In this week’s blog post, we’re sharing insights based on our second interview with Helen Fanucci, a Digital Transformation Sales Leader, Team Builder and Strategic Thinker at Microsoft. She is also an Educational Counselor for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she recruits and interviews the next generation of technology leaders.
Helen has started her career as an engineer, as a graduate from MIT and started working for IBM. She shares, shortly into her career, she has realised that she didn’t want to be in the back room, making technology, but out in the front with customers, helping them use technology for business benefits and outcomes. With this continuous mindset and some good fortune of being in great organisations, she could be in roles where she’s helping customers utilize technology most effectively. Gladly, Microsoft has been in the front lines, when it came to helping customers transform rapidly when the pandemic hit. This time we are focusing on strategies for attracting and retaining talent in the age of change.
Effect of the Pandemic on the Shift of Expectations
The pandemic has caused everyone to focus on what really matters to them and quite a few extra challenges and opportunities on work-life balance. One of the biggest ones was to adjust to working from home. This also means that a lot of companies are now expecting flexibility to work from anywhere. And in fact, flexibility is considered currency, where people could negotiate a 30% less income if they can work from anywhere. And as we’ve progressed through the pandemic, a lot of companies have realised that they have to adjust to the fact that a lot of employees aren’t willing to come back to the office. This has also made the power to shift from the employer to the employee and in a talent shortage. In fact, in America, 4.3 million people quit their jobs in the month of August alone, as now they know they can find better opportunities while working from the comfort of their home. The data further shows that 60% of employees are feeling dissatisfied or disengaged meaning that now the companies need to be more competitive to keep their talents — especially in the innovation economy.
As things have turned upside down, now the companies must adjust or they risk losing the talent, not retaining the talent. A lot of companies have implemented hybrid working, where the employees could come to the office on some days, and also arrange team building activities to keep the employees engaged. In some other examples, companies such as Amazon announced that it was up to the managers to decide whether or not their teams come back to the office and what kind of work arrangement they have. What is very important about this stance is that it has made the importance of proper management skyrocket further, as they are on the frontline to retain talent.
Rethinking the Talent Strategy to Retain Employees
The changes also brought an increase in freelancing and starting an online business as the barrier is now much lower thanks to various platforms bringing flexibility rather than a rigid employee concept. Stress, burnout, and mental health issues have also become much more prevalent. This has also increased the acceptance of taking a step back from work or going into the gig economy. With this extent of change, it’s very critical for companies to really rethink their talent strategy because without talent they can lose competitiveness.
Helen shares that in order to retain talent, Microsoft implemented a new program and expectation for managers called model coach and care. Essentially this is for managers to model the behavior that they can expect of their employees towards building culture and proper interaction. This modeling also means for managers to be willing to support the team and help out with their employee’s tasks if needed. For example, particularly if somebody’s going on vacation, the manager should be able to step in. Another important thing is to ensure that the team can be empowered by helping them to improve with proper feedback and guidance in a number of different topics related to the function they are working on, as well as their soft skills.
On that note, caring for employees and caring for the work they are doing has become all the more important, to the extent that managers are able to build an actual relationship with their team. Employees now expect that you’re not just treating them as an employee, but engaging with them as a whole person more broadly and on a more personal level. Although this might sound odd in the first glance, it is an important factor in retaining employees because it allows you to understand their needs, their concerns, their aspirations, and how you can support them on terms that matter to them and building trust — quite similar to how you’d like to treat your customers as well for a successful business.
Performance Management in a Remote Environment
Being able to manage employees regardless of where they work from is a big step the companies must start implementing. Remote management requires that managers should be setting performance expectations based on outcomes or deliverables rather than the time on job or other things that don’t bring equal impact. Managers that are not accustomed to managing outcomes should definitely start building this skill alongside performance management. For building a high-performing team, managers should have a mechanism to check points to see their employees are progressing along the way- especially in a sales organization. You can also look at the pipeline and check interim results. It’s important to also engage with the employees and have conversations on different topics based on business value and transformation or building trust, rather than only revenue based conversations. This will serve as a performance indicator or an expectation. Setting clear performance expectations and being able to do that remotely as an important skill. These calls can range from work-life balance or coaching calls to seeing how they have interacted with the other executives or account strategy. Taking these extra steps rather than focusing on only the main responsibility they have towards their work is crucial to retain talent as otherwise you may not have any indication to see if they are committed to their jobs.
Helen suggests that when you’re focusing on retaining talent, you need to think of your employees as customers and what you can do to help out with what your employees really care about, and how you can empower your employees to be more successful with their career aspirations.
Balance Your Focus on Attracting and Retaining Talent
It’s crucial to make sure that your employees really are top talent and that they are delivering the impact and expectations that you require. If they aren’t, you should be asking yourself if you have been clear about your expectations and if you are supporting them in a way so that they can actually deliver what you’re asking of them. If you focus on retaining the talent alone rather than also making sure that you are attracting talent, you may not have a strong base in the company to elevate your business to another level. But of course, if your only focus is to attract the talent rather than retaining, you might end up attracting people only to have them leave six months down the road — which would be a waste of time and resources for the company. On that note, really focus on providing clarity to your team, have clear results, focused expectations, and then support them and support their success and not just at work, but consider them in terms of their whole life and how you can best support what they care about.
For now, this sums up the key points of our interview. As the Global Risk Community team, we once again thank Helen Fanucci for her insight on leadership and talent management. More information about this topic is available in our original interview, which is accessible here.
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