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Empower Your People Leaders To Survive The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation, contrary to popular belief, isn't just about money. It's about fulfillment, connection, burnout, growth and so much more. How do you go about solving such a broad-reaching problem? Look to the people leaders of your organization. They have the opportunity to create a workplace where team members want to stay and give their best work.


People leaders run the people function of your organization, often donning titles like Head of People, VP of People Ops or Chief People Officer. They are some of your most critical assets and are leading the people revolution with the opportunity to fix the engagement problem we’ve been experiencing for over two decades.


However exciting this revolution is, they still have several hurdles to overcome. More often than not, people leaders aren’t given the proper resources, funding or authority to make the changes and decisions necessary to help their people.


Authority. This should be the first thing you look for when determining if you should partner with a company. Does the company truly value its people? Or is it just lip service? Hire people leaders and then give them the authority to run their departments. Trust these leaders as key assets in helping the business scale and evolve your people as they continue to grow and evolve themselves. Unfortunately, companies often preach the importance of their people, hire a people leader and put surface-level programs in place. But when it comes down to making real progress, to take real action, they don’t give the people they’ve hired the power to put their plans in motion.


Funding. People leaders either don’t have sufficient funds to make the real change their organization is expecting, or they have funds but don’t prioritize the employee experience enough to even see the possibility of investing in their people. So they typically allocate some funds available to their people team — an amount good enough to start something, but not sufficient funds to make real, sustainable change. They might be able to fund a few hours of training per leader, but not much more. This is how startups and maturing organizations have done it, so when they talk to peers or look at their prior experiences, it seems like they are allocating enough funds toward training. This thinking is what keeps us stuck in the past, in a world of work where only a small percentage of team members are engaged; a world where your company is out to grow revenue, but not grow you. If you truly want to evolve and develop your people, it doesn’t happen in a few hours. It takes a long-term commitment to training and development, with dozens of hours of training and practice over months and years, not just weeks.


Resources. Perhaps your organization's people team is given the green light and sufficient funding to invest in the development of your people. The next challenge I see teams face is the lack of actual resources for the people team itself.


So, is your people team properly staffed?


Headcount on people teams is primarily focused on the talent team — the team charged with enabling the company to double in size this year. These roles are critical and necessary. However, where you may fail to invest is in the roles needed to onboard, train and develop those 200 new hires. This is often left to a small handful of people who are expected to be Jills and Jacks of all trades. This can cause the fourth and most pressing challenge.


Time. One of the other critical elements I see most people teams struggle with is time. There are a ton of initiatives to lead, whether it’s revising their onboarding process, creating a manager 101 training, implementing a new performance management tool or leading a DEI initiative. There is a ton on their plate and finding the time to get it all done is tough. The real need here is prioritization; less is more.


Often, people teams think that variety and quantity of options are what their people need; it’s what their people may be asking for. But when you implement five to 10 different initiatives in a year, it’s hard to make anything stick, let alone find the time to really imbed these topics into the fabric of your organization and to create organizational norms out of them. This is the crux of the issue.


Without properly dedicating the time and space to make something so common that it’s become slang, a part of your company lingo, your common language, then it’s not going to be repeated or remembered in the next three months, let alone a year. Identify two to four key areas of focus for your people team and anchor deep into that over the course of the year. Maybe you don’t know all four right now. And yes, you should to be flexible to the team’s needs over the year, but that doesn't mean adding training for every request. Instead, connect the business needs back to your core initiatives and make sure they are integrated into all aspects of the employee and leader experience. When you do this, you start to think more about how you can reinforce a concept through a new theme or challenge the company is facing instead of introducing an entirely new solution.


If you want to create an environment where your people are excited to sign in to work, want to be an integral part of the team, look forward to growing and evolving over the course of years, not months, within their organization, then you should start empowering and enabling your people leaders with the tools, resources and clout to make that new world a reality.


Originally posted in Forbes on 2/18/22.


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