Employee Retention: What if it Isn’t All About You? | LOOMIS’s Mike Sullivan Weighs In
By Mike Sullivan
I’m always thinking about employee retention. Thinking about how to keep good people is one of the most important things I do as CEO. Over my 22-year stretch at LOOMIS, we’ve managed to keep our people twice as long as the advertising industry average. We’re proud of that. But we also work hard at it. That’s why a recent article from Inc. magazine caught my eye.
The article references a recent Gallup report called the “State of the Global Workplace.” In it, Gallup reports that roughly “7 in 10 employees are struggling or suffering in their overall lives, with negative emotions at an all-time high.”
70 percent. That’s a stunning number.
The article goes on to offer suggestions for how companies can help their employees deal with mental health challenges and their overall well-being. That may not be our default commitment. But it should be if we want to hang on to our people. Today, employee retention is as much about helping your employees stay healthy as it is keeping them happy.
Talented people across the country are hungry to be part of something great and meaningful. But they are also incredibly stressed out about the state of the country, the economy, inflation, their families, paying for college, trying to buy a house. The list goes on and on.
In the midst of that turmoil, we’re all trying to find meaning in the work we do. Ask Millennials and Gen Z and that’s at or near the top of their list. Very few of us can change the world individually. But as a company? As a group of inspired people committed to building a nurturing culture and combining our talents to achieve the extraordinary? That’s something to make Monday mornings exciting again. That’s what people are searching for. Twenty-five percent of the workforce didn’t jump to jump. They’re looking for something better.
It’s time to get personal.
For lots of reasons – many of them good – companies often shy away from making things too “personal” or “individualized” for their employees. It seems more important to foster a sense of fairness and equality with everyone being treated the same. In certain aspects of employment that is exactly as it should be. But I’d also argue when it comes to our employees’ individual development, a new approach focusing on each person’s personal growth trajectory could be a mutually beneficial catalyst to push both our people and our companies forward.
In this hiring environment, any efforts directed at employee retention have to start with the employee. That may sound obvious, but not as much as you’d think. Most companies think company first. Understandably so. Employees? Usually down the list somewhere past shareholders, owners, sometimes even past clients, and vendors. That needs to change. Almost 100 percent of the workforce is in play. Helping our employees become the best versions of themselves is the greatest investment we can make right now.
When was the last time you asked your employees what it is they want from their careers? Have you ever asked them about their aspirations? Their ideas? What they think could improve the performance of your organization? It’s so easy to get caught up in looking at the big picture that we lose sight of all the individual pieces that make it up. What if we shifted our focus from what we need, to what our people need?
Custom leadership development plans.
We wrote about Custom Leadership Development Plans back in January as the trend we most wanted to see to address employee retention in 2022. Since then, we haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. Most employers have a “one size fits all” mindset for training and career development. What if we started experimenting with individualized development plans that take into account what our employees want from their work experience, their career, their personal lives, and the impact they want to make congruent with their values. Imagine – a movement toward maximizing individual performance in service to something bigger.
We’re in the process of designing our own Custom Leadership Development program now with plans to launch it late Summer or early Fall. Think about your own team. What can you do to help them perform at peak levels? Even more, what can you do to help them be happier, healthier, more fulfilled human beings excited to come to work and energized to do everything they can to fulfill both the company’s purpose and their own?
How many people do you think are leaving that company?