Good businesses invest in their staff. Hardly radical thinking: nobody comes to a role knowing everything, prepared for everything, executing everything perfectly. Improving the skills and knowledge of employees is a key aspect of any management role.
Active and consistent training is also a method of future-proofing. Confident and broadly-experienced staff react better to new challenges, environmental change and professional setbacks. Allowing professional development to stagnate might not present a problem to a team now, but assuming that you have already encountered and prepared for every challenge your business might face is… bold, at best.
But there’s more to future-proofing than consistent training. In fact, the more you’ve invested in your staff, the more you should be considering another, even more fundamental point: you’ve got to hang on to them somehow.
Losing trusted and experienced staff is a burden for any business. It’s a waste of resources twice over – the money, time and education you’ve invested in a staff member is lost, and now you’ll need to spend more time and more money replacing them with new staff who, skilled as they may be, will take time to get acclimatised to scenarios that your previous employee could deal with in their sleep. It might sound strange to hear a recruitment start-up advocating against recruiting, but it’s not always the ideal, is it? If you’ve found a diligent and competent employee then replacing them under any circumstances is always going to be a drag.
If you’ve got the talent, keep it. Here are five Juggle-approved ways of doing just that.
1. Diversify and empower
Training outside of a job spec will pay dividends in future; diversifying your employee’s skillset allows them to adopt completely new challenges and workstreams. Letting staff languish in silos isn’t just inefficient, it also kills creative drive. Wondering why it matters that your Forums Executive or Customer Service Manager or Operations Head’s creative drive is undernourished? (You might need to broaden your definition of creativity a bit.) Human beings need new settings, new knowledge and new problems to solve, otherwise they get bored.
Bored employees tend to react in one of two ways – either they settle in for the long haul, doing their job and nothing else, or they leave. Neither is useful for a business. If an employee shows an interest or talent outside of their current responsibilities, using or developing that talent isn’t an indulgence – it’s a vital aspect of helping them remain satisfied and productive. And you’ll get new ideas and new energy without having to hire new staff. Win-win.
2. Be flexible
Come on, you knew it was coming. But part of the reason Juggle are so committed to flexible is that we know it provides a more valuable long-term recruitment solution. A proactive flexible-working policy has an overwhelmingly positive effect on staff retention. So far, much of the data is focused on job satisfaction and energy-levels. Absolutely valuable and necessary improvements, but flexible working solutions allow businesses to do some even more robust future-proofing, because they allow managers and leads to…
3. Plan ahead
Things change. And despite some of the most serious changes in an individual’s life being commonplace and well-understood – finding a romantic partner, having children, buying a home, looking after ageing parents – these developments are often treated like a meteorite, falling from a clear blue sky into the laps of unsuspecting managers. Pregnancy/maternity is a huge and well-documented obstacle for women wanting to remain in work, but any major life event can become a severe hindrance for professionals. Why? Because the demands of our personal life are often rigid – they cannot be changed, or negotiated with, or slotted neatly in to our free time. If they clash with employment that is equally rigid, there can be only one outcome.
Flexible working can mitigate situations like these, and if you’re planning on mitigating, better to start early. Talented employees’ lives will change. The knowledge that they will be supported through those changes can encourage serious loyalty. Planning ahead will minimise disruption and could even uncover efficiencies. But in order to do all that, you’ll need to…
4. Pay attention
One of the reasons that significant life events like maternity can feel like such disruptive shocks to businesses is that employees are loathe to discuss them ahead of time, and with good reason. Discrimination over pregnancy/maternity is illegal, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon. Staff worry that their opportunities will diminish if their employers learn about the demands of their personal lives.
Flexible working is a solution to this because it relies on – and therefore generates – trust. In order to create bespoke arrangements for staff you need to know (a little) about their personal lives and the responsibilities they have outside of work. Remaining in the dark isn’t really an option anymore. But by acknowledging your staff’s needs and being flexible in your response you are both acknowledging that those issues are worth of discussion AND creating a framework for dealing with any potential future issues. The onus is now on employees to keep you informed, and once the fear of structural bias is gone they have no reason not to and many reasons to do so. All that’s required is that you…
The humble suggestion box gets a lot of bad press; to the point that the tech industry has rebranded it as “the solution box.” The “suggestions” that employees put forward are often gripes and complaints, managers complain (without irony). They don’t provide value for the business, they’re just an outlet for staff dissatisfaction.
… which is still a very important bit of information. Not providing any sort of forum – for discussion, for new thinking and solutions, and yes, for complaints – doesn’t mean that those things don’t exist. They exist, all right. You just don’t know about any of them. And refusing to acknowledge the voice of your talent will ruin any attempts at inclusion you might be making elsewhere. Inclusion is important: for innovation, for productivity, and for retention. Staff that feel included stick around. Staff that feel their skills are being wasted or ignored will – and should, frankly – start looking elsewhere.
In a nutshell: start with the top talent, help them develop into truly multi-skilled professionals, and encourage them to stay with your business by creating a working environment that’s flexible enough to accommodate the changes that happen to every professional sooner or later. To find out how flexible can work for you and your team, sign up to Juggle today.