The Talent Games – Why Engagement Matters


By, Cari Desiderio

My favorite part of human resources, by far, is the opportunity we get as HR leaders to invest in managers and grow them by teaching them how to motivate and engage their employees.  It is also the part of our field that I take most seriously. And, if I’m honest, that some days I feel ill equipped to teach.

It is safe for most of us to become experts in a technical area. To learn a product.  To become proficient at planning events. Or writing marketing material. Or crunching numbers on spreadsheets.  Things like this can be planned, executed and managed without too many surprises.  Just like any household chore, once I master a task at work I can advance from basic to advanced to even expert levels of proficiency at said task.

The part of business that isn’t quite so cut and dry is the fuel that we need to accomplish business tasks.  Namely, our people.

Do you ever wish your employees came with a user guide?  Say this specific phrase and Sally will perform at 100% level of engagement today, with a smile at all times.  Train John this way and he will consistently and reliably execute on the task you give him.  Send Jane to this sales and customer service course and your customer satisfaction scores will sky rocket. Check the box, check the box, check the box.

Silly, right?

Of course people do not come with user guides.  We are moody, emotional, fragile at times, in need of unique kinds of motivation based on how we each are wired, and depending on the day we may or may not be as perfectly reliable as our managers wish. When we get fed up with bureaucracy at work or your style of leadership, we just might abandon ship and go work for the company down the street.  The user guide didn’t explain how to handle that.

The reason why I have days when I feel ill equipped to teach managers how to lead well, is because if I am honest I am still learning.  It takes energy, care, and a lot of managing with intuition and patience to lead teams well. It takes stepping off of my throne, and looking around to tend to my team members’ needs first.

Yet, without our people, no business will succeed.  Being able to hire good talent and keep good talent will make or break a company. Companies who learn to do this with proficiency will have a competitive advantage over others in their industry.

With this said, no greater investment can be made than an investment in the culture of a company and the methods in place to both motivate and grow talent.  A good read on this topic is this one –

In this simple article, Deloitte highlights some critical pieces to engaging your employees.  The first is to ensure the leaders at the top care about the employees and care about engagement.  This seems a no brainer. But not all companies get this.  You see engagement and good people management is not something one can farm out.  A smart CEO who has little interest in his people will not have a loyal company.  Caring comes from the top.

The last few areas this article points out have to do with making work meaningful and simple.  Make it easy to come to work and get the job done, and provide an environment that is inviting.  The simple part reminds me of a time when I was in an opposite situation where excess rules and a handbook thicker than was healthy, led to a “big brother is watching” culture that disengaged and angered team members.  Similar to raising a child, make rules and standards logical and use the less is best rule.  We may not be children anymore, but the desire for freedom and flexibility is human.  When we are trusted we become more trustworthy. When we are given freedom to create, we innovate. Focus on what counts with your teams. Make goals clear and focus on the minimum required to get maximum output.  Add a bit of meaning to work by showing how your employee’s contributions impact the bottom line. Celebrate this.  Reward this. Give employees opportunities to have experiences and exposure so they can grow.

The last and final point of this article is to get in touch with the Millennial generation.  In other words, be sure we know what the group that will be half the work population in three years wants!  I would extend this sentiment further for the global companies.  Get to know the culture of each group, especially if you lead teams that are not from your native part of the world.  This sounds scary perhaps. But it’s not.  If you are a manager who is curious and caring enough to ask questions and spend time with your employees, you will learn.  Paying attention and caring… go a long way.  You don’t have to be the smartest person on the team to lead the team. You actually need to hire smarter people than you to be on your team. Then treat them well.

Good luck playing the chess game of talent!  May the best people engagement strategists win!

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