3 Offensive Strategies for Everyone in Your Company

Are you prepared?

This country is in the eye of an employee attrition storm—a storm that is disrupting businesses and industries across the nation. Businesses nationwide are in search of strategies for attracting and retaining good people.

Times are tough, work today remains blended and blurred. Return-to-office plans have been written, rewritten, delayed, shelved, and in some cases shredded. Work-from-home requirements from employers have turned into work-from-home expectations from employees.

Businesses are experiencing an unprecedented willingness of workers to simply quit. Or worse, they quit but stay. Leaders nationally cannot find people to meet pent-up demand and it’s keeping them awake at night.

Why? Well, consider the challenges.

Employees—particularly younger ones—increasingly expect the freedom to choose when, how, and where they work. Leaders are grappling with a post-pandemic workforce that values net freedom over net worth.

Employee turnover is forecast to be 50-75% higher than pre-pandemic levels. And it’s compounded by the fact that it is taking 18% longer to fill open positions.

Bad news, nearly half of US workers are actively in search of new opportunities. The good news, 52% say jumping ship or leaving, can be prevented.

And, if you think people are most interested in benefits like retirement, sick leave, parental leave, vacation, PTO, and flextime. Think again, these benefits are good, but not enough. Today, both young and older employees are even more interested in up-skilling, career growth, well-being, and culture.

The data is consistent and crystal clear, the two major reasons people jump ship are due to bad bosses AND a lack of career growth. And both are impacted by culture, an environment that either promotes or discourages career growth, well-being, and ultimately employee engagement. Engagement was trending up incrementally but unfortunately, since the pandemic engagement is now trending down.

High engagement fuels (and low engagement tanks) profits, productivity, performance, service, retention, safety, and well-being. So, reinvigorating team culture with a focus on engagement, growth, and well-being will have the greatest impact on attraction and retention.

For over 30 years we’ve been working with companies known as the best places, where the best people can do their best work. We work with leaders who know how to create compelling work environments. Environments that make it very difficult for employees to leave. More so than ever, companies are in search of strategies and insights for creating a best place. Just recently we led and facilitated a full-day event entitled: Leading for Retention: It’s Everyone’s Job.

no silver bullet!

In full transparency, we do NOT have a silver bullet for attracting the best people. Metaphorically, a silver bullet is a simple remedy, a sure-fire solution to a difficult, complex, and/or chronic problem. Once you use it, the problem goes away completely.

So, although there is no silver bullet for attracting talent, we can share a few ideas that may inspire some creative approaches to help you attract quality people and even more important, strategies for compelling people to stay. The bulk of this article is on suggestions for creating a best place where the best people can do their best work.

And regardless of your position, people leader, or individual contributor, everyone can suggest or request these ideas. Everyone can serve as a lifeline for others on the team or in the department. Everyone can draw people up or drag people down. The question is, what do you want to be known for?

So where do you start, recruiting or culture? Both and simultaneously.

You cannot invest in a kick-ass recruiting campaign, attract and hire high-quality people, and onboard them into a toxic department managed by a bad boss. The most significant factor influencing employee engagement is an employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor. And if that relationship is toxic or unhealthy people will leave.

Engaged people are involved and enthusiastic, they want to stay, they want to strive, and they are inclined to say good things, in other words, they are positive advocates for the brand. In most organizations on average approximately, 33% of your people are ALL IN (fully engaged) another 33% are on the fence and, 33% have quit but stay.

The 33% who quit but stay have become an epidemic sweeping across this country. Better known as the Dead People Working™ syndrome. These are people who show up physically, but they are intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically checked out. Dead People Working are known today as Quiet Quitters. Or even worse, they can be disgruntled, disloyal, distracted, and distracting to their colleagues.

Your best efforts are to focus on those who are on the fence and those who are highly engaged. Why? Because as noted, engaged people choose to stay, want to strive, and are more inclined to say great things about their work and team experiences. And highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization.

Gallup research suggests a time-tested path for increasing engagement is to double down on up-skilling & re-skilling managers. That means helping managers establish role clarity and develop coaching skills to increase accountability and performance. It’s evident when leaders focus on developing themselves AND improving the quality of the work experience for their teams, they can triple the positive influence on employees’ productivity, engagement, and retention.

So, what can you do? Two things…

  1. brainstorm creative recruiting strategies for attracting quality people and,
  2. simultaneously offer skill development for people leaders. Specifically, help leaders develop courage and curiosity skills and create a culture, an environment that encourages, enables, and rewards ongoing conversations.

Courage is rightly esteemed as the first of human qualities because it guarantees all others.

~Sir Winston Churchill

Up-skill managers (and individual contributors) with courage, curiosity, and conversation skills.

First, be sure to double down on leadership and people skills for your managers and supervisors. Anyone leading, managing, and supervising people must be given ongoing leadership development training. Ideally skills for becoming more courageous leaders.

Courage is a superpower. Winston Churchill said it best, “We are judged in the testing moments of life. In those moments, we are called to have courage. Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it guarantees all others.”

