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Leading Off
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As we enter a new year, the “Great Attrition” is still top of mind for the C-suite. Employees continue to quit in droves, and employers are scrambling to figure out why—and to keep them on board. To understand, empathize with, and evaluate what their workforce needs and wants, many organizations are turning to personal—and personalized—interactions with employees, basing their efforts on data as well as tools and assessments. Organizational science can help, but personalization is a balancing act: the chatty familiarity of data-driven marketing—knowing which restaurants we frequent or where we went on our last vacation—can feel intrusive rather than thoughtful if not done right. Done properly, though, personalization works. Customers expect it, and companies that manage it well generate 40 percent more revenue from it than average players. The same reasoning applies here: organizations that personalize rather than mass-market what they’re able to offer their employees can expect improved engagement and retention. This week, let’s explore the ways you can lead with a personal touch in 2022 and beyond.
It’s business, and it’s personal: Winning hearts and mindsets
Want to make your change-management program stick? Make it personal. The earliest advertisers knew that understanding customer psychology is the trick to getting people to buy. Start by trying to understand your employees’ thinking, and meet them where they are. Employee mindsets are the biggest roadblock to successful organizational transformations. McKinsey research shows that companies that address these mindsets are four times more likely than those that don’t to rate their change programs as at least “successful.” Of course, changing long-ingrained mindsets takes time and effort. Leaders must first identify the limiting mindsets and then reframe them appropriately. For example, the belief that “criticism damages relationships” can be reframed as “honesty is essential to building strong relationships.” Workshops and training programs can reinforce new mindsets and help ensure that employees develop and grow.
Senior leaders are 20 percent more likely than those in other roles to believe that their business transformation’s goals have been adapted for relevant employees across the organization. This perception gap is one of the reasons that a large majority of transformations fail. Successful organizations are more likely to involve employees in the transformation and engage them in face-to-face communication—through line-manager briefings, leadership town halls, and a cascade of information throughout the business. And increased employee involvement in business transformations can lead to better results for shareholders, McKinsey research shows.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”
In 1989, when the late author and motivational speaker Stephen R. Covey wrote this in his bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the concept of “employee experience” was still years away. Organizations knew that happy employees led to happy customers, but the feedback surveys and workforce-engagement measures of the time were a far cry from today’s integrated employee journeys that include individually tailored communications, coaching, opportunities, and rewards. An employee-centric corporate culture can make all the difference as to whether people stay or leave. What cultural elements are most likely to make them stay? Not job security and benefits, as you might think, but being respected at work and having supportive leaders.
people working at a table
You’re committed to creating a seamless and personalized employee experience. What does that mean in practical terms? Diane Gherson, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and former head of HR at IBM, offered specific how-tos in this 2018 interview. She notes that IBM came to put employee experience at the center of people management by shifting from relying on experts to build HR programs to making sure to “bring [employees] into the design process, cocreate with them, and iterate over time so that we meet people’s needs.” Technology played a big part too. For example, IBM leaders and employees codesigned a learning platform that was personalized for every one of IBM’s 300,000-plus workers.
office witht table tennis
Beanbag chairs. Foosball tables. In-office bars. For several years such amenities were part of companies’ efforts to create a “hip” office culture. But in the postpandemic era, as organizations try to woo employees back to the office, the perks are more glamorous. High-end office buildings tout terraces, rooftop gardens, star chefs, bicycle stalls, and game rooms. Desperate to keep talent and prevent burnout, a growing number of businesses are sponsoring “paid time on” vacations for employees at luxury resorts where they can combine work with leisure activities like fly-fishing and yoga classes.
Lead personally.
— Edited by Rama Ramaswami, a senior editor in McKinsey’s Stamford office
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