CEOs – The Pendulum is Swinging, Don't Forget to Duck

This is good news: Canada’s economy created an impressive 95,000 new jobs in May, which is the biggest monthly gain in nearly 11 years! Even though this month has taken analysts by surprise, Canada’s job market has had the best gains record among all G-7 countries, actually recording solid gains every year since the recession began in 2008.

But is this labour market also good news for employers? With unemployment low and baby boomers exiting the labour market, the already thin talent pool of “A-players” will inevitably shrink. The competition for these game changers will get fiercer, and employers without a strategic plan will struggle despite the economic upturn. Once you have identified your A-Players (and how to attract these profit generating rock stars is a topic for another blog), it is critical that you have strategic aims to motivate, retain, and engage them. These employees are the ones that will make a real difference to your business; in fact, they will likely leave if they cannot. Now more than ever, you cannot afford to let your A-players out into the market where – I promise you – they will be snatched up by your competition. Nothing is quite like the “high five” within organizations when they have snatched up a competitor’s A-Player.

Now, for many businesses, the last few years has been about being able to breathe in an economy that seemed, at times, to be cutting off air. Employers with engagement agendas were distracted from them and those without engagement initiatives were hard pressed to develop and implement during a time when customers were leaving in droves and margins were shrinking.

It is understandable, but there are consequences. During the recession, employees were often ignored by their companies. Little attention was paid to whether they were happy or fairly compensated (or challenged, or on track with their career path, etc). Employees had few places to go and so they stayed. But many can be described to have long ago “checked out” of their roles. A-Players were probably the last to do this (it’s not in their make-up) but they are also the ones that need more challenge, engagement and sense of direction. Without this, company loyalty diminished and they too started to look for better opportunities. Ninety-nine percent of the time, employees “leave” before they actually physically leave.

The good news is it’s not too late to re-engage your A-players with very little expense and perhaps save your business. Here are some areas to assess your business:

Start at the top.  Have a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have been the most engaged owner/CEO. If not, it’s time to lead and inspire your team. Get off your chair and get out of your office so you can spend as much time as possible with your team. If they see that you are excited and passionate again about your business then maybe they will be too.

Unleash HR to become your business partner.  Administration and the Social Committee can wait. If your HR team has not built a critical path plan to link your human capital to the business then you may never engage your employees again. The plan should focus on the complete life cycle of talent acquisition, retention process, engagement, empowerment/motivation and risk management.

Hold Line Managers accountable for engagement.  Measure employee satisfaction and retention by Line Manager. Consequences drive behaviours. So if you want motivated and engaged employees, consider what the consequences are for Managers who can’t lead and motivate a team.

Re-Recruit your “Rock Stars”.  Find formal and informal ways to recognize and reward your game changers. If you don’t acknowledge them and make them feel wanted, your competitors certainly will.

Don’t accept B-players or less. A-players like to be surrounded by equally talented co-workers. When you accept substandard performance or employees, your best and brightest will question the organization’s commitment to success. Without success there will be no opportunities for A-players. Make the changes; your stars will appreciate the commitment to talent.

You have to ask yourself the tough question: Are you going to be a net contributor to other company’s recruitment efforts or be able to retain your “A” talent? You decide.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user Heather Wojcik

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