As I crossed the street in downtown Melbourne with my fellow directors, I reveled in the idle chit-chat I had been missing for 3 years. I was back in the Land Down Under for our annual Strategic Planning Meeting…out of Zoom Room Purgatory! As we walked, we randomly talked about the rich history of Italian influence on coffee in Australia, the difference in men’s dress from Sydney to Melbourne, and the politics of the most recently elected prime minister. How much I had missed my peers and the banter we always had back and forth! We were all energized because we were going to a bonus in-person client event. This one was special because it was taking place on a Tuesday at lunch at the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) with a handful of Aussie clients and colleagues to simply connect and discuss what was weighing heaviest on their minds.
As I entered the venue, it was absolutely gorgeous with antique cars, beautiful furniture, exquisite chandeliers, and elegant waitstaff! We were served appetizers and adult beverages as we were waiting to be seated. Upon being introduced to people we had not met, we all commented how decadent it felt for a Tuesday afternoon…and, in some ways in our minds, it was a celebration of the return to us getting back to in-person events. I met several outstanding professionals in the retail, financial, hospitality/food service, government, and not-for-profit sectors. We were all seated and after putting in our lunch orders we got down to business. There was no agenda and the question posed was “What are the current wicked problems in your business to be solved?” It was amazing how similar the themes were, and I have captured them here, hoping that they resonate with you (you are not alone), dear readers.
Current Pressing Problems
What is going on from my point of view? For many skilled, professional workers, the historical changes to their lives and the way they work over the past two years have essentially flattened Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the past, job security, decent compensation, and at least a tangible opportunity were the price of entry for people coming into organizations. Now a massive number of employees not only want to feel invested in the work they do, but they also want to see that their employer is invested in the same things they value and believe in. Employees, at the very least, want to:
Now, none of this comes as a surprise to any of you, I know. But, what strategic initiatives have you put in place to address these in your core ideology, hiring practices, employee benefits, DEI work, leadership programs, and ability to build high-performing teams? With some research on best practices and input from your employee base, you can create strategic initiatives to begin to address these issues. Yes, it takes time and, just like you, sometimes I feel like I take one step forward and two steps back, but that really is what leadership is. Without the obstacles the journey wouldn’t be as sweet, would it?
2. How can we enhance our employee value proposition (EVP) so it resonates? One of the clients who was sitting at our table spoke at length about the cultural work their company had done in the past year. They talked about how important creating a clear core purpose was to establish a great culture. The result was the team rallying around such a deep, important reason for being in existence and that driving performance and engagement within the organization. This conversation led to the group agreeing that previously, having one clear employee value proposition was enough. Not so now. The great organizations ask themselves what can we do to make people feel loved and safe? The employee value proposition is not a one size fits all and there must be several. Companies must listen and realize what is important to the different groups.
What is going on from my point of view? With so much riding on escaping “the Great Resignation” unscathed, employers are starting to realize that they must start from scratch and create a strong, multi-dimensional EVP that fully delivers on their company’s employee-experience promise. One that fuels a culture where everyone can bring their full range of talents, feel included and valued, and do great work in a great environment. In order to have a really great EVP, these are 3 of the things our clients are including in successful ones:
Warren Buffet talks about a Value Proposition is a moat that separates you from your competitors. It is tough to cross and get to your castle. In other words, what sets you apart as an employer that would be hard to replicate by other businesses in your sector? That is your EVP…and you can’t just rely on one. You have to have several that address the diversity of your employee base. Don’t you want to be the employer of choice? It is such hard work!
3. How Can We Convince Leaders That They Have to Lead Differently? The final theme that jumped out at me as I sat at this luncheon with a room full of incredibly smart, thoughtful people had to do with leadership. Of course, a subject near and dear to my heart. I don’t have to tell you that the pandemic changed leadership forever. It started with CEOs I know having weeks of sleepless nights putting together contingency plans and solving problems for an event that few predicted and even fewer prepared for. If their thinking didn’t flip on its head during this time, then they are being left behind. They had to pivot their thinking on the hybrid work environment, how to hold remote people accountable, how to shift away from the top down, how to create psych safety in a scary environment, how to influence people to get into leadership roles, and how to get more comfortable with technology in a split second…among 100 other 360 degree pivots. We all did. But, what many of us are facing now is not just the logistics of leadership, but also the mindset and that is what this table of high-level thinkers was grappling with.
What is going on from my point of view? Remember prior to the world shutting down when we used to talk about VUCA? Wow! We had no idea what we were even capable of then! We have come so far, yet we can still start to drift towards old ways of thinking. The three things I am seeing will not revert back and we need to help leaders need to rally around are:
What was remarkable about sitting around this table was the depth of the conversation at hand. This was a group of individuals that did not know one another before this event, but they absolutely opened up and discussed some of the most pressing pain points in their own companies freely. We ended the lunch by asking them what they sought out of a partnership with a company like us. It warmed my heart that what Steople on the other side of the planet brought was insight, perspective, and a richness of resources. Partnering with skilled professionals who brought both science and practical business knowledge to accelerate learning and change throughout each organization had been invaluable. Our value proposition is there for you – deep relationships, research of best practices, and pragmatic solutions. As always, we are here for you and your leadership journey. We want nothing more than to see you succeed!