Did you use a No. 2 pencil when you were in school? After filling in some bubbles on an exam, that pencil started to get dull, right? Sometimes it even broke! What did you do when that happened? Did you throw it away? Replace it with a new one? Or did you sharpen it, bring the point back and keep moving?
We live in a society of consumerism, and our default state of being is to keep acquiring things. If we’re conscientious, we use something until it no longer works, and then we buy a new one. We rarely try to fix things — if things are even made to be fixed anymore. We can see the impact of this mentality not only in the way we buy things but also in the way we approach work.
When people are in a job that no longer works for them, instead of trying to fix it or see what the root of the issue is, they start to look elsewhere and eventually take a new job. After a little while, they see that company also has challenges, so they decide to look again. And the cycle continues.
We’ve seen this on the employer side as well. Companies invest millions of dollars in talent acquisition services and technology. But how much do they invest in employee retention? Do they invest in learning and development? When an employee shows a dip in productivity or a gap in skills, do they throw that employee away for a new one, or do they sharpen them back up again?
The “war for talent” is misguided. If you’re always looking for new people to replace your current people or you need to keep looking for new people to replace people who are leaving you, you’re trying to solve the wrong problem. You’re consuming your employees. Why not think about what you can do to encourage your employees to stay? How can you invest in employees to help them become fulfilled again? How can you help them learn new skills and sharpen their brains?
When you’re focused on talent acquisition, remember this: Talent isn’t talent until it’s developed. You can hire someone with a specific background into your organization, but unless you give them the tools and resources to thrive in your environment, you’re not going to realize their full potential.
The solution here is to invest in talent development. Investing in training, development and coaching for your employees yields an average of a 50% return on that investment. On the flip side, the cost to hire is astronomical, and if you’re losing people after just one year (21% of millennials said they’ve changed jobs within the last year, according to a recent Gallup poll), you are seriously throwing money out the door trying to solve the wrong issue.
Now, we know this isn’t totally one-sided. Social media has influenced the way we interact with the world in so many ways (hey, you’re probably reading this article via social media!). It has also left a negative impact in that it only shows the highs, the wins, the celebrations. It doesn’t show the work that it takes to get to that point: the challenges, the fear, the frustrations.
Employees might be having a rough day at work (it happens), and they see that their friend just got a promotion. Suddenly they think there’s no potential for them where they are. They feel stuck. The good thing is that you, their employer, can change this. You can ensure every employee has the potential to make something of themselves.
You can provide them with a mentor who has been in their shoes before and can guide them through the naturally uncomfortable process of growing and learning. You can show them that the moment of frustration and pain they’re experiencing is what gets them to the other side and makes a project an accomplishment. Without support and guidance, your employees are more likely to call it quits and seek greener pastures.
Another option is to work with a career coach — someone who can guide employees through the hurdles they’re facing in a thoughtful, individualized, goal-oriented way. This type of coaching can allow your employees to make thoughtful decisions about their careers. It can help them uncover and use the tools they need to claim success for themselves — and for your company— along the way.
Some companies are already empowering their employees in this way, and they will be the ones who continue to outperform others. If you’re looking to emulate a company like Netflix that’s known for continuous innovation and success, there’s a very actionable thing you can do to start: Give more power back to your people. Give them access to programs where they can find their path and build their skills. Give them the power of support.