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How Growth-Focused Companies Keep Strong Talent from Jumping Ship

Isn’t it interesting how facts and beliefs can be misaligned?

Despite low unemployment of 3.5%, we’re noticing how leaders believe that prior layoffs mean there is an abundance of strong talent, and sometimes connected (and sometimes separately), we’re seeing a lack of funding for People Ops…perhaps perceiving current employees as “stuck”?

This misbelief can be particularly challenging for growth-stage companies, who have weathered the startup storms to finally reach some open seas, but need to keep their crew engaged…as it’s right now that you either pull ahead of your competition or…the strong talent will definitely jump ship (and we rarely say “definitely”).  

Three Real Stories of Addressing What Matters Most 

Performance Management (zero eye-rolling, simple, clear, effective)

When companies are in their infancy, there isn’t much in the way of performance “management,” although hopefully, there are frequent conversations and clear outcomes being tracked in a simple, effective way (if not, we’re here to help). 

At a growth stage company, performance can be more complex to measure, diagnose, and coordinate in a productive and energizing way. Also, if you haven’t de-biased your feedback and forms as much as possible – the four-letter “fair” word is table stakes now, and we are definitely here to help you get that right.  

One client’s story is emblematic of how this can play out. The CEO wants to manage someone out, but there is little in the way of documentation or clear metrics – perhaps even a risk that the move could be perceived as unfair. Meanwhile, strong performers may feel their career lacking in development or advancement. Why? Because there isn’t a clear approach to “how is strong performance measured and what’s next” for either employee. 

This is so fixable. 

In one of our spring projects, we talked to the leadership team to distill what is in people’s heads about metrics that are the most important and created the lightest framework to hit the key issues.  

Our client got a (more) fair, aligned approach for all employees, whether employees need to move on with dignity and respect (numbers do wonders to dispel foggy perceptions), or if they were seeking some energy by seeing what outcomes they can focus on to advance their impact and career. 

Boom! The right people are on the boat. 

And, we can’t forget to mention that they want to be properly paid (see McKinsey data on that, although our guess is you don’t need to see McKinsey data on that?). If your compensation needs a strong anchor, we’ve got the talent to help you. 

Organizational Design – How Functional is your Matrix? 

Sticking with stories of keeping strong talent aboard your fast-moving ship, an AI company we worked with was transitioning out of startup mode, moving from the all-hands-on-deck phase when early employees are willing to tolerate some ambiguity in who makes what decision, to frustrated employees stuck in complex dotted-line reporting structures –  albeit with the laudable goals of  “collaboration” and “inclusive” – it was resulting in wasted work effort and slower decisions. 

Worse yet (especially for strong performers), a long list of (mediocre) work started to clog up the high-priority work, delaying milestones that mattered. This wasn’t an isolated incident. We have yet to meet a leader who thinks the post-pandemic organizational design is functioning optimally. 

What helped this AI company was our evaluation of key employees’ capabilities against the priorities of the future (we often see orgs understandably functioning as a reflection of the past), and secondly, how to navigate inclusivity without stepping into slower consensus decision-making process

Shifts like these help companies in speedboat phase get rid of the drag. 

L&D – Workshops, DEI&B, Wellbeing, Leadership Offsites 

There are inspiring stories of big companies investing over a billion dollars (Mercedes Benz) in L&D, but what is the sweet spot of training in growth-size companies that meets the demand of highly-motivated employees who want continual growth and development without the cruise ship budget? 

The answer isn’t zero. 

We’ve seen the recent downside of leaders pausing on the funding of PeopleOps work, specifically in L&D, but lets consider the fall-out. Do you really want employees who are okay with pausing on their own growth? Is that who you want to encourage to stay at your company?  

McKinsey has a deep dive from this past spring on many key areas we’re seeing in learning and development, and it’s not just for “digital talent.” Our CEO Sally Thornton says, “What we’ve seen with clients across industries is that for startups, the work *is* the learning…they are wearing so many hats and drinking from the fire hose. Structured learning time is very tricky at that stage. 

“But in the growth companies, forward-thinking CEOs invest in skills development in targeted ways, as the demand for learning is usually higher than the internal resources can deliver. Our quickly-designed, experiential workshops fill the gap. I wish CFOs would track the cost of unwanted turnover versus the cost of L&D. The numbers would easily tell the story.”  

Even if you paused on learning for your employees, given how important it is for them to see a well-functioning executive team, what are your options in supporting the leadership team dynamics and growth?

One high-tech CEO recently said, “Our leadership team’s offsite was transformative. Material changes will come from the exercises we did together, and I look forward to functioning better as a team and company thanks to Forshay. We’re digging into new ways of working already.”

Whether you’re investing in your leadership team or your entire company’s growth in targeted ways, companies focusing on leadership development with meaningful work will stand out. 

Less Data, More Action

Do you need more data? Many of these issues are perennial but seem harder than ever in a more complex world. Maybe a key change is shifting perspectives from “spending” to “investing”, and what timetable works for you in that ROI? 

