Growing Talent for the Future

By Sophie Martin-Chantepie, Chief Talent Officer, MSLGROUP. This article was first published in the People’s Insights magazine The Future of Employee (Re)Engagement, and is re-published below.

Sophie Martin-Chantepie

Why we engage

Talent engagement was perhaps never more of a key driver for business performance than it is today. Companies need to communicate the business vision and expectations clearly so that people understand their individual role and collective responsibility – as well as how it impacts business performance – so leaders can achieve business goals.

To perform well, people need to feel empowered, confident and free to share their opinions and ideas, and that the management team trusts them and supports them. But they also need to feel inspired to deliver, which means they must respect the management and the business itself. These drivers are the most critical and of course the hardest to build.

As Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, says, the new mantra is “Employees First, Customers Second.” Happy employees lead to happy customers and clients.

Why we need to re-engage

Re-engagement isn’t just about communicating using new media and methods, but also re-engaging with different and new types of talent at various levels and various georaphies.

Today, it’s important for companies to overcome the trust deficit that’s leading to disengaged employees. There is also an opportunity to leverage social creativity to drive collaboration and employee empowerment.

Lack of Trust Within Organizations

The trust deficit is in large part a result of the economic recession, but is also something that has been growing over the years – as is evident in the wary nature exhibited by many Gen Ys.

1. An erosion of trust in recent years

Over the last five years, the workforce in many economies has seen mass layoffs and seen companies pull back investments in talent. Talent that was able to find opportunity elsewhere left, and moved on.  People learned to stop expecting anything from the company. They began to perceive themselves as curseurs, just another piece of the puzzle as opposed to an active part of the company.

2. The Untrusting Generation?

By nature, Gen Y is cautious–it’s in their DNA to be guarded. They have grown up seeing the environment at stake, and the economy in bad shape, and believe they have been handed the worst future. Recently, they may have seen some companies let go of their parents and have experienced first hand the impact of the recession on their own careers.

As a result, Gen Y is generally more cynical, less loyal to companies than other generations, and more individualistic than, say Gen X, who tend to think in more collective terms.

To create engaging and more productive workplaces, we need to meet employees’ expectations. We need to reconcile the vision and values of the company with those of the employees. If we don’t, we become somewhat schizophrenic in our approaches, and set ourselves up for failure.

Typically, companies are so focused on the business objectives that they fail to understand what is really being said, discussed and believed inside and outside. Employee engagement and employer branding are two interconnected areas that need to be constantly aligned and realigned, and regularly updated. This is precisely how Brand & Talent experts can help companies to understand how perception relates to their employer value proposition (EVP), as well has how they can consistently shape and update their messaging, and take it to the next level.

The Potential of Social Creativity

Today’s talent needs to be hybrid in nature. We expect our people to have more than one area of expertise and we want talent that is 360, smart and creative –more so than ever before.

On social media, we are seeing a wave of energy, creativity, insight and emotionally infused ideas as people express the best of themselves, simultaneously. Companies should try to re-create the conditions for expressing this energy and creativity internally, and harness it towards a common shared business objective.

People are used to having many different social networks, each for a different personal need. Similarly, companies need to connect with employees according to their different needs and expectations– not only in the digital world but also in ‘real life’.

It’s all about being ready to adapt your social media presence internally, and externally, as is fit for your specific audience or type of talent –  and being consistent with your value proposition. This is how companies are able to engage with talent, on their grounds.

Custodians of the Future

Above all, we need to actively play the role of custodians of the future. I believe strongly that we are the drivers, and that the options around us are merely tools. It is up to companies to decide if we want to use them and then to determine how they will improve our business and how we should use them.

Often, we are excited by new platforms and use them without thinking through the larger implications. If we look back, social media has contributed much that is positive but also some that is negative. These tools have upset the work-life balance – they can sometimes lead to burnout and stress. This is not okay, and we need to take the initiative to fix it.

The answer is not to stop using the tools. Today, we have the opportunity to shape the way we use these tools. We should use them strategically and smartly.

Take for example Yahoo!’s and subsequently HP’s decision to revoke remote-working this year. Why? Because it was no longer contributing to their business objectives. Just because companies can offer an option doesn’t mean they should. Forbes contributor Cy Wakeman sums it up well:

“Organizations should not offer telecommuting as an option simply because it is part of the employee engagement model that has come into fashion in the past 10 or 15 years.”

In fact, HP’s statement suggests that real-time live engagement is the need of the hour:

 “During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck. We recognize that in the past, we may have asked certain employees to work from home for various reasons. We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be.”

In a world that is moving towards more remote-working, mobility and virtual engagement, we as employers need to be attentive to the “social connections” we want to create in our companies and how this drives our business performance.

The need to re-think our strategies

It’s time we paused to consider the impact of technology on social connections, and our need to preserve such connections. At the end of the day, we are social creatures after all, not machines.

If you look back at the evolution of labour laws, and norms around social engagement, it’s about protecting the interests of people and society, which in the long run is beneficial for business. Today, we need to anticipate what needs safeguarding for tomorrow.

We need to ask: How do we ensure social connections are formed between people and the organization and how do they evolve? And beyond that, what sort of “social contract” do we want to see tomorrow?

MSLGROUP People's Lab

People’s Lab is MSLGROUP’s proprietary crowdsourcing platform & approach that helps organizations tap into people’s insight for innovation & change.

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