three people juggling together
PHOTO: Shabai Liu

We’re currently facing an environment in which people are constantly hopping from one job to the next. 

Sometimes it’s clear what the problem is and how to fix it. Other times it comes as a complete surprise when top performers, who have been at your company for years, suddenly announce they’re leaving to take a new opportunity. These are the most puzzling cases to solve and the ones we get wrong every time.

As an HR professional, it’s sometimes easier to look at things from a big picture perspective. Employee turnover, engagement and productivity rates are all terms that group people together under one umbrella. Yet looking at a diverse range of people through this one lens doesn’t tell you the whole story.

The term employee is simply defined as, “a person working for another person or a business firm for pay.” Looking at your people as "employees" only takes into consideration one aspect of them as people — their employment at your organization. This label leads us down the wrong path: if people are leaving us for another organization, it must be because they’re being offered a higher salary.

While this could ultimately be one of the reasons why, what drove them to start looking for a new job in the first place wasn’t money.

Related Article: How Do You Know if You're Providing a Top Employee Experience?

Employees Are People, Too

Most people change jobs to find the right fit. Sometimes they find a job they enjoy for a while. Then, after a few years, they start to have the feeling that this job may not be their calling. The search then continues.

People are not one-dimensional and neither are their interests. They evolve and change over time. They have diverse talents and strengths. Companies lose out by not recognizing and fostering their people’s innate desire to diversify, explore and push their limits. Instead of designing jobs exclusively to fit our business needs, we should be designing jobs to fit our people.

To avoid falling into this one-track mindset, at my company, Impraise, we’ve completely dropped the word ‘employee’ from our vocabulary. This has helped us rethink the way job roles, management and our workplace environment should combine to fit our multi-talented workforce. Here are three things we’ve learned.

Related Article: Employee Experience Isn't About Mapping Journeys, It's About Bridging Organizational Tribes

Facilitate Internal Mobility

Job titles are typically used by recruiters to find someone who can fill a specific need within the company. This usually covers a specific field and particular skills for it, such as iOS mobile developer or B2B sales associate.

While someone may start by filling this need, they shouldn’t be limited to this sometimes rigid, description of responsibilities. By fitting people into static job titles that follow them throughout their employment, companies aren’t taking full advantage of the available knowledge and talent within their organization.

Instead, making roles and responsibilities more flexible can make internal mobility much easier, enabling people to go through multiple roles that include a wider range of responsibilities. Hire people not solely based on skill level, but also on culture fit and potential. While you will need people to fill specific skill gaps, don’t necessarily expect them to stay in one role throughout their career. Instead, when you hire great people, work to find the right fit for them.

The biggest problem companies face with this strategy is knowing exactly when people begin thinking of searching for a new job. This is where the second piece of the puzzle comes in.

Related Article: Understanding the Difference Between Employee Experience and Engagement

Treat Employees Like People

According to Gallup, people who get to use their strengths at work every day are six times more engaged, 8 percent more productive and 15 percent less likely to quit their jobs. However, not everyone knows their strengths or how to uncover their hidden talents.

This is where managers come in. Managers should be having continuous open dialogues with each of their team members about their interests, ambitions and concerns in the workplace. As opposed to the traditional manager-employee relationship, managers who act as coaches by helping their team members identify and improve on their strengths, are more likely to gain their trust. If managers can create an open and trusting relationship with their team, people will be more likely to come to them first when they begin to feel uncertain about their position in the company.

Ultimately, the way your managers treat your people can have a bigger impact on engagement than anything else. In fact, Gallup found that people who feel their managers are invested in them as people are more likely to be engaged.

Related Article: Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture

Foster an Environment That Encourages Continuous Learning

Providing people with the training and learning opportunities they need is good practice. But by looking only at this, most companies miss out on an important part of the learning and development process.

Skills now only have an average life of 5 years: rather than focusing training on the skills people need today, create a forward-looking learning environment that encourages people to begin exploring the skills they may need tomorrow.

Much like Atlassian’s "Ship-it days" and Google’s "20 percent time," we hold what we call "Jam sessions" every quarter. During these two days, people are encouraged to create diverse cross-collaborative teams and experiment with new, fun and unique ideas.

Our Jam sessions provide a set period of time during which people can experiment and dream big, risk-free. It’s this kind of environment that allows the flexibility for people to pool their diverse talents and explore new interests. This help us foster a more open mindset to continuous learning and improvement. We may be doing a great job now, but it’s never too early to begin learning new skills that can improve our product offering in the future.

Related Article: How to Encourage a Growth Mindset in Your Company

Final Words of Advice

The rapid rate of technological advancement means that companies need to be constantly looking three steps ahead at what their next move could be. To meet this challenge, today’s companies need people who are multi-talented, with an innate curiosity and drive to learn new skills.

This isn’t just a small subset of the population. Everyone has this drive in them. The key to is to create an environment that treats individuals like people who are motivated by more than just money. This means not limiting them or setting boundaries, supporting their growth and providing an environment in which they can experiment risk-free. The more you invest in your people’s growth, the more they’ll give back in return.