You tell us. If you are in the speedboat phase trying to balance growth, keep your best people and stay on course, bringing in a Forshay consultant to tackle sticky issues around performance management, organizational design, and L&D can be an equalizer for emotional responses and keep the focus on action plans and outcomes. That sounds even more delicious than any fancy mocktail! 

“Our leadership team’s offsite was transformative. Material changes will come out of the exercises we did together, and I look forward to functioning better as a team and company thanks to Forshay. We’re digging into new ways of working already.”

– Nate Kharrl, Co-Founder and CEO, Spec

Blog Hiring How-To Inclusion & Diversity Recruiting Thought Leadership

The Cure for Quiet Quitting

First, there was the Great Resignation. Which led to the difficult job market. And now there’s something new (because of course). It’s called “quiet quitting” (mentioned by Chamath Palihapitiya on the podcast All In, and reported in detail in the NYT and WSJ), and it’s the next trend we’re watching at Forshay. What is it? It is that general malaise people may feel about their jobs, but for whatever reason, they can’t make a change. Some call it a rejection of hustle culture (which we’ve rejected from the beginning, but are not quiet quitting!). Some are bored, some are overwhelmed, and some are burnt out. But in this ‘summer of layoffs’ leaving a role right now isn’t likely the best option. What’s a person to do? 

Fret not. There’s an antidote (or several).

A recent Stanford Business article called “Take This Job and Love It: How a Growth Mindset Can Boost Happiness at Work” acknowledges that doing the hard work of changing yourself and your role at work takes effort, but the benefits are worth it (and btw, they also last longer). 

This research takes the idea of growth mindset and multiplies it into a “dual-growth mindset.” What this means, the article outlines, is the idea that in order to change your happiness, you can’t just change yourself–you also need to change your job. This doesn’t mean you have to quit though. It just means you need to broaden your focus.

The article describes an experiment conducted by Justin Berg, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business and his co-authors Amy Wrzesniewski (Yale School of Management), Adam M. Grant (Wharton School), Jennifer Kurkoski and Brian Welle (both at Google). One group of participants were asked to focus on their growth mindset for themselves at work, a second group focused on flexibility in their roles and the third group was tasked with doing both. 

The result? The groups who focused on both were happier at their jobs six months later. The extra work to look for ways to change both their role, but also themselves, created happiness that was sustainable.

A shortlist of ideas to get the groove back.

Maybe you want to change things up for yourself, or maybe you’re a manager hoping to keep your high-performers happy and engaged. Either way, there are some tricks you can try.

Antidotes for Anyone

  • Seek Out Interesting Work
    What lights you up? What motivates you? How can you get more of it? 
  • Focus On the “Good” in Your Job
    Do you enjoy your coworkers? Have agency over your work? Love your client groups? People often don’t realize how good they have it until they make a job change.
  • Set Work Boundaries
    Decline meetings if you have a conflict. Set times for work, responding to email (you get the idea). For example, if you set clear hours or do-not-disturb time to your schedule, people will learn to adjust. 
  • Be Realistic…
    What’s most important to you? A flexible schedule? Working remotely? Agency over how you perform your work? Learning a new skill? How do you shape your job to live your best life?
  • …And Willing to Negotiate
    Make sure your manager feels like you’re in the driver seat with them. Do you really need to work remote 100% of the time? Or do you just need a month away to recharge and change your scenery? Or would you be fine agreeing to X number of days in the office and X number remote? A “good” negotiation is when both sides feel like they’ve won.

Antidotes for Managers

  • Discover Their Needs/Wants/Dreams
    How do you keep your team engaged? Find out what your employees need to stay at their job. You won’t know unless you ask.
  • Be an Advocate
    Show that you are just as engaged in their happiness (or fulfillment at work) as you are with their performance. 
  • Check-in Regularly
    You know that longer one-on-one that always gets rescheduled? Maybe a quick chat over coffee is better, or shorter walk/talk calls if remote. However it needs to happen, make time to connect, listen, and adjust. And a gentle suggestion: reconsider how the rescheduling impacts their feelings of importance. 
  • Be Flexible
    What’s most important to you may not be what’s most important to your team. Find a way to work with each other. Think outside the desk (see what we did there? Hope it made you at least half smile).
  • Negotiation Goes Both Ways
    What value does your talent bring? How can they build trust with you to let you know they’re still fully engaged and working at a high level? 

Who says there can’t be two winners?

Everyone wins when managers and talent are working together to make the job work on all levels. You don’t have to do it alone. We’re here to help. 

Is there an expertise (compensation refresh? Org re-design? Or HR expertise?) that would not only help your current talent but also increase your company’s productivity? Our team has subject matter expertise in areas in these plus DEIB, talent acquisition, learning & development, and people analytics to level up your team. With a little extra help and consultation, your team will have the freedom to grow in their fulfillment while also driving business goals.

Want to find out where your team happiness is? We can help facilitate a team gathering to discover what matters most to them and develop a mutual plan that makes everyone happier and more productive. Here’s to always co-creating the win/win/win!