As the Baby Boomers look toward retirement, the Generation Xers and Millennials are looking forward to filling the leadership roles that will be vacated. However, both small business owners and the next generation of leaders will face unprecedented challenges in the war for talent. As has happened in the past, people will continue to leave bosses, not jobs. But when people leave, there will be fewer top performers to fill key positions. The competition for talent will escalate, and only those companies who have hired bosses that no one wants to leave will be able to vie in the global marketplace.
Some estimates indicate that in a healthy job market, an unhappy employee will bolt for a comparable salary or as little as a 5 % pay increase, but it will take at least a 20 % increase to compel a satisfied employee to jump ship. A growing economy makes hiring tougher because it creates more jobs, leading to more competition for talent. Although people seem to agree that leaders want to be better bosses and companies want to hire better employees, the task of determining what that means seems daunting. I have listed ten ways to address this issue, but if you get the first one right, the other nine will take care of themselves.
1. Give your employees great bosses. Identify the thought leaders in your industry and then formulate a plan to attract them. These bosses balance firmness and fairness. They expect results but treat people well, too. They give frequent, balanced feedback about performance and constantly challenge their direct reports to play a bigger game. They delegate, not just jobs they don’t want to do, but also important work. They help their people respond to challenges instead of jumping in to fix things themselves.
They play an “A” game and expect the same of those who report to them. Similarly, they surround their “A” players with others like them Employees know how to “read” these bosses because they behave predictably. These kinds of bosses have few rules, but the ones that exist apply to everyone. They define what the goals are but leave the “how” to their direct reports. They model ethical behavior and well-honed interpersonal skills.
These leaders demonstrate strong critical thinking skills and dispassionate thinking. They know how to get to the core of a problem and how to avoid being distracted by inconsequential issues. Mature and calm, others realized they can depend on these leaders to lead, especially during chaos.
2. Tie your talent decisions to your strategy by identifying the changes that you will we make to your company in the next five years that will necessitate a different kind or level of talent than you currently have. Then, hire and promote leaders who can maintain a global perspective while running the day-to-day operations of the company.
3. Develop a systematic approach for hiring and developing stars. Don’t settle for those who can fill an immediate need. You’ll have some relief in the short run. But in the long run, you won’t have anyone who can move up the chain of command, and you will frustrate your stars if you force them to collaborate with mediocre talent.
4. Revisit your mission statement and make sure all key decision-makers embrace it. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why do we exist?
- Who are our best customer?
- Have these customers indicated they want something else from us?
- Who would miss us if we went away
5. Pinpoint the changes to the industry or market that will require a different kind of talent in your organization. Then, hire these people and develop them in your culture and processes. When you run a successful business, stars will want to work for you.
6. Ask yourself what winning-move changes your competitors could make to their talent pool that would put you in jeopardy. Get there first and draw the top performers to key positions.
7. Give customers what they want and build your company with people who understand that if customers are happy, little else matters. If they aren’t happy, nothing else matters.
8. Develop an ongoing plan of constant improvement to make your company one of the best places to work. Top performers realize that only those companies that treat their employees well and maintain a clear customer focus will be around for a long time.
9. When you build the company’s brand, realize you’re building both for customers and future employees.
10. Encourage senior leaders to build their personal brands in your industry so that people will decide to work for them, not just the organization.
As you make plans to make your small business a talent magnet, remember the words of two great philosophers. Winston Churchill pointed out, “Success is never final. Failure is rarely fatal. It is courage that counts.” And baseball great Yogi Berra advised, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”