throughout the organisation.
3.2. Savvy Leadership
One of the biggest hindrances to creating the type of culture we are talking about is the lack of leadership skills and intent. Unfortunately, most corporations are run by leaders who have been promoted through the ranks because they exhibit a type of leadership characteristics required of old command and control style hierarchical organisations. The new type of culture we are espousing will require new leadership skills, and new types of leaders. We refer to these as “savvy leaders”.
These types of leaders not only know what needs to be done and how, but are also intensely aware of why things need to be done and have the skills and ability to communicate context to the teams that they lead. They are also “learner leaders”. We don’t often think of leaders is being learners, yet this is exactly what they need to be.
In his 1972 book, â€œFuture Shockâ€?, Alvin Toffler wrote: â€œThe illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.â€? Leaders everywhere need to ask themselves not only what have they learnt in the last six months – the should be a fairly easy question to answer – but also, they need to consider what they have deliberately unlearnt and what they are planning to relearn in the next six months.
One of the key things for leaders to unlearn is an old style of leadership and management approach. Tom Peters, the business futurist, has said: â€œIn weird, wild, text-book defiant times like these, the model of leaders as â€˜all knowing commander and order-giver extraordinaireâ€™ is fatally and fundamentally flawed.â€? We cannot agree more.
If you do all of the strategies suggested above, plus many others that you will be able to customise for your own context, you will be able to create an environment that will be attractive for today’s young talent. Obviously, one of the key goals of doing this is to retain these young people in your employ, and engender a sense of loyalty within them. We believe that if you do what we have suggested above, you will be much more successful in your attention of young people. But we do have to tell you that no matter what you do, you are unlikely to get the type of loyalty you were looking for.
We believe that the old type of loyalty, of 30 or 40 years of long service in one place, is fundamentally dead. You could possibly get to 20 years of service, maybe only five years at a time. Therefore, an important strategy would be to create an alumni network for all the staff who might leave. Keep in touch with them, help them to keep in touch with you, and when they’re ready to move from where they are now, maybe they will be open to moving back to you. We need to move beyond thinking that anyone who leaves us is betraying us, and is a traitor. Maybe they just want to change, and we can’t provide enough change for them right now.
Whatever we do, we honestly want people to be passionate about who we are. Maybe its a good enough goal to try and join the following club:
Top 10 Tattoo Brands
Martin Lindstrom, â€œBRANDsenseâ€?
- Harley …. 18.9%
- Disney …. 14.8
- Coke …. 7.7
- Google …. 6.6
- Pepsi …. 6.1
- Rolex …. 5.6
- Nike …. 4.6
- Adidas …. 3.1
- Absolut …. 2.6
- Nintendo …. 1.5
How does Harley get to the top of this list? What are they selling? They’re clearly not selling metal and chrome and rubber. In the words of a Harley Exec, â€œWhat we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.â€? (quoted in â€œResults-Based Leadershipâ€? – they call it “Experience the ‘Rebel Lifestyle!'”).
So, what is your company selling?
5. Your Employer Brand
Most companies spend a lot of time developing their branding from a sales and product perspective. These days, companies have to spend as much, if not more, on developing their reputation as an employer of choice in the employment market space. Time, resources, skills and money must be allocated to doing this, and it must be more than just a P. R. exercise.
Showcasing an attractive culture for talent starts right at the top and must infiltrate every part of an organisation.
To obtain and maintain a competitive advantage in the 21st century, you have to be able to attract, retain, nurture, reward and lead talented young people in your industry, and get more out of them than anyone else could. And this means changing your culture, inside and out.
Some companies have started to pay more than just lip service to concept that â€œour people are our most important assets.â€? One of the best of these is SAS Institute, consistently rated one of the worldâ€™s best companies to work for. â€œEvery afternoon at about 5 oâ€™clock, all of the assets of this company leave the building and go home. Itâ€™s my job to ensure that they want to come back the following morning.â€? Jim Goodknight, CEO of SAS Institute (sourced from an interview aired on Carte Blanche, South Africa in July 2006).
It’s that sort of attitude that will ensure business continuity and the future success of your organisation.
Dr Graeme Codrington an international expert on talent and the future of work. He is the Head of Intellectual Capital at TomorrowToday.biz, a strategy consultancy focused on helping companies get the most out of their leaders and talented staff and customers. He can be contacted at .