As workers become more skilled and educated, their value to an organization increases exponentially. This changes the nature of the employee-employer relationship as it requires new strategies that attract and retain talent. What managers must do now if they want their organization to be successful is to re-evaluate their place in the healthy marriage between labour and leadership. My consulting work focuses on addressing this changing relationship through what I call the Talent Optimizer process.
The Talent Optimizer process emphasizes that hiring, engaging, motivating, and retaining today’s worker requires a fundamentally different approach than the one that was taken in the twentieth century. Adapting to this change takes work, dedication, and a mindset that regards your people as your top priority, and not everyone understands this. From my years of consulting, I have found that there are typically two types of managers:
The Role of Education and Training
First, we need to recognize the work and dedication required to master anything. Take the world's most successful athletes. Most top athletes undoubtedly have been blessed with natural talents, but to achieve such success also requires high-performance training. The success of someone like, say, John Tavares, hangs on his fierce dedication towards developing his skills and abilities. To master the sport of Hockey, someone like John Tavares had to put the work in. It is no different in the workforce.
Whether you are a manager of a large team, or merely a new recruit, dedicating yourself to growing your skillset and abilities through independent learning is essential. But as a manager, you need to ask yourself how you can create a work culture that embraces this learning, and how you can bring on recruits who abide by this principle. Finding people with a learning mindset is one of the most challenging but also the most important thing you can do as a leader. Most people are not interested in independent learning, especially when it comes to their work. So let's review a few tactics that I, as well as some of my successful colleagues, have used in the recruiting process.
One thing I like to do in an interview is to ask a candidate what they have been reading. For one, I am curious to know if they value reading for their personal growth. But then I follow up with a simple question: "So, what did you learn from this book?" Then I ask, "So how did you apply this learning? What difference did it make in your life or job?" These questions aren't concerned with what facts they have accumulated. Instead, they are concerned with how they applied what
they learned. And the answer to these questions can identify which candidate is interested in personal growth for themselves and their performance.
My friend, Dev Basu, CEO of Powered By Search, actually shares the same concern when hiring. He asks that those who work for him abide for the principle that they “Aim For Growth.” In fact, this is one of the core values of Dev’s company. All companies aim for growth: growing the company, growing networks, and growing profits. But Dev’s approach is different: employees should genuinely have a passion for growing as a person. For Dev’s business, the aim to grow should be a personal one. It can take many forms, but the goal ultimately should drive an individual to learn and educate themselves through whatever pursuit. For Dev, if recruits don’t feel that this core value is compatible with themselves, then they should take their talents elsewhere.
Personally, I value a candidate’s commitment to learning, and I know many people among many industries who feel the same. Balance in one’s life is important, so of course, I do not expect candidates to dedicate every waking moment to advance their career – I value leisure too. But when you are considering which employee is the better fit in the long run, it is worth considering the commitment that a candidate has to develop themselves as a person. If they are committed to growing personally, it is likely that they are also committed to growing their professional talents.
Sustaining a Culture of Growth
It is important to consider the positive effects associated with hiring candidates who embody growth and education. If you continue to absorb keen leaners into your organization, you will eventually develop what I call a Culture Threshold. Culture Threshold is closely related to core values: it is the point at which the core values become a strong-enough defining characteristic to unite a group of people. So the values of growth and learning can be engrained into the self-sustaining workforce that embraces the positive outcomes of advancing one’s education. If managers put the work into hiring recruits who embrace this value at an early stage, long-term effects will ensure productivity among talent as they embrace the work culture.
Securing Your Return on Investment
Managers are required to be more involved in the labour process in today's industry because they need to be concerned with an employee's Return On Investment (ROI). This is why I think it is essential in the hiring process to consider candidates who demonstrate eagerness towards learning and educating themselves. But the next step to consider is how you will implement organizational education once those candidates join your organization. This is where managers play a large part in growing employees' abilities. One of the first things you should do as a manager when evaluating your training program is to ask whether or not it is helping to attract and retain top talent.
Managers typically view training as nothing more than a checklist to measure employees' knowledge of organizational facts. But I submit to you that this is where some of the work of management must be tested. If you find that your people are struggling to get things done right, chances are your training program isn't comprehensive enough.
When developing a training program, you need to recognize that your training should not rely on fact testing. This is not how people learn best, besides you are not gaining insight into their cognitive abilities. We all learn best through experiential learning, where we can fine-tune our skillsets and build on them. So this aspect of your management strategy should be taken very seriously. If you want your organization to run like a finely tuned machine, you must maintain the machine through regular and consistent training directed at building your employees' education. Master the material yourself first, then immerse your employees in training that will add value to your team and organization.
Developing a culture of growth and learning may sound rather abstract, but it is really about acknowledging the link between performance and values. For one, young talented employees are often keen on learning, and if they find that there is little opportunity for growth, there is a good chance they will look elsewhere to build their careers. So, cultivating a culture that embraces employee interests and recognizes their future is essential.
By creating a culture of growth and by actively engaging in training activities, managers can support talented employees and increase productivity. There are those managers who want a quick fix, and there are those who embrace their role in industrial relationships. Which one are you?
To learn more about how you can best develop an effective strategy to attract and retain talent in your organization, get a copy of my new book, Talent Optimizer. In it, I show readers how they can implement a work culture that embraces the abilities of talented candidates and continues to grow.