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3 reasons you’re losing the war for talent (and how to fix it fast)

The majority of Americans need to work and want to work—they just want to feel valued by their employer.

3 reasons you’re losing the war for talent (and how to fix it fast)
[Source images: arthobbit/iStock; GeorgeRodd/iStock]
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Any business leader will tell you their number-one problem is finding good people. Even after costly recruiting and hiring initiatives, they just can’t seem to fill their personnel pipeline. Many of those leaders, however, fail to realize that the “good people” they seek may be already on their payroll or have recently departed for a company that treats them better. 

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Those leaders don’t have a recruiting problem; they have a retention problem.

It’s true that lower-wage workers may have opted to remain on unemployment rather than returning to work. But the majority of Americans need to work and want to work—they just want to feel valued by their employer.

So, how can you win the talent war with the talent you already have? Whether you lead an entire company or a small team, you can start by avoiding these three common pitfalls.

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Stop complaining about Millennials

Yes, Millennials behave differently. Every generation has its own ideas and expectations. Everything that may annoy you about this generation can be a huge asset to your company with some simple reframing. For example, they need new challenges, but those are plentiful in growing companies. If you create an environment in which employees can continuously learn new things, these tech-savvy workers can help you optimize efficiency and productivity.

What you can do today: You know that intractable problem you’ve been trying to solve? Ask a Millennial (or Gen-Z) employee for their input (and actually consider it). Younger workers are routinely excluded from key decisions, which saps motivation. Give your future leaders a seat at the table and innovation will follow. 

Stop preaching that it’s all about culture

Everyone knows company culture is important. But what is it, exactly? It’s easier to define what culture is not. It’s not those carefully worded value statements on those posters in the breakroom. It’s not your open-door policy, annual picnic, or holiday canned food drive. Culture is a lofty, abstract concept that is wildly overused. It’s the darling of business books and consulting engagements. Can it really be neatly engineered by executives in a conference room, especially in companies with a distributed workforce? Can it be accurately measured by an annual survey? Culture initiatives tend to be long, complex programs that drain management resources and fail to deliver measurable results.

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What you can do today: Redefine culture as an outcome: the sum of how people behave every day. Your entire organization will gain clarity and alignment around the actions that matter most. Those actions create abundant opportunities for recognition, which activates the intrinsic motivation that leads to exceptional performance.

Don’t recognize staff based solely on their numbers

Labor Day is the holiday that honors and recognizes the work and contributions of the American workforce. But today’s KPI-obsessed employers focus on metrics, instead of the actions that precede them. It’s like a sports coach fixating on players’ stats instead of the actual plays that lead to wins. Stack rankings and bloated annual reviews are tired relics of the industrial revolution. They cause managers to focus on the wrong things and miss the small daily wins that matter most.

What you can do today: Encourage management to start observing their employees “in action” every day. Empower them to intentionally “catch” people doing things right, and recognize their actions in real-time. This proactive approach creates a virtuous cycle of positive reinforcement that unlocks peak performance.

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You might be thinking, “I don’t have time for this right now,” but if your organization doesn’t have enough bandwidth for people and performance, your priorities should be revisited. The good news is that these tactics cost nothing, and are easy to implement with minimal change management. They just require commitment and communication. Plus, the resulting stability will improve your brand reputation and profitability. The best recruitment strategy will always be retention, so before you search elsewhere, take a look inside your own company. The best talent may be closer than you think.


Matt Robinson is currently a franchise partner for NuVinAir Global, as well as an entrepreneur and executive focused on helping companies solve chronic people and performance problems. He has spent more than 20 years leading operations and customer experience for national retail and franchise brands, including AT&T, T-Mobile, European Wax Center and Massage Envy.