Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Residue Not Retention as a Strategy

Two relatively recent tweets helped formulate my thinking about our mobile workforce.

The first a vision, the second a reality.

"The firm of the future may be ten million people working together for ten minutes" - @EskoKilpi

“Hans: It would be ridiculous for my company to invest in me, where I expect to change job every few years” - @shackletonjones (referencing a speaker’s quote at #LEARN12)

Mobile is an activity, not a technology. We hear much that the average worker will have numerous jobs in his/her life. The number varies depending on the estimator but nobody seems surprised anymore that the number is not 2. Some employees are flying out the door because working in their current company is a fate worse than death but others move on because of a lack of opportunity or bad fit of skills to organization need – not always a harsh criticism of the organization then. The bottom line is that 2 years not 20 is the new normal.

So lets be honest employers, your people are leaving you or you're leaving them. Lets not kid ourselves anymore, it's a revolving door and its only going to continue. No sense in fighting it and desperately trying to hang on with grandiose (and expensive) retention strategies... but then again don't just throw up your hands on trying to "engage" them.  Be human, be compassionate, be fair, compensate accordingly, grant the time deserved to do good work, make it meaningful, give them a say, and hand out "atta boy's" like candy at Halloween. Do this not because you are trying to get them to stay but in the name of sincere appreciation for what they do.  In the end your employee may stick around but even when they don't, they won't exit with a slew of brand destroying tweets either (It's better to have loved and lost...).

As employees continue to pass through like vapor, employers must shift thinking from retention strategies alone to ones that embraces expected attrition. Workers are fluid like the knowledge they consume and expel. You won't hold them for long but what organizations need to do is hang on to their residue.  This residue being the rich artifacts of their time in the organization. I am not talking work product so much as work process; the wiki's they contributed to, the blog posts and comments they made, the quick collaborations and Q&As in micro-blog tools, and the bookmarked (tagged) content. 

As they exit, others enter and the give-n-take cycle begins again. This is where the energy and time should be put. T&D needs to beat their swords (of classes and courses) into ploughshares (for carving out rows and rows of connections). T&D needs to show workers how to plant the seeds and reap the fruits that fuel their labor. HR needs to orient and on-board by introducing employees to a rich culture that invites their contribution. 

T&D should be modeling, encouraging, and sharing Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)  approaches with employees and demonstrating the value of narrating one's work. PKM should be the default approach for all but especially the increasing transient workforce we see today; Make it unavoidable and easy.

Organizations can't stop the transition of employees any more than mankind can stop the sun from rising or the wind from blowing. Mankind has transitioned to embrace and leverage this continual motion. It's a shift for organizations like the shift in energy policy we see today, as nations turn to solar and wind. This type of force strikes and continues on; unconstrained, it briefly turns the blade or fills the cell. The energy though is captured with ample, efficient, and strategically placed tools. This energy is used and then replenished again and again through movement. Organizations too must focus on capturing for brief moments the force of people, as they and their knowledge is in constant motion. 

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