An unprecedented more than 40 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the U.S. over the past 3 months. By every business metric this statistic paints a dark and gloomy picture for our economy, both now and for the foreseeable future. But there is at least one glaring silver lining of opportunity for companies and leaders who recognize it and act decisively.
In the history of our planet, there has never been such an abundance of A+ talent available and looking for work. Granted, of the over 40 million that filed for unemployment in recent months, a good number are just fine with coasting on the free ride of government programs and stimulus checks for as long as they will hold out. That group has always been there and always will be. But what’s different today is there is also an unprecedented number of highly talented, driven and positive go-getters who are eager, self-motivated, and actively looking for a great place to work.
But how do you attract those A+ recruits? What do employees want most in a post covid-19 world? I’ve posed this question to more people than I can count, at every level from hourly employees to CEOs, and the answer is consistent across the board. People want security and clarity.
The problem, of course, is that no company can promise or guarantee absolute security and clarity, not in the past, and certainly not today. In fact, company leaders themselves wish they had more security and clarity in their own lives, both personally and for their organizations, so how can they possibly offer something to others that they don’t possess themselves?
The good news, however, is that the COVID-19 crisis has created a common interest in today’s workforce, and a window of opportunity for employers. Because of all the chaos surrounding this pandemic, including the subsequent lay-offs, furloughs, cutbacks, and outright closures, there is now something all employees want. They want to be and feel “essential.”
We’ve heard this term over and over since the pandemic struck, but it is something most companies and leaders have never considered on a personal level.
Think about it, for the past few months millions of people have been labeled “non-essential,” felt “non-essential,”, and been treated as “non-essential.” Consider the impact this has on a person’s self-confidence, outlook, and personal identity? Now also consider that type of relationship you will have with employees you treat differently. How do you make them feel essential again?
I know this personally because I have experienced it firsthand. Once gatherings were banned, my 25-year business as a speaker was completely wiped out in a matter of days. Poof, I was no longer essential, (or so they say). Fortunately, I have a variety of other revenue streams, and I am completely committed to those clients who treat me as essential in those services, but most people aren’t as fortunate as me. They have no other revenue streams or back-up plans. Being “non-essential” is their new reality.
Hair stylist, you’re not essential. Restaurant workers, you’re not essential. Millions of employees across thousands of companies representing hundreds of industries have been told, “Sorry, but you are no longer essential -- but don’t worry, we’ll hire you back when things are better.”
Is there any doubt how that scenario is going to play out? Will these people trust and be loyal to their future employers? For those that return to your workforce, what kind of attitude will they have towards their job, their leaders, and their company as a whole? No one wins long term in this scenario, except the leaders who take a different approach.
Now is your golden opportunity as an employer to attract the best and brightest and most talented workforce you’ve ever had, and all you have to do is focus on one thing: make every employee feel essential. This is a powerful distinction because being recognized and treated as “essential” communicates the sense of security and clarity everyone currently desires, but no one can outright promise.
And believe it or not, it is really not that hard. But it does take leaders who understand the key difference between management and leadership, and that difference is coaching. Managers who never learn how to develop talent and inspire greatness, (i.e. coaching), never advance beyond management roles. True leaders, on the other hand, know the primary function of their job as a leader is to help their people advance. In other words, their job as a leader is to “train ‘em to go.” To make their employees so valuable that they have many opportunities for advancement, which in turn makes them essential.
There are countless ways good leaders make their employees feel essential. Each will use their own style and experiences, leverage their unique tools and resources, and emphasize what’s important to their individual team members. But if you’re not developing your leaders to understand these nuances and strive to bring out the best in their teams, you’ll seldom if ever have employees who feel essential. Because of this, you’ll never attract or keep the best talent.
Doug Hanson is the President of Doug Hanson Performance Group, an organization committed to helping people and the organizations they work for Become Greater! He is an award-winning speaker, author, and leading authority on creating an engaged workforce, and the creator of MetaMorePhosis.com, a revolutionary and validated approach for creating energized and self-directed employees through personal transformation.
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