Take Your Temperature!

February 27, 2015

The Good and the Bad. I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: the economy is improving. I’ll leave it to the economists to explain why or how we can tell. What I see is an increase in consumer confidence, which means more people spending money, which means a call for manufacturers to make more stuff for us to buy. That’s a good thing for those of us in business—more money coming into our businesses again.

Now the bad news: the economy is improving. I know it’s an old joke but this means that the fire sale on employees is basically over. And since we are making more stuff and will need more people, the job hunter is starting to have more options. You are no longer going to be able to get over-qualified people to work for what you used to pay an entry-level person.

Supply & Demand. The increase in open positions also means that our current employees, who in years past were, in fact, happy to have a job, also have other options. That includes the opportunity to leave, especially for those that haven’t been happy for a while. A survey last year by Career Builder found almost half of all current employees report that their jobs have no meaning. That makes it real easy to walk away at the first headhunter call. They also found that 21% of current employees are ready to leave right now. As demand goes up supply becomes more valuable!

However, the news is not all bad, and the opportunity is to figure out how to retain and attract talent better than the competition. The opportunity is to make sure that we are helping our employees do meaningful work, including making sure that they know how important their work is—to you, to your company, and to your customers. Good leadership and effective management are becoming critically important again and there are a few things you can do to set the course.

People need Meaning. First off, make sure that your employees connect with the mission of your organization. What does your company do that’s worth doing? And don’t skip the second half of that question—that’s the part where the meaning lies. Do they know how their job fits into the big picture? What a difference their job makes to the final customer or end user? I am always surprised to meet people who know what they do, but don’t really know why. Help your people discover the value—the meaning—in what you do. It’s easy to leave a widget making job, it’s harder to leave a job that makes life better for others.

People need to be Valued. Secondly, make sure that your people know that what they do matters to you. Do they feel that their piece of the process, no matter how small, is important? If not, it’s up to you to tell them. That might be the most important job a leader has, providing feedback to others. Tell your people that they are doing good work and that you’ve noticed, and they will know that their work matters. Tell them nothing (it is their job, after all), and they will feel like nothing. The former breeds loyalty; the latter sends them to the want ads.

So is the improving economy good news for you…or bad news? Our engaged, committed employees are not easily lured away, because they know that what they are doing matters, and that they matter. Why would anyone want to leave that?

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