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Be the Organization People Love not the One People Leave

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Ideas on how to keep talent by combatting employee disengagement

In a recent poll, ADVISA asked its followers on LinkedIn and Twitter what business challenge concerns them most in the year ahead. Of the four options offered, “losing top talent” and “a disengaged workforce” were the two most popular selections, with 75% of respondents picking one or the other over “loss of organizational culture” and a “leadership gap”.

keep talent and engage your workforce

As a leader, neither of the two top choices surprise me. I, too, have been concerned about losing folks during such an unprecedented time. And, with any number of employees working remotely on any given day, disengagement is a constant threat. As a result, our leadership team has spent hours discussing ways in which we can bolster engagement, promote our values, live out our culture, and connect better with team members so we don’t run the risk of losing folks to the “Big Quit”.

Here are four ways we have either tested or recommended to organizations so they can keep talent by combatting employee disengagement.

Spin Spiderwebs of Connection

It probably sounds trite but connecting with employees beyond an email or chat is one way to combat disengagement. After all, team members who are working all alone tend to feel disconnected over time. However, in this scenario we are creating and nurturing unlikely connections. Instead of encouraging individual contributors to connect with the people they already speak to on the most frequent basis, initiate a new connection point to them on the “other side of the web”. Then, give these groups a purpose and reason to connect.

We have found success in a book club approach. We have our tried-and-true reads that we gift to new hires each year. Instead of handing them over and expecting the new team member to read them all by the end of the quarter, we ask team members to volunteer and lead the book club. Meetings usually last an hour and occur once every two to three weeks. During that time, we are able to connect new hires with tenured employees who are passionate about the author or title. It’s a great way to welcome new team members and to encourage unlikely connections between departments and job titles.

Leverage Technology to Check-in Frequently and Consistently

This has been a more recent shift for ADVISA since the pandemic scattered our somewhat centralized team to what can often feel like the four corners of the world. Instead of scheduling bi-weekly or monthly check-in calls (that often don’t check all the boxes for team members and managers alike), we’ve adopted a new performance management process through our partner 15Five. 15Five is a SaaS platform that powers a consistent cadence of touchpoints between employees and their leaders that has breathed new life into our hybrid work environment. It has also made the process of cascading top level Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to individual contributors far easier than ever before.

The result? Managers are able to review weekly check-ins online, ask questions, and create meeting agendas that are topical and timely. Additionally, team members are regularly drawn back to the goals they are responsible for so as not to lose track of the purpose behind the actions.

Create Surprise and Delight

Everyone expects a monthly team Zoom. But what if the day before the meeting, employees received a Starbucks gift card for their morning coffee during the meeting? From beloved ADVISA swag to even a favorite bottle of wine or six pack of beer to celebrate Happy Hour, we have worked to surprise our team even when we can’t be together.

Surprise and delight don’t have to come in the form of a gift. It can be as simple as a handwritten note on organizational stationery. The point is showing your employees you’re thinking about them even when they aren’t in the office next door to you anymore.

Take it on the Road

As travel restrictions change and variants subside, take a few days each month to get out on the road with remote workers. Whether it’s a drive from Indianapolis to Lafayette, Indiana or a flight to Bozeman, Montana, spend a half day or more with those employees who don’t get as much face time with leadership.

Use your time together to plan for the month, quarter, year, etc., check in on their wellbeing and stress levels, and reconnect with them as humans. In other words, don’t make it an afternoon of meetings at your hotel. Have dinner together, take walks if the weather permits it, and use the trip as an opportunity to strengthen your own personal connection to the employee.

Understandably, what works for one organization may not work for another but I’m a big believer in sharing what has worked for ADVISA if for no other reason than to provide hope and potentially spark creative solutions for others. If you have other tips for creating magnetic connections with your employees, please share them as a comment below. I’d love to learn more about what other organizations are successfully doing to become workplaces people choose to love vs. choose to leave.


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If you enjoyed this article, you should check out “How to build work-life balance into your company culture”, also by ADVISA’s President, Heather Haas.

And don’t miss this article from Leadership Consultant and EQ-certified Coach Kye Hawkins on emotional intelligence and its impact on effective leadership.