Talent Optimization and Retention in the Age of COVID

Maintaining a healthy company culture and happy employees will always matter—even while millions are on unemployment and the power lies with employers. The economy has employers and employees alike feeling a bit trapped. Even if you find yourself with employees who feel they aren’t in a position to leave their job, you should still want them to be engaged and productive while they’re with you.

What happens to companies that have unhappy, disengaged employees? They fail. As your employees are responsible for generating the company’s success, you need them to be positively contributing to the organization. Now more than ever, you need employees to feel dedicated to their roles and your company as a whole.

Here are a few ways to build up both your employees and the company simultaneously.

Professional Development

Offering opportunities to develop and improve skills isn’t just something employees want—it also helps deepen your company’s assets, at a fairly low cost. Companies like Skillshare, Lynda.com, and edx.com, all offer reasonably priced online courses for professional development in subjects ranging from marketing to project management to graphic design.

Take advantage of these easy-to-access tools, offering your employees a chance to learn and grow. Through this training, you’ll be developing stronger relationships with your team, maximizing talent, and preparing employees to flourish within your company.

Hiring from within

While many companies struggle to effectively hire from their pool of existing talent, doing so is not only cost-effective and saves time but helps foster an environment of dedication and growth.

Train your managers so they can recognize when an employee has the potential for something different, and also allow the managers the authority to take action. It can be challenging for managers to allow for this growth when they have highly functioning employees who do their jobs well. The managers have little incentive to take a person out of their role, even if they would be a great fit elsewhere in the company.

Make sure you’re training your managers to train their teams with the goal of growth. And to plan for the eventuality that they will move on to other roles.

Compensation matters

While employers understand that compensation is often a defining reason for turnover, its importance can’t be stressed enough. Employees are working to make money. Above all other perks and benefits, it’s what they need the most. Money is high on the list of factors that play into an employee choosing to stay or leave their position.

Compensation doesn’t just say something about how your company views the role an employee has. It also puts a numerical value on exactly how much an individual employee matters to the organization. Compensation also has a direct effect on how an employee views themselves within the company and factors into their satisfaction, dedication, and loyalty.

What you need to do is simple: make sure you are paying your employees what they’re worth, or they’ll leave for a job that will.

In this together

Whether or not the economy is struggling, you and your employees are in it together. By carefully strategizing, you can make decisions that have a positive impact on your business and the individual lives working within your organization. The talent of your company—what makes people want to work with you and buy from you—comes directly out of the talent working for you.

Lean into that talent. Boost it up and recognize it. Give it a platform to grow, and you’ll create an enriching work environment that mobilizes your company growth and pushes you towards success.


Photo by Anton Yankovyi

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners


Combating Presenteeism in the Workplace

Most employers have a good idea of the negative impact that employee burnout has on their culture, bottom line, engagement, and turnover rates. Needless to say, it’s big. Many things can lead to employee burnout, but most often left out of the conversation is the problem of presenteeism 

Presenteeism is the act of coming into work when you are not entirely up for it, either because of illness or mental health, and working at a reduced capacity. This leads to increased burnout because it stresses the body and mind when it should be resting, and is instead straining energy resources and stamina. 

Successfully approaching the problem requires a multi-pronged approach.  

Set the tone 

While employees may read in your handbook that their wellness matters, it may not be evident within your culture. If you have managers and leaders within your company that pedestalizes employees who work overtime or come in when they are sick, you might as well be telling others that is the expectation of all employees.   

Make sure you not only encourage people to stay home when they are sick, but also make a concerted effort to identify when people are at work when they shouldn’t be. And when that inevitably happens: Send. Them. Home. 

Sick days aren’t enough 

While sick days are essential, they don’t encompass all the other valid reasons for not coming in to work. Taking a day off for mental health reasons is just as valid as doing so because of physical illness. In today’s culture, younger generations are prioritizing mental health and wellness and want to see their company do the same.  

Make an effort to destigmatize the topic of mental health in your workplace and encourage people to go home when they need the day off. Doing so will help you build strong relationships with your employees based on trust, loyalty, and care. When employees feel taken care of and are free to take care of their personal needs, they will become deeply invested and engaged with your company. The loss of one day of work may be all the difference someone needs to help them return with more energy, drive, and dedication.  

Learn how to ask 

Despite telling your employees it’s ok for them to stay home for personal reasons or due to illness, many people will push themselves to go into work regardless of their condition. It may take time for these employees to unlearn unhealthy working habits, and as leaders, it’s your job to help them do so.  

Take care to notice when someone seems burned out, on edge, or sick. Take the initiative to ask how they are doing. In some cases, you may need to ask twice to get a genuine answer as the robotic response of, “I’m good!” because it’s so ingrained in our unconscious reactions.  

When someone does tell you they’ve been having a hard time, or even just having a hard day, ask them to take the rest of the day off. Or suggest they take the following day off. This small act will help those who may not have even considered taking time off to take a step back and re-evaluate. These actions show employees that not only are you paying attention to their wellbeing but that you are prioritizing it.  

Lead by example 

If staying home from work makes you cringe, then this is for you. Yes, it is true that as leaders, you have the responsibility to show up consistently for your employees. But you ALSO have the responsibility to lead by example, to take care of your own wellbeing, and to show your employees that taking care of themselves isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected.  

Being open and honest about why you are taking the day off may make a more significant impact than you’d expect. For instance, if you were to tell your staff you’re taking the day off for mental health, you are doing two powerful things: 1) you’re making a statement that mental health should be prioritized, and 2) you’re showing your employees that it’s ok to acknowledge mental health in the workplace. Being known as a leader who expects their employees to act like humans and not robots is a gift both to your employees and your company.  

