‘From the mailroom to the boardroom’ is no longer a phrase we hear often.
The world of work has changed significantly over the past several decades and continues to evolve.
Yet, while employees hardly ever remain with one company for their entire career these days, it doesn’t mean that businesses should stop focusing on developing their future leaders from within.
There are many benefits of bringing in external hires into the business.
But recruiting, training and developing an employee is expensive, and, given the current operating environment, extensive external hiring may not be high up on the list.
In addition, when employees leave, not only do businesses lose the institutional knowledge that leaves with them, they have to spend money on a replacement.
Leaders grown from within an organisation will be positioned for success in their new roles because they’re familiar with organisational challenges or growth areas compared to a person who is joining the organisation for the first time.
So, what can HR leaders do to focus on retaining their current employees and finding future leaders from within? We’ve put together seven top tips.
1. Invest in employee development
One of the best ways to develop future leaders is to invest in the continued learning and development of your current workforce.
According to research by Brandon Gaille, 20% of employees are more likely to stay engaged at work if given career development opportunities and training.
While many organisations have tightened their belts as a result of the global pandemic, organisations can still help their people to develop.
Whether through mentorship, courses, or access to books and learning materials for independent study, enabling employees to constantly learn and grow will incentivize them to stay within your business and become invested in its success.
2. Identify and act on areas where upskilling could be beneficial
Studies show that 27% of employees are more engaged at work and incentivized to stay within their businesses when they are offered more opportunities.
If you already have star employees who need experience in other specific areas to advance, rather than seeking to fill a role with someone from outside the company, proactively provide development in the employee’s growth area.
Even if there’s no future position in mind, this will help employees be more well-rounded and prepare them for opportunities that may arise later.
3. Establish consistent communication and goal setting
Ultimately, if your workforce feels that you are communicating honestly and authentically with them and know the importance of doing so, then they’ll feel valued in the business.
Throughout their employment with any given company, an employee will develop plans or goals.
Whether they’re interested in lateral moves or being future leaders, working with your employees on establishing their goals and tailoring your communication to focus on these periodically will ensure that they remain on track and that they’re not feeling stagnant.
4. Show appreciation
Recognition is a basic human need; it creates a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
Recognition can range from small rewards such as verbal praise or a congratulatory email to larger ones such as financial incentives.
However big or small the encouragement, demonstrating how much employees are appreciated will improve the retention and engagement of your workforce, while also positively reinforcing behaviours that you’d like to see repeated.
5. Build and grow positive relationships
Relationships with co-workers have been identified as one of the top drivers of employee engagement and can have a major effect on company loyalty, job satisfaction, productivity and more.
Encouraging your employees to develop strong bonds with each other through team-building activities and social events can be the difference between a workforce who simply performs their role and one that goes above and beyond.
Positive relationships characterised by trust, openness, and great communication will open the door for the types of coaching conversations that are essential to continued growth and development.
When team members know each other, share goals, and work together towards a shared mission, they’re able to drive results.
Having cohesion within a team fosters a sense of loyalty and commitment that increases the likelihood of people being accountable to one another and if one member of the team eventually rises to leadership status, they’ll have already established a strong working relationship in place.
6. Offer flexible and remote working
At the beginning of 2020, there was a spike in remote working due to the global pandemic. Yet, while remote working may be the new norm for many, flexible working may not be.
Even before the global pandemic, flexible working had become one of the most in-demand workplace benefits.
Now, as parents and carers continue to juggle their at-home responsibilities with continuing to work, now is a great time to support your employees to work flexibly.
While employers may be reluctant to allow employees to start early or late, work reduced hours or any other flexibility, research has found that it has become critical to retention and wellness.
Remote work doesn’t just benefit the staff, though – it allows businesses to consider the best possible candidates for any role.
Eventually, businesses that fail to implement flexible work policies will fall behind in the search for talent.
7. Boost employee wellbeing
When employees feel well, they bring their best selves to work.
Forward-thinking businesses have long encouraged a focus on holistic wellness – from building financial health by offering educational seminars, to providing perks around fitness, to broader policy changes around parental leave.
Broadly, wellbeing has been shown to increase productivity making it money well invested, with benefits for staff and businesses alike.
Ultimately, each business is different and employees have individual needs – while some employees would be driven by wellbeing policies and continued development on their path to leadership, others may prefer a focus on the relational components.
So, to understand what really makes your employees feel happy and motivated at work, it’s up to your HR and People team to find out.