Culture as a talent magnet.

Paul was 29 when his cousin convinced him to leave. At that point, he worked for a local bank as a cashier. He had worked this job for eight years and, at the beginning, he gave everything he had to the organization. He got to work early, served customers with a beaming smile and did everything he could to deliver the best results for the organization. At every appraisal, from the very first one, his manager acknowledged that he exceeded the organizations’ expectations and was a greatly valued member of the team. The HR manager said he could not attend the training workshops off-site because the team could not function without him. He had not been on leave because his job was so important and he was constantly called in to ‘help’ struggling colleagues. He had not been promoted or received a pay increase because, in the words of the CEO, it was a small company that was hardly breaking even in hard economic times.

As time progressed and as the team grew, he began to feel undervalued and unfairly treated. He struggled to remain passionate and positive and was overwhelmed by his ever-increasing responsibilities. His cousin told him that in France, he would reap greater reward for the effort he put in. He said that he would access many different opportunities both in jobs and business and told him stories about people they both knew. All he had to do was to work hard and remain focused. Therefore, he had to leave his family behind and only let them join him once he had settled down. It was easy and an agent was on hand to take him through the process. Paul resigned and paid the agent, not knowing his worst nightmare was about to begin.

While not all stories about immigration end badly, the loss of our critical talent to migration remains a cause of concern. We hear stories about individuals who leave their homes in pursuit of a better life, sometimes as immigrants, other times as refugees. What made them look at their surroundings and decide that, no matter the cost, leaving was better than staying?

Like in the case of Paul, these are often not lazy people who lack courage; they simply want to be in an environment where they can apply themselves and live a peaceful and fulfilling life as a result. The sad reality is that there are places where individuals, no matter how hard they work, cannot achieve their full potential.

How can organizations contribute to stemming the loss of our critical talent? By creating a workplace culture that enables individuals to thrive, increases retention and discretionary effort of employees as well as fosters passion. This requires an intentional culture development approach supported by inspiring and visible leadership.

Here are some points to consider for organizations interested in building an enabling culture:

  1. Organizational Intent: Is the intent stated in your mission consistent with the everyday actions of the leaders of the organization? Is your intent achievable through the things you emphasize in your strategy and how do you define success? Employee trust is built through alignment – what you say you want to do is what what you do.
  2. Communication: Do have a structured communication system that enables employees to receive and give information that is important and relevant to them and their jobs in a transparent, inclusive, responsive way? People want to participate and be heard. It makes them feel relevant and worthy.
  3. he Employee Journey: Is there a clear, fair and well-understood process to manage the employee journey from recruitment to exit and do you keep the promises made through your stated Employer Proposition? Is this process consistent and aligned to the organization’s intent? Everyone wants to be in the place they signed up to and to do what they signed up for.
  4. Structure: Are the policies, procedures and systems in your organization aligned to your context; your purpose, the skills and experience of your people and the capacity you have? We all want our best chance to succeed.
  5. Leadership: Are the leaders in the organization contributing to the development of others by coaching and mentoring their teams while modelling accountability, ownership and personal growth? Do leaders ensure that employees engage in meaningful work? We all want leaders that take us forward.
  6. Individual Consciousness: Does your organization concern itself with the consciousness of the employees from their point of recruitment and during their management? Are individuals encouraged to seek personal transformation through self-awareness? Self awareness enables self leadership, responsibility and ownership. Ultimately, we are happier when we feel we contributed to our results.

Until organizations address these principles, people like Paul, our star employees, will continue searching for greener pastures elsewhere, which has the potential to harm the individual, the organization as well as the broader economy. We need to create and environment for success, where our best people are motivated and happy to stay and invest for the long term.

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