We think the most practical and profound description of courageous leadership is being tough on standards AND tender with people. Courage empowers and enables leaders to draw the best out of people and earn the respect required for holding people accountable to achieving high-performance standards.

People want to add value, we all want to walk away at the end of the day knowing our contributions matter. One of the best strategies for fueling value-added contributions is to provide opportunities for people to be awakened to new ideas, insights, and career opportunities. To increase retention leaders should focus on promoting and encouraging people to be curious to the core.

Courageous leaders focus on helping their people up-skill, re-skill and explore career paths forward. Notice we did not say career paths UP, we said FORWARD. Today the very best leaders are engaging in ongoing conversations with people to help pave the way for growth, learning, experimenting, transparency, development, and career pathing.

Remember it’s important to be offensive and preventative. The data suggests 52% of people who leave say, “It could have been prevented.” So don’t wait for signs of resignation and don’t allow it to happen to you! Retention is everyone’s job.

Here are a few strategies to consider. These are considered the things that matter most. Creating clarity and ongoing communication around these issues paves the way for increasing focus, engagement, and well-being.

Career Conversations:

Be warned, silent behaviors in organizations are becoming normalized. The paradox… we shout from anonymous digital platforms what we don’t dare share in a team Slack channel. We appeasingly log on, smile, nod and agree on Zoom calls and then “rage apply” to a countless jobs on LinkedIn, simply to blow off steam.

And do not be so quick to point the finger out and around the organization, managers are also guilty of quiet firing. And it’s not just about quitting, people are also quiet thriving, chaotic working and others are leaning into bare minimum Mondays.

At the heart of quiet quitting and its spinoffs is a feeling that we can’t speak up at work. Why? Either, people think it’s not safe to speak their minds or it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Bottomline, people don’t dare to share because they don’t believe their supervisor will do what’s right.

Career conversations should provide a safe, open and nonthreatening space for sharing and exposing land minds and taboo topics. It’s also important to explore possible strategies for doing the right thing.

Be sure conversations are two-way. They should not be led by the supervisor/manager. Ideally, both participants come with an open mind, and a desire to be curious. Do your homework, come prepared. Brainstorm together and sift through the issues and ideas with a spirit of openness. Check out our list of curiosity killers and curiosity accelerators.

Engage and participate with the mutual desire to improve transparency and engagement and to accelerate career growth and development.

Exploration Conversations:

These conversations are less about immediate promotions and more about exploration to inspire interest and engagement.

Start by identifying, defining, honing, and discussing your strengths and how your strengths can be more impactful across different functional areas.

Once strengths are defined come up with some strategies to learn, stretch, connect, explore, experiment, share, and gain greater exposure to other parts of the organization.

Discuss ways to spend time in other roles and functional areas. Is there another department or function where your strengths may add value by engaging in short-term assignments?

Get creative, consider options like:

  • a “borrowed brilliance” project,
  • a cross-functional collaboration,
  • a walk-a-mile (spend a day in another role), or
  • a short-term shadow, just to name a few.

Expectation Conversations:

Clarify job expectations. One of the most significant factors influencing low engagement is a lack of clarity around expectations.

Things shift and change so quickly, it’s important to check in on progress and discuss reds, yellows, and greens.

What are the reds, what’s getting in your way? Share all distractions/blocks/barriers impacting progress.

Discuss yellows, what’s causing confusion or delays?

Share and celebrate greens, and note and recognize small and big accomplishments and contributions.

Coaching & Accountability Conversations:

This is where everyone can practice courageous leadership. Remember courageous leaders dare to develop the potential in themselves and earn the right to draw it out of others. A courageous leader sets clear standards and holds people accountable to those standards with a tender heart.

Perhaps it’s helpful to borrow from one of the most winning coaches in basketball, Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs.

Popovich is known by his players to deliver two things over and over, “He’ll tell you the truth, with no bullshit, and then he’ll love you to death.”

Coaching and accountability are about delivering feedback as a gift, not a weapon. It is about sharing in clarity and kindness.

In fact, for Popovich, it consists of one simple phrase. “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

Feedback like this is extremely powerful. It delivers bursts of “I am for you” cues.

It communicates:

  1. You’re tough on standards (“I have high expectations.”)
  2. You’re tender/kind/compassionate with people (“I believe in you.”) and,
  3. You’re supportive and holding people accountability (“How can I support you, what do you need from me?”)

Well-Being Conversations:

More than 50% of employees report feelings of burnout and it is even higher for remote employees because of the blend and blur of work and life.

The good news is 80% of executives rate well-being as critical to an organization’s success. But, the unfortunate truth is, most executives admit that well-being typically falls to the bottom of a long list of other business priorities. Well-being needs to be taken seriously. Well-being impacts people’s willingness to stay and it directly impacts engagement and performance levels.

It is time to rethink the traditional corporate ladder for success. Perhaps Anne Marie Slaughter’s interval training metaphor offers a more timely and timeless approach to succeeding at work. It provides a more appropriate image of life and work as most of us know, navigates, and experience it. The interval training metaphor reflects the fact that we are real people who live complicated lives. Life and work cannot be compartmentalized, they are blended and blurred. Life is not always scripted and cannot be completely anticipated; it is riddled with change and uncertainty.

