It’s a bold new world for today’s federal leaders.
Sitting in your office and shouting out edicts to your employees won’t cut it. Particularly with millennials, substantive employee engagement is absolutely necessary for successful leadership. This is true from the critical time of onboarding for a new hire through to an employee’s ongoing employment, development and growth.
Improve Retention through Engagement
Great leaders can help an agency retain its best employees and thereby have a better chance of achieving the agency’s mission.
While attracting top talent is a high priority, without proper attention to retaining that talent, you quickly realize that a recent great hire was all for naught. This takes a lot more than a paycheck. Particularly in the federal government, where it is difficult to compete on salary, other aspects contributing to an employee’s job satisfaction are critical. Employees want and expect much more from their employers.
Most of those expectations fall to the agency’s leaders and managers.
Any great relationship, professional or personal, has understanding and empathy at its core. It is extremely difficult for a leader to lead effectively without getting to know the people he or she is leading. The personalities of the leader and the employee will determine how to best approach this. It doesn’t mean they need to be best friends or even have a personal relationship at all, although that could be the case.
But as a leader, you do need to understand what the employee likes most and what the employee likes least – there should be an awareness of how the employee thinks and what makes the employee tick. For non-millennials managing millennials, understand that they have a different mindset that may challenge traditional ways of thinking. The allure of the private sector often calls
Through ongoing engagement, leaders can greatly improve employee retention.
Move Beyond the Annual Performance Review
Talent management industry analyst Bersin by Deloitte says that leaders today need “to make sure that experience is rewarding, exciting and empowering.” This goes far beyond throwing out an annual survey to employees to ask how they are doing or interacting with them once a year over a performance review.
To improve engagement, look at these key macro areas within your organization:
- Agency mission
- Work environment
- Management practices
- Benefits and recognition programs
- Career development
- Corporate mission.
These topics shouldn’t – and really can’t – wait for an annual review or survey. To improve them or overhaul them takes time. Addressing these types of issues once a year won’t work. However, if they are paid a high degree of attention, the payoffs in employee satisfaction and retention have a much better chance for success. It can’t hurt to regularly remind employees of the agency’s great mission and successes.
At a more micro level, make sure you are acting on these issues for each of your employees:
- Focus on, cultivate and reward results
- Provide employees with a purpose
- Align individual goals with organizational goals
- Provide employees with the support and tools to master skills
- Get out of the way – give people autonomy and empower them to do their job and achieve great results
- Provide ongoing feedback and encouragement – don’t wait for an annual review
- Encourage two-way communication and constructive input
- Rotate positions
Today’s federal agency leaders understand how critical acquiring and retaining the best talent possible is to their success. However, the challenge today is not just retaining talented people, but fully engaging them throughout their careers. This will also carry a residual benefit of helping you with succession planning for your agency.
Engage to Lead
To lead today, you need to forget the mutually dreaded linear, annual performance review. Get proactive. Get in line with your employees’ hearts and minds so you can align them with your agency’s mission. This is the path to motivated, emotionally attached and enlightened employees.
Leadership is engagement – and it’s the path forward to your agency’s long-term success.