Jess ElmquistMarch 8, 2023
Topics: HR Experience

CHROS: Your Employees Crave Connection to the Business. Help Them Get There.

Yes, talent leaders, it’s that time of year to start planning and strategizing for the Q1 employee All-Hands meetings (for those of you on a calendar year at least).

Chances are your meeting agenda hasn’t changed all that much over the years. It probably has welcoming remarks by the CEO and a cutest pet contest.

Not that either of those items are not worthwhile, yet they can be mundane and standard-issue, making your meeting just another all-hands. You can do better than that! Use the opportunity to activate and energize employees by helping them see how their professional development ties in with overall business goals.

Talent leaders would be wise to remember that HR problems are ultimately business problems. In some of my frank conversations with CHROs, too many executives automatically assume their people understand the company’s strategy and how they fit in their current roles and where their career can take them.

That’s a misguided assumption. And all the more reason why you as the people leader need to own not only the all hands meeting agenda but the programs and culture 365 days a year that inform the content you will use!

Top C-suite Concerns

A fascinating Deloitte study found that C-suites and boards rank the following among their top sources of workforce risk concerns:

  • Inability to reskill and/or upskill workers

  • Workforce retention

  • Ineffective workforce planning

  • Inability to flexibly deploy workers

  • Ineffective succession planning

“Our research strongly suggests that many companies are not applying risk management disciplines while managing their workforce despite the growing threat of labor shortages, skills shortages, growing rates of voluntary turnover, and the emergence of employment alternatives in the gig economy,” the authors concluded.

Does your organization see employee skills as a business risk? If so, what are you doing about it?

Related: CHROs Can Nurture Employee Growth By Focusing On Skills. Here’s How

To help you get started, I’ve outlined a few things to keep in mind.

Align Employee Development to Business Goals

If you’re not actively talking to your people about how their work matters to the greater good of the organization, you’re missing a huge opportunity to help them understand why their work is important.

I was raised in a service-to-others household, and my dad was a teacher and principal, so having purpose inform my goals and profession was ingrained in my brothers and me since we were little. When I became an HR leader, I’d often challenge people to answer any number of these questions:

  • What is the purpose and mission of your organization?

  • What are its big goals?

  • What are your specific goals and objectives?

  • Who must work with you to help you get your job done?

  • What are the decisions you can make?

  • What are the decisions you need to rely on other people to make for you?

  • And then ultimately, what does success look like?

If your employees can’t immediately answer those questions, it means they might be confused on the goals and how they are critical in reaching them. Creating context for your teams is a great opportunity for people leaders to step up and fill the leadership and data void. Here are two meaningful steps you can take.

1. Create a Dashboard

I should really call it a scoreboard, because it’s where you can see who’s succeeding and who needs to step it up.

At Life Time, we had a dashboard for team members. It always started with the company's mission and objectives for that given year. For example, the mission of Life Time was X and the objectives to fulfill that mission were Y. The objectives were typically financial.

The goals were largely operational and customer-focused, and they were broken down by department. The next step was to take the goals and build operational objectives off of them, so team members could connect their work back to the organization’s larger mission.

We always encouraged people to think about a healthy way of life. That was Life Time’s mission.

No two organizations will have the same mission, but most of them will have something that says who they are and what they stand for.

So finishing up my dashboard story, team members were crystal clear on how they fit in the organization, what they were empowered to do, and how their work impacted the organization. They felt connected to something.

The dashboard was a success because our mission aligned with our culture. Try to avoid the temptation to slapdash a mission statement together that isn’t true to your company’s core. Employees and candidates will see right through it.

2. Develop Them on Day One

As I'm talking to CHROs and talent executives around the country, I encourage them to ask new employees what they want to accomplish career-wise from the moment they start at the company. Let them know you’re thinking about their long-term professional development from the get-go.

HR executives should also reinforce this mentality to people leaders throughout the organization, since they’re the ones on the frontlines who will be engaging and nurturing employees day-to-day.

I realize how hard it is to break an old habit. It used to be that we’d want people to prove themselves, to put their head down and do their job and not ask about what could be next for them. It was almost looked at as disrespectful. Then in many organizations, years could go by before having The Talk. It would go something like this:

CHRO: “Jane, I see you’ve been with us for five years now. Hard to believe it’s been so long since you first joined the company. Tell me, where do you see yourself in the next five years?”

We have to break out of that mindset and ask the “where do you see yourself” question much earlier — like during new employee orientation. In fact, offer up to your new recruit the self-service career planning portal I hope your company has and encourage them to plan their “next” from day one.

Allow employees to create a plan for themselves in your organization. Let them develop the skills and competencies required to master their current role, with an eye on opportunities for their next role.

This becomes such a value-add throughout the employee experience.

I invite you to think about four things as we consider the benefits of career planning and employee skills and competencies.

  1. They improve retention.

  2. They accelerate development, so our employees are not only optimistic about today, but they can see their future in our organizations.

  3. They allow us to understand our larger workforce, and plan for the long haul.

  4. They reduce risk.

Why Their Work Matters

When you establish a clear link between employee development and business goals, employees understand what they were empowered to do and how their work impacts the greater good. People don’t feel like they are satellites floating around in space, but are actually connected to the whole.

Don’t assume talent feels magically connected to the business. Show them. People struggle to understand why their work matters.

It's important for us as CHROs to build a purpose filled methodology. It’s a fundamental aspect of human nature – to know that what we’re doing matters.

So back to your quarterly “All Hands” agenda. Certainly we should have the CEO speak and maybe even have a cutest puppy contest. But in between, if we’ve done the work on building culture and career development, invite your talent to share their stories of purpose and career growth.

You’ll find eyes and ears glued to your content, and people will say to themselves, “That could be me” or “I never thought about the company that way, hmm, I like that.

We as people leaders have so much opportunity to make a difference with those who make a difference to the bottom line. Using new powerful tools to build culture and career paths is a clear way to a winning company and an exciting All Hands meeting!

If you’d like strategic counsel on how to go about developing a dashboard, please connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s have that conversation.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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