In fitness, interval training is a type of training exercise that involves a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity. When applied to work it sanctions and anticipates there will be times in life when you strive and lean into the job with intensity and focus and there will inevitably be times when you need to back off, recover and then re-engage.

For example, we have a client who within a week, three members of the executive team had unexpected family emergencies that disrupt their life and workflow. For one, his father passed away, for another an adult son went in for unexpected surgery and for the third, his mom went in for a breast biopsy. Each family event required all three of the executives to back off professionally and step it up personally.

The question becomes, does your culture give you this kind of freedom? Do you have the freedom to back off professionally and focus on personal priorities when life requires a shift in focus and energy? Is there a stigma attached to how long you’re out? Or does your culture have your blindside and do whatever-it-takes to support your personal needs and overall well-being?

Beyond a bad relationship with an immediate supervisor and a toxic culture, two other things get in the way of well-being. Fear and fatigue.

Our daughter is a Flight Medic for Intermountain Healthcare Life Flight. Life Flight has a Red Status protocol, a time reserved to recover from fatigue, critical incidents, or significant decontamination. There’s a reason for this kind of protocol. Deploying a red status is intended to increase safety, minimize mistakes, and maximize well-being.

What can you do to create a Red Status, a protocol that provides time and space to rest, recover and reboot from a difficult shift, incident, project, conversation, or failure?

If your culture doesn’t provide this kind of freedom people can become fearful and/or fatigued. Critical decisions and important work should not be done when under fear or fatigue. People perform best when they are rested, confident, safe, and at peace.

Do not wing it!

Make all of these conversations worthwhile and beneficial. Set your intentions in advance of the meeting so you can plan and prepare. And be sure these conversations are not one-and-done.

Career conversations are not annual performance reviews, and frankly, annual reviews are a tired practice of the past.

You should be engaging in these kinds of conversations at least quarterly and ideally every 2 months depending upon the nature of your job. The more frequently you engage in them the more proficient you’ll become.

Recruiting Strategies

Here are a few ideas to help you kickstart a brainstorming session on creative recruiting strategies:

  1. Experiences
  2. Open Houses
  3. Career/Job Fairs
  4. Camps

If your recruiting efforts are all online, well… good luck!

Although AI has come a long way, people are people and most people want to belong to a like-minded community in pursuit of common interests and goals. Online recruiting is impersonal, so if the job requires no people or relational skills then perhaps online is good enough.

However, today the market is highly competitive and if the job does require teamwork and interpersonal skill then it’s time to get offline or at least add to it. Grow your competitive edge by offering in-person experiences to enhance and enrich the online screening process.

We are an experience economy. People are far more inclined to show up for something unique and unusual. It’s time to think about how you can shake up your recruiting and hiring efforts to create EXPERIENCES WORTH attending. Rally some of your creative team members and brainstorm ideas for making the recruiting process memorable, engaging, and unforgettable.

Open Houses. Host open houses for internal and external candidates. Open houses offer a non-threatening environment for people to explore, learn and connect. Open houses are also great opportunities for employees to represent the business and practice their skills at being interesting ambassadors and advocates.

Career/Job Fairs. Think beyond traditional career/job fairs where the standard is meet/greet, handshakes, card swaps, banners candy bowls, tchotchke, and flyers. Create engaging experiences that cause people to participate in activities and learn about your business.

For example, if you represent the Fire Service, instead of sending a seasoned Captain to sit at a table in uniform why not invite interested candidates to participate in turnout relays, putting turnouts on, and rushing to a target?

One of our clients hosted an internal career exploration open house. Each department engaged in creative ways to promote their functional contributions and responsibilities.

One department created a Jeopardy-like gameshow to grow product and service knowledge. The event gave people in functional areas creative license and offered all employees a deeper understanding of the larger organization.

Camps. Many of our clients host summer internships, camp-like experiences that allow candidates to experience, add value and work onsite. Internships give both parties (candidates and employers) the opportunity to test chemistry and gauge fit.

In other professions, first responders (fire, healthcare, law enforcement) offer exploratory camps that give candidates the freedom to explore, connect and engage in activities to test their skills and pique their interest.

Our daughter designed and hosted a camp for teenage women to explore careers in the Fire Service. She rallied community sponsors and the department hosted 25 young women for three days of speakers, panels, and activities like rope repelling, vehicle extrication, victim searches, and firefighting simulations. The camp offered an exciting experience and introduction to the fire service and became an organic and effective recruiting strategy.

Rally a diverse team of bold and big thinkers, borrow from these experiences and come up with your own creative recruiting initiatives.

Again, do not wait. MOVE! Work on recruiting and culture simultaneously.

Once you attract, hire, and onboard high-quality people, you have to deliver. It’s imperative to develop courageous, curious, and conversation-driven people who are committed to and invested in professional growth and personal well-being.

If you’d like to explore a workshop designed for your team. We customize our programs around your desired outcomes. info@freibergs.com

We’ll follow this article with tips and tools for:

  1. Striving in the work you do and,
  2. Saying the right things to build your business/brand reputation.