When people are invested in doing rewarding work in an organization that fosters their professional development, good things happen. They are more productive, less distracted, and more likely to stay on-board.
Engagement happens because the leadership of the organization commits to creating a climate where talent development is a priority, not an afterthought.
Organizational climate is the work environment characterized by the conditions that lead to successful performance. The culture that’s created is how people experience the climate. It becomes the job of leadership to focus on the climate so that the organization reinforces the quality of work and the extent to which employees are engaged in what they do.
What Is Organizational Climate?
Climate consists of five major elements:
- standards: the job-related expectations for individual and group performance
- responsibilities: the critical tasks that define the requirements of a job
- clarity: the extent to which roles and responsibilities are clearly defined
- engagement: a level of personal commitment created by meeting individual needs and organizational outcomes.
- recognition and rewards: how desired behavior is recognized and how nonperformance is dealt with.
The key to a productive work environment is the alignment of standards, responsibilities, and clarity with appropriate recognition to reinforce expectations. When these align, the result is personal engagement.
On the other hand, when standards are not set or responsibilities not clear, the work environment is confusing, if not frustrating. Throw in the tolerance for sub-standard performance and you see frustration, particularly among your A players. If they jump ship, it would be a disaster.
The Leader’s Role in Creating a Productive Work Environment
If leaders want to create an engaged workforce, they must create the conditions for success. Understanding that everyone is not motivated by the same thing, the leader’s role is to make sure that, for each person on the team:
- Expectations are clear.
- Feedback and communication are ongoing.
- Roadblocks to successful performance are removed.
Admittedly, everyone is different. By focusing on climate, a leader approaches each team member with the mindset of creating the conditions for successful performance for that individual.
Retention, the official term for hanging on to talent, is a well-conceived and well-executed process that begins the moment someone is interviewed for a position and lasts until the moment that person leaves the organization. Retention is not a diving catch meant to save an individual when they have one foot out the door.
The Elements of Talent Development for Retention
Selection and Onboarding
Savvy organizations know and appreciate the value of first impressions. They make the selection process memorable for its clarity, precision, and choreography. Each candidate, whether hired or not, can be an advocate for your organization. Onboarding represents the beginning of an important dialogue about what’s important for individual and organizational success. The organization and the individual commit to make this an ongoing conversation.
Performance management is far more that the performance appraisal. It is the extension of the dialogue between manager and direct report about goals, activities, and opportunities, then translated into objectives that can be measured against outcomes. It is a continuous calibration driven through communication and feedback.
Professional development is the catalyst for engagement and retention. In my experience, it is the investment in professional development that builds organizational capacity and improves retention unlike any other element of talent development. Highly competent individuals groove on the quality of their work and relish the expressed appreciation and respect for a job well done. They want to know where they stand, how they’re performing, how they get better. They welcome and rely on feedback from a trusted resource and from others they respect. They thrive when their managers are effective leaders and even better coaches.
Everyone leaves at one point or another. Believers and practitioners of talent development know this, but they also know there can be a line at the door of people who want to come work for them.
Retention Taps Into Engagement
Money, benefits, beer blasts, company sportswear, and cafeterias, while important and fun, don’t drive retention, particularly for top talent.
Talented employees want to engage in exciting work with people that care. They want to have fun and work with interesting and committed individuals. They want to feel pride in their work. They accept failure as necessary for stellar performance. They want appreciation for their accomplishments.
As is so true with all the important things in life—things like love and diets—retention is a process, not an event.
Want to hang on to top talent? Be a great boss who respects and challenges your employees to do great work. Be a great coach. And yes, springing for pizza and beer every so often doesn’t hurt.