It’s often said that ‘people are our greatest asset’ but do your staff think really feel that and how do you as an organisation really display that responsibility?

It is estimated in research conducted recently by the Human Capital Institute that a truly engaged workforce can contribute as much as 12% to bottom line performance compared to those who aren’t. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes commercial sense.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as ‘let’s take responsibility and really engage our workforce.’ Recent times have led to significant restructuring and efficiency drives resulting in the loss of staff, colleagues and friends and let’s not forget those remaining in the organisation; the ‘survivors.’ All this means that the bond between employer and employee has been significantly weakened. This challenge is also getting bigger as the jobs barometer suggests that 48% of employees plan to change job this year and 30% of employers plan to increase recruitment. It’s not only you who is hoping to engage your staff but many other organisations – some of whom maybe your competitors.

So what practical steps can we take as employers to ensure we take genuine responsibility for our people? Here are a few pointers as I see it:

Treat people as individuals

We’re all well aware of the baby boomer, X and Y generation badges with their varying needs and aspirations, so recognise them and appreciate the unique nature of your staff. Take the time to get to know your people and the benefits they bring to the business. One solution may not fit all.

Encourage them to become career activists

It’s certainly not your responsibility to spoon feed but you should encourage and engender an environment where all colleagues take responsibility for their own careers and not only explore options up but across and even outside of the business. Letting someone experience job roles outside the business can bring new innovations and ideas when they return.

Equip your managers

To have effective and frequent conversations with their teams. How many times do we hear “I never get feedback” or “I had an annual appraisal but didn’t learn anything?” We’re generally not good at giving feedback so ensure your managers are trained and equipped to have those conversations – and embed feedback as part of your performance culture. It doesn’t have to be formal either; often the most effective and powerful sessions can be had over a five minute coffee or next to the photocopier!

Focus and communicate on providing career paths

We often think that just because the organisation has an intranet with a jobs section, that everyone uses it and that this serves as a way for employees to manage their careers. That’s just not the case. Make sure you use as many communication channels as possible, whether formal or informal, to get the message across that ‘you can succeed and grow here.’ Provide opportunity to experience the business in different ways. And that doesn’t just apply to executives and high potentials but at all levels in the organisation. Today’s workforce demands new ways of looking at mobility in careers. Thinking about your staff as being mobile and on a journey within your business is just one model to consider.

Geography doesn’t matter

We keep hearing about the ‘London effect’ and the impact it has on the decisions individuals make about where they want to work. However, recent reports show that the demand for talent is increasing everywhere. So, whether your organisation is located in Wales, Scotland or the North of England we all have the same challenges – we all want to attract talented people who will stay in the business and help it grow. Those organisations already working on talent mobility and engagement strategies (or at least considering them) have a huge advantage over those who don’t. It’s not about geography – it’s about time. Take the time to put in place the right strategies and people will want to work for you; and grow with your organisation.

Accept the new world of work

We know that, on average, people change jobs every three to four years – which doesn’t help when there are skills gaps in almost every industry! Organisations need to work hard at keeping their best people but isn’t it time we accepted the status quo? Treating an individual’s time in your business as a journey with milestones will allow you to achieve two things: happy people with clear career paths and clearly identified succession plans that align to the business growth strategy. It’s more likely that your people will stay longer because they feel that the business is truly investing in them – but they probably won’t stay forever. Accept the reality and make sure you combine your succession plans with your attraction strategies.

Visible leadership

Some change initiatives are hard to implement and, as we all know, engagement and productivity tends to drop once the change has been communicated. One of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen leadership make during change is that they disappear and stop communicating. Your staff rely on you to help them see the way forward and that the change will have positive benefit for them and their careers. Be visible. I recently met a CEO who recognised the power of engaging with the widest population in his organisation. Instead of delivering his message following the employee engagement survey by email he used video. Not a scripted, polished version but the real man delivering a real message. It was immediately more engaging, showed the human being behind the job title and helped the business believe that what he was doing was right for both the business and his people.

It’s maybe inevitable that staff turnover will increase as the economy picks up but taking responsibility for your people will pay dividends.  And, if you adopt some or all of the above suggestions, you’re more likely to be recognised as a responsible employer with a positive employer brand. Finally, don’t forget your people ARE your biggest advocate and loudest voice. So do it for them, get them on your side and start to feel the difference.


Mike Hunter is a regional director at the career transition and talent development specialist, Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH)