One of the key tenets of Patty McCord, former chief talent officer for Netflix and co-author of the infamous Culture Deck, is that companies should aspire to be great places to be from.
Your employees are very unlikely to be with you for their entire future careers. It’s sensible to recognise that, and to enable your current employees to thrive once they move on from your company and become your former employees.
If you can be recognised in your industry as a great place to be from, you will attract talented, motivated new employees who want to see what all the fuss is about. You’ll also create a sense of esprit de corps and pride within your team.
As part of the Workio process, we ask employees three questions about Progression - about their opportunities to progress within the organisation, about skills training and development, and about preparation to progress beyond the organisation.
This last question is getting at the issue of how to be a great place to be from, and in discussions with our customers we find that this is often a fresh idea to management teams.
With that in mind, we wanted to provide a few ideas to consider, to help your organisation become a great place to be from.
Understanding business context
Giving your employees a holistic understanding of your business, from strategic direction to pricing models to product design to customer support, helps them to place their own work in context. This will help them start thinking at a higher level of awareness about other businesses too.
Variety in experience
Exposing your employees to projects, functions, and tasks outside their usual responsibilities helps with building this contextual awareness, as well as providing additional skills and practical experience for the employee.
Building an employee brand
Helping your employees to build recognition and authority in your industry is a key way to enable your employees to access opportunities at other employers in the future. This includes supporting employees in speaking at conferences, working directly with customers and suppliers to build relationships, being active through networking events, blogging or other writing, being an active voice in relevant industry forums (trade bodies, lobbying groups, standards bodies).
Coaching and mentorship
Set up systems and procedures within your organisation to encourage coaching and mentoring between employees - both horizontally between peers and vertically between seniority or experience levels. The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier is a great resource for this, providing a straightforward structure to think through how to coach a colleague in the best way. This provides soft skills and again broadens the contextual awareness of employees involved. Assume that everyone should be able to coach others, and be coached by others.
Broad skills training and development
Provide opportunities for employees to learn broadly applicable skills, not just job- or role-specific ones. Offering general executive or management training, training for skills that currently fall outside of an employee’s defined job roles, or communications skills such as public speaking or writing, can all be good options here.
Be open about expecting your employees to move on
Talk to your employees explicitly about all this - acknowledge that they are likely to move on to other employers in due course, and make it clear that you want to help them have a great choice in where to go when that time comes. If you have internal progression paths, make it clear that these are open too of course, but acknowledge that it’s almost inevitable that employees will at some point exit the organisation.
Be caring when the moment comes
Treat employees who are moving on with respect and gratitude - they have very likely contributed a significant proportion of their energy to your organisation for the time they’ve been with you. Be thankful for that, publicly if possible. Ask for your outgoing employees’ views on your organisation, and what they would do to help your organisation improve in the future.
As Patty McCord says, treat your employees like adults and they will almost always act like adults. Understand that they have their own motivations, their own trajectory, and their own story, that you can add to positively if you broaden your own view of how best to support your employees.
Becoming a great place to be from also creates a great place to work while employees are with you, and creates a more successful organisation too.