What goes around, comes around  

The lovely thing about becoming a company that does this is the reciprocal nature of the relationships you’re building within your company. As people are treated well and encouraged to take care of themselves, they will, in turn, treat your company well and value their roles within it. Taking this approach with your employees may have a lasting effect on their lives and your business. 

 If someone comes into your company from a culture that pushed them beyond what was healthy, their potential for growth is massive. They might not even be aware they have been burned out, but when you provide them with the opportunity they need to care for themselves, you may find that their store of energy and dedication grows and deepens beyond what you both imagined.    

Think of it like a wilted tree. The more nutrients and water you give it, the larger and more resilient it will become, bearing fruit that will feed the land around it. Nurture your employees like you would that tree, and watch as they amplify their power within your business and become the force that pushes your organization forward and up. 


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk


A Call to Leaders: What You Didn’t Know You Owe Your Team

When you think about your role as a leader, what do you feel responsible for? Your growth as a company? Your employees’ wellness? Your company culture? Your customer’s satisfaction?  


For most, the list could go on and on. But in every case, there are a few things that employers have a duty to provide to their employees: 

  • A safe working environment 
  • Sufficient training 
  • Fair compensation 
  • Equal opportunity for growth 


You probably agree. This stuff is pretty basic. But providing these things to your employees doesn’t necessarily ensure their success at your company.  


How you and your leadership team engage with your employees is what makes the difference.  


Your personality and vision determine your leadership style  – you may favor coaching or a fast-paced, high-intensity environment. Regardless of the approach, one simple trait is necessary for strong employee engagement: clarity.  


Yes, really.  


Many leaders who bemoan their frustratingly slow company culture, or their low employee engagement will look to solutions like employee benefits, PTO, and the general concept of “employee experience” to help them solve their problem.  


Leaders rarely look to their own style of leading when they respond to flaws in their company. But that’s a mistake. As a leader, you set the pace and tone of your company. You are the key to ensuring your employees are successful. So, it’s only reasonable you should evaluate your impact on the issues your company is facing.  


This can be a touchy subject. You care deeply about your employees, and you’ve worked extremely hard to provide them with what you believe they deserve. You’re nice. You’re encouraging. You’re patient.  


But if you’re not able to be direct about expectations and feedback, all that niceness you value flies out the window.  


Most people are afraid of confrontation, including leaders. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make them angry or upset them in any way. And we don’t want to be uncomfortable.  


But here’s the reality: your comfort matters much less than your duty to provide your employees with clarity.  


Yes, you owe it to them. 

It may feel harsh to set clear and specific expectations of your employees. But put it in perspective. Remember that teacher in school who everyone loved, but was known for being strict? They let their students know homework was due at the beginning of class and no later. If you turned it in late? No credit. But their classes were terrific. Why


Because every student knew precisely what to do to be successful. 


They were given clear boundaries that worked as markers on the road, steering them in the right direction and keeping them on track. They would know when they didn’t meet expectations because those markers were plainly and directly pointed out from the start.  


No one called that teacher mean. No one resented them for their rules. In fact, those rules provide a modicum of relief to students. When the path to success is laid out before you, you don’t have to spend time worrying about whether or not you’re doing okay. You can see when you’re off the road and when you’re on.  


It’s the same for employers and employees. Are you able to tell your employee where they need to improve their work? Do your employees know when they aren’t meeting your expectations? Or do they have to go by sense? Do they know the expectations you have of them? Or do they have to assume?  


Uncomfortable? Do it anyway. 


If you’re squirming in your seat at the thought of sitting down with your employees and getting honest, then this is for you. The most influential leaders will have conversations explaining precisely what they want from their employees, set clear boundaries around expectations for them, and let them know when they’re off track.   


Discomfort around these conversations will go away with practice – for both of you. You may see uneasiness from your employees when you begin this honest approach, but that is to be expected from an adjustment like this. With a bit of time, you’ll see individual employees begin to thrive beyond your expectations. You’ll see your employees relax into the new expectations you’ve set. And you’ll see a new bond of trust form between you and your employees.  


Transparency works like street-lamps on a dark road. No one likes to drive in the dark. Given light, they can relax, sit back, and drive without fear of crashing. You owe it to your employees to provide that light. You’ll thank yourself in the end. 


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by scyther5


Why Your Company Needs a Professional Development Plan

Several key factors always hover on the list of employer concerns in nearly every industry. Employee engagement and productivity are almost always on the list as turnover rates, profits, efficiency, and customer experience are directly related to both. Which makes them critical factors contributing to a business’s lifespan, stability, growth, and health. 

Despite engagement and productivity’s nearly permanent spots on that list, it’s common for businesses to address the two with a one-and-done approach. This is especially true for small businesses that lack a significant budget for employee experience. But providing employees with a benefits package and break room won’t go very far in encouraging real engagement in their work.  

Employees need more than having their basic needs met to feel engaged. They need to see a direct investment in their success as your employee and as an individual. A vast majority of millennials say they want career development opportunities from their jobs.   

recent report by Axonify exposes the gap between what employees want and what businesses are providing them. Their principal findings include: 

  • Nearly a third of employees fail to receive formal workplace training 
  • A quarter of employees don’t receive training after onboarding
  • Almost 60% of employees fail to receive additional training and skill development from their employers  
  • 81% of employees say training makes them feel more engaged and happy at work 

It’s cost-effective 

While many employers are ignoring training as a