By Tammie Calys, Transformation Management Consulting
Welcome back…I hope that you got a chance to recharge for the New Year! Before the holidays, we were discussing how integral a well thought out workforce plan is to your overall recovery strategy and the importance of engaging the team in driving changes.
We introduced three key pillars as the foundation on which the strategy should be built:
- Lead with a sense of vision, stability and control
- Understand the people on your team and workforce dynamics
- Make real people, not just “open positions” central to the strategy
In this post, we will share an example of how a production management team adopted this new approach, leveraged these 3 pillars and put their organization on the road to recovery. By taking a data-driven, talent-centered approach the company reduced attrition, improved productivity and gained a reputation as a great place to work making it easier to hire.
Situation: As a result of the pandemic and the introduction of new technologies and processes into their operations, the production operations group had experienced 66% turnover. The company’s brand and reputation were starting to be tarnished, production quality was suffering and there was tremendous friction among the team. Net result, they were on a course to lose $1.5M dollars annually.
Leadership determined they needed to rethink their overall strategy AND their talent strategy in order to reverse the current downward slide.
Leveraging Pillar One: Exhibiting Vision and Control
To demonstrate stability and control, leadership needed to clearly define the high-level vision for the group and make the team understand it.
Worked with the group leader to clearly state key objectives in all facets of “how work gets done.” Several areas were identified as key to the vision for the path forward:
- Increase team cohesion to improve team-level outcomes
- Improve employee engagement to increase productivity and retention
- Motivate employees to achieve results
- Foster a culture of professional development and promote from within
- Redefine the company’s brand and perception in the market
- Continue to implement new systems and processes
Once the key tenets of the strategy had been defined, the specifics were communicated to the team. A framework for actions that put specific expectations on the roadmap was also provided to allay some of the team’s concern and keep them engaged.
Building Out Pillar Two: Understanding the Team
Step two required the team leader to assess his own strengths and blind spots and also to gain a better understanding of each team member and what they could contribute to the path forward. Rather than relying on subjective information, the decision was made to use proven assessment tools for gathering objective data that could quickly highlight potential areas of disconnect with the strategic objectives.
The assessment revealed that the team leader was “results and discipline” focused and could be very hard driving without considering teamwork or the employee experience. That suggested that team members might be agreeing to ideas that they had hesitations about in order to avoid having difficult conversations. It was also determined that there were not enough “check-ins” to ensure team member’s needs were met and that no one was left behind.
Further complicating achievement of the “teamwork and employee experience” objectives outlined within the high level vision was a total void of leadership or team member strengths in leading. All the members of the team tended to gravitate more naturally to process or results. Given this, investment/engagement with employees from a leadership perspective or collaboration or consensus building among team members was lacking – most likely contributing to the turnover and friction among the team.
The fact that many of the team members were “process and precision” oriented was identified as being a strength in terms of ensuring processes were executed by the book. However, no one on team demonstrated traits associated with “innovation and agility” which would support embracing new ideas, adopting new approaches and changing market perception. Given the lack of balance, as new processes and systems were being introduced, agility challenges were leading to reduced productivity and employee disengagement.
Securing Pillar Three: Make the Team Central to the Strategy
Once the data was captured, it was time to engage the team members in better understanding the overall team and workplace dynamics and defining how they could contribute to achieving the business goals and developing the strategy for closing the gaps.
An workshop was facilitated with the team to share what the data revealed about the relationship between the team leader and the rest of the team, the team dynamics and their strengths and blind spots. The team uncovered their individual differences and unique work preferences and approaches. They found opportunities to collaborate as a team that would better recognize each other’s styles, leverage combined strengths, and improve their working relationship.
A second working session focused on how to execute on the key objectives that had been agreed upon. Overlaying the data of the “work to be done” with the people doing it, highlighted some challenges to be addressed.
The team started exploring areas where they could “stretch” in order to close gaps. Action plans were defined to tap into each team member’s strengths in a different. Mitigation plans were defined to address any blind-spots. They also defined a method for identifying and evaluating candidates who “rounded out” the team when filling open positions.
Several months after putting their collective plans into action, attrition had been cut by 50% and the on-boarding process for new associates was bringing talent with new ideas and experiences into the team. The company’s brand had been improved in the market to the point that many new members were being “won” from the competition. Production was up by 20% due in part to new processes that were now being more readily adopted, but also bolstered by increased employee engagement. The downward spiral had been reversed.
This is just one example of the power that comes from taking a “talent centric” approach to strategy and execution.
As we look ahead, 2021 offers the hope of a New Year, the hope of relief from some of the chaos that has plagued the workplace in 2020, and the hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. But hope is not a strategy and is not enough pave the road to recovery.
It’s time to consider exploring a new approach that better aligns your “people strategy and your business strategy” – ultimately you can’t achieve one without the other!