8 Tips for Transforming People Management to Empower and Retain Talent

I recently wrote an article for HR.com about talent retention as a high priority for companies. One of our customers – Shannon Fitzgerald, Director of HR from The Muse – collaborated with me to share her insights.

SEE ALSO: How to Effectively Change Performance Management

Gone are the days when employees would spend 30, 20 or even 5 years at the same company because they valued stability over satisfaction. Today’s workforce demands a better experience, and they’re not afraid to go looking elsewhere if they’re feeling unfulfilled in their current role.

Driven by this demand to deliver a more engaging, satisfying career experience, companies like The Muse are reinventing how they nurture, develop and support employees along every stage of their career path. With just over 120 employees, the company focuses on making better connections between companies and candidates to help firms attract and retain the best emerging talent by telling a more authentic and compelling employer story.

So, it makes sense that they’d want the same for their own organization. To achieve that, The Muse has implemented a people management strategy designed to empower employees and deliver the kind of employee experience that would make people want to come to work every day, even if they didn’t have to. How did they do it? Here are 8 strategies that have been critical to the company’s success.

Transition to real-time feedback

Rather than wait months or even a year to provide meaningful feedback, The Muse has given its employees tools to provide real-time feedback within the context of the work being done. “Feedback isn’t very helpful if you don’t hear about it until months later,” says director of HR Shannon Fitzgerald. In addition to using a real-time feedback platform, they also conduct 360-degree reviews every six months so that employees can understand perceptions of their performance relative to goals from a variety of voices.

Feedback isn’t very helpful if you don’t hear about it until months later. Click To Tweet

Provide feedback training

Not everyone knows how to give constructive feedback, nor how to give it “in the moment.” Because the old way of annual performance reviews has been embedded in work culture for years, it’s natural that this shift requires education. The Muse implemented feedback training sessions to initiate this behavioral shift. “The training sessions for us were huge,” Fitzgerald said. “We helped employees understand how to give and receive feedback and how to make it a part of the real-time discussion. We are not perfect, but it was a great start.”

Emphasize self-awareness. Self awareness is one of the Muse’s core values, so it’s extremely important that employees approach both giving and receiving feedback with curiosity and desire for growth. “The goal is to reflect on yourself, be honest with yourself, and better understand your role and how you might be impacting others,” Fitzgerald said. Feedback isn’t just about your performance for the company, but also for your own growth.

Have a zero “a-hole” policy

The Muse takes its ban on being a jerk very seriously. So much so that it’s actually included in every job description. “We want to make sure people can bring their whole self to work, appreciate and support others, give and receive feedback with good intention, and look out for one another,” Fitzgerald says. There’s no room for playing politics, backhanded compliments or office bullying.

Embed core values in everything you do

Core values are weaved into the daily workflow at The Muse. “We have interview and review questions that tie into each of our values and, we make sure candidates reflect our values before we hire,” Fitzgerald said. Recognition is also based on core values—the company runs a physical and digital “shout-out board,” where employees can post examples of co-workers living the values. The Muse also uses value hashtags on its feedback platform, providing a digital shout-out board where employees are recognized for living the values in real-time. Our founders recognize these shout-outs at an All Hands once a month.

Recognition should be based on core values. Click To Tweet

Build resilience

Operational and individual success requires that employees are willing to attack challenges with grit and tenacity.“The only constant is change and employees need to be able to roll with the punches, get in knee deep and do what needs to be done,” Fitzgerald said. “They have to be adaptable, willing to push the envelope and do what it takes to work smarter.”

Focus on growth

It’s more than just lip service to say that a company’s greatest asset is its people. The company can’t grow if its people aren’t growing—the two are intimately linked. Employees crave opportunities to learn, develop and grow not only their professional skills and experience, but also their personal worldview and perspective.

In fact, according to the Growth Divide study, 40 percent of office professionals wish their company would offer leadership or professional development programs, and nearly 75 percent would be more proactive in discussing issues with their manager if more frequent feedback and access to development opportunities were part of the norm. “Humans by nature have a desire to achieve, and what really drives motivation is autonomy, the desire for mastery and purpose,” Fitzgerald said. Providing growth opportunities is a critical factor in maximizing performance and retention.

Providing growth opportunities is a critical factor in maximizing performance and retention. Click To Tweet

Help managers eliminate surprises

Real-time feedback has become a crucial foundation of The Muse’s operations. “If a performance concern develops, it needs to be addressed early,” Fitzgerald said. “And, if the employee is doing great, they need to know to continue that.” By focusing on real-time feedback, managers and employees can eliminate surprises, immediately work to resolve issues before they become problems and ensure that employees’ performance remains aligned with their individual and company goals. “These real-time conversations strengthen the feedback loop between employee and manager, which ultimately enhances employees’ growth,” Fitzgerald says.

Use a real-time platform

For The Muse, the secret to making all of this work efficiently is providing a platform that makes giving and receiving feedback easy, within the context of the existing workflow. With feedback tools that integrate into the productivity tools employees already use, like Outlook, Slack and others, managers can instantly provide one-on-one feedback in real-time. “We’ve made it so that managers can record feedback in the moment, seamlessly within their normal workflow, so that it’s never a burden,” Fitzgerald said. “By eliminating the need for feedback to require special or additional effort, it’s become second-nature and ingrained into our culture.”

By embedding a real-time feedback loop into every part of it’s business operations, and by making employee growth and achievement a priority, The Muse is providing a model for employee experience that it’s customers can aspire to.

Through it’s internal operations, the company is leading by example, demonstrating how a focus on employee success can drive talent retention and business performance.

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