Renowned British entrepreneur Richard Branson once said that business success is “all about people, people, people.”
That was never clearer than it is now, with the coronavirus pandemic offering unprecedented challenges to every organization in every sector. Dependable employees are invaluable. They are the connective tissue that has held organizations together, that has enabled them to push forward, despite everything.
Even before this crisis, there was quantifiable evidence that a CEO needs to not only find the right employees but train them, develop them and nurture them. The cost of a bad hire has been estimated to be anywhere from 25 percent to one and a half times his or her annual salary. Then there is the toll taken by an employee who is disengaged, as is the case a staggering 66 percent of the time. Given the high absenteeism/turnover rates of such workers, they can cost U.S. companies anywhere from $483 billion to $605 billion each year.
It is incumbent upon a leader to not only find people who are a good fit, but also to ensure they remain so. Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder, was acutely aware of that, to the point that he handled all his team’s hiring, interviewing some 5,000 candidates himself over the years. Others have underscored how important it is, once you get employees in the door, to provide an environment that is transparent and trusting. One with the best training, and the best perks. One where self-care is encouraged and micromanaging kept to a minimum.
Here are the areas where a business leader can bring out the best in each employee, which will in turn have far reaching benefits.
Skills only go so far. The same is true for a scintillating resume.
Compatibility is king. It is why Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer based in Las Vegas, goes to great lengths to discover how well a candidate might fit in the company’s culture. According to a post on Recruitloop.com, they do that in four ways:
- The Social Test -- where candidates meet informally with current employees;
- The “Nice Guy” Test -- where higher-ups quiz the driver of the airport shuttle about the way in which they were treated by prospects;
- The Service Test -- where newcomers are immersed in the culture by spending their first four weeks in the call center.
- The Ultimate Test -- where those same newcomers are offered $3,000 not to remain with the company, one week into their call-center training. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told Recruitloop that only two to three percent of the newbies take management up on the offer.
There are, of course, elementary ways in which companies can uncover the best and the brightest, not the least of which are running clear, specific ads about open positions, spelling out what the position entails, and getting referrals. But Zappos is clearly willing to go the extra mile, with telling results; it has made Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For.”
There is no one-size-fits-all approach in the Digital Age. A post on eLearning Industry recommends blended (or hybrid) learning, as certain skills (like those that demand physical action or personal interaction) are best taught in person, while others can be taught electronically.
Either way, that same post points out, it is essential to create a mission statement, so every employee is pointed in the same direction. Others have noted the necessity of a training manual, to reinforce in writing the points that might be made by instructors. And it is important to remember that not every candidate is at the same point on his or her learning curve -- that they will be approaching the material with differing levels of expertise. As a result, it is best to let them follow their own learning paths.
Finally, it is essential that soft skills be kept in mind. In this day and age emotional intelligence (or EQ, for emotional intelligence quotient) is of foremost importance. It has been found that the best leaders are those that do things like show a high degree of empathy, and if such skills can be passed along to employees, all the better.
Communication is at the head of this pyramid, as was once emphasized by former GE head Jack Welch:
“As a leader, you must repeat yourself until you want to gag, until you almost come to where you can't quite get it out one more time.”
It is particularly important to share with employees the company’s goals and vision, something that took on added importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, a Gallup survey showed that just 39 percent of employees believe their employer made its action plan clear when the outbreak occurred, and 48 percent believed their supervisor was keeping them up to speed about the company’s approach during the pandemic.
Trust is no less important than communication, and has taken on added importance during the pandemic, with the shift in certain occupations toward remote work. Even before this crisis, there was evidence that micromanaging had its drawbacks -- that there was value in giving employees autonomy, as it affords them the opportunity to take ownership of a given project, while also allowing the leader an opportunity to step back and review things from a higher-level perspective.
As for remote work, there were pre-pandemic studies showing that employees tended to be more productive in a home setting than in the office, not less so.
Trust goes a long way toward helping employees become their best selves. After all, morale is everything when it comes to engagement -- and that is of critical importance, now more than ever.