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Consultant Roundtable: Career Development and Organizational Culture

Consultant Roundtable: Career Development and Organizational Culture

In a webinar that dealt with hot-button topics like Quiet Quitting, layoffs, inflation, and other people management challenges, members of Perceptyx’s research and People@Work teams gathered to share their perspectives on the future of work in 2023. In the second installment of our Consultant Roundtable series — you can read the first installment here — we took a look at trends and developments related to career development and organizational culture.

What Matters to Our People

Bradley Wilson, Ph.D., Director of Consulting Excellence: As far as data about retention is concerned, it’s pointing us back to a lot of the core things that we've known about employee motivation, employee engagement, psychological safety, and connection at work."

"It's been interesting to see how the topic of well-being that emerged in 2020 has continued to expand and evolve. It's gone well beyond physical health. Personal protective equipment came up a lot in 2020. That's not the focus anymore, but well-being as a driver of engagement is still front and center. People need to understand that their organization cares about their health and well-being. Organizations need to understand that well-being goes well beyond just physical health and safety.”

Organizations need to demonstrate to people that they're valued and help support them through targeted manager interventions. This has been an important topic, especially for organizations that are short staffed. There's been a question of, can we cut back on this area, or should we? What I've seen with a lot of my customers is  that they are continuing things like one-on-ones, though it doesn't have to be as prescriptive as every week for one hour. It can and should be adapted to the work environment based on the number of direct reports.”

“Having the one-on-ones has a dramatic impact on employees being connected to their managers. More importantly, when we're short on resources, it ensures that people are working on the right things and giving managers and individuals a forum to review and adjust priorities in light of those short resources or short staffing.”

Career Development Conversations

Emily Killham, Director of Research and Insights: “As we look through the data to determine what mattered for retention strategies, those one-on-ones are a good place to address some other topics. One is to think about that career development for the individual employee, and what does that look like?”

“Career development doesn't necessarily mean that I am taking the next step on a ladder, but instead, how am I able to apply my unique skills that I bring to the table that may perhaps fit outside of the job description. I know we'll see a lot of predictions about moving to a skills-based hire more than a job description hire. That makes those one-on-ones even more essential.”

“We consistently saw that if you're playing a short game for retention — which some organizations unfortunately must do — since if you are so short staffed, you can't get your business done. As we saw financial well-being come to the fore this summer with inflation and the news that people were leaving roles for more money, a short game developed in which organizations doled out more money more quickly to get employees into vacant positions.”

The problem we found was that organizations that did this were not also playing a long game, or were missing out on some key parts of the long game. We found employees even said, 'Hey, I regret leaving my last job. I really wish I wouldn't have left, because I had a great relationship with my manager, and we were headed somewhere, and I left for a couple bucks more an hour, and now I don't have any of that, and I had to start over. And I would go back. I would go back today.' Even as we saw that news, we found that when people left organizations, 40% left for the same or less money. So there's something else going on under the surface, and I think these one-on-ones are really the key to unlocking that potential.”

A Sense of Belonging in the Organization

Michael Mian, Ph.D., Principal Consultant: I think it comes down to giving employees this sense of belonging and showing that they're valued. Whether it's one-on-ones or other types of interventions that focus or shed light on the needs of employees, I think that's what's critical. One of the things I've been seeing is that some of the data is telling us that employees want to see that they have a future for themselves in the organization they work for.”

“We can do that effectively by showing them career paths, which don't always have to be vertical, and then providing them opportunities for growth, whether that be through cross-training, providing some mentoring and coaching, and other things that don't necessarily require big financial investments, but can be effective in preparing people for when opportunities arise and keeping them engaged. We have to be thinking about playing the long game. Organizations that are playing the long game are going to perform better over time.”

“Another driver that I'm actually seeing in terms of retention from exit survey data is relevant to some organizations that have been more traditional in their remote work flexibility policies. Companies that have tried to force a strict back-to-office policy have lost some talent, especially if the employees felt that their jobs didn't require them to be in an office.”

“I've had a few customers that have had to do a quick backtrack and develop a more flexible office policy after several months of losing people. I think it’s going to be interesting to see if organizations are going to take advantage of a slowing economy in 2023 and revert to stricter work flexibility policies.”

You Need to Know Why You’re Investing in Your People

David Weisser, Principal Consultant:  We're talking about this long game thing, and I suppose I, like some others, are guilty of thinking, ‘Well, the days of the long tenured employee, that's over with.’ But maybe everything that's old is new again. Maybe it's truer than we think it is: people actually do want to stay with an organization, and they invest a lot of time in that.”

“We have begun to think hard about, ‘Well, vertical promotion isn't that important, let's develop skills and create lateral opportunities.’ I think that has to be there, because there just aren't vertical positions. But maybe that's not totally accurate. I was at a conference, and I was speaking with a CHRO from a large energy utility, and they had invested all this time, money, and coaching into leadership training. Tons of investment, a truly big program, designed to identify employees with the most potential.”

“A year later, they found that their turnover rate was higher among the people they'd invested in, and they were shocked. So I asked the question, 'Well, how many of them were promoted as a result of this program?' The answer was not enough, because they quit. They spent all this time making their employees marketable, then failed to promote them.”

“If you're investing in employees as a means for retention, there's got to be a payoff. If you evaluate your leadership programs, is the last step in the program an actual promotion? Maybe that would make the program more selective. The takeaway from this example was that the organization needed to take a harder look at the purpose and results of the program.”

Leveraging the Retentionist Role

Lauren Beechly, Ph.D., Director of Customer Consulting: To close out this idea of retention, I wanted to share some research from Perceptyx. What we've done is looked across our customers, across industries, across time, and formed buckets that capture the reasons why people are staying with organizations. Belonging is one of our top drivers of what continues to keep people in organizations, when they feel embedded in that organization and connected to others.”

“Then there’s the notion of feeling valued. 'Do I matter to the organization? Do my contributions matter? Do my ideas and thoughts matter? Am I seeing these being asked about, and then seeing my ideas actually being utilized in my organization?'”

"There’s also health and well-being. We consistently saw, even before 2020, when people said, ‘My organization cares about my health and wellbeing,’ they're much more likely to stay. Work flexibility and work-life balance fall in this category, too.”

“Lastly, there’s the talent development piece, that sense of an optimistic future: 'Am I seeing that bright future for my organization? Do I see that for myself? I want to be part of this winning team as an organization, but how can I achieve that success for me?' I'll say in terms of strategies we continue to see from organizations, there’s career pathing: laying out visually for people, ‘If I start here, where can I go, and what skills do I need to get there?’ We're also seeing organizations continue to provide tuition reimbursement or even pay for specific training, education, and credentialing that's needed to move employees into some of these hard-to-fill roles.”

“I'm also seeing organizations leverage retentionist roles. They're typically in the HR/People department, and it's a role that's tasked with reaching out to employees to help them navigate those career changes. Some of you, if you think back through your entire career, might have had a frontline leader you didn't feel comfortable going to in order to have those career conversations, either for political reasons or because that leader wasn't skilled at having those conversations.”

“This retentionist role provides a safe space to reach out to for help to navigate through those career changes within your organization. We're even continuing to see organizations look at those finding creative ways to utilize those employees who are nearing retirement.”

Perceptyx Helps You See More So You Can Do More About Retention and Attrition

To understand how to retain their employees, organizations need to first ask for their input, then respond to their insights with decisive action. Perceptyx helps the world’s most successful organizations create mature listening programs that facilitate retention and engagement. 

For more information on how your organization can utilize our expertise to address attrition issues, schedule a meeting with a member of our team. To watch the rest of the webinar from which this article is excerpted, click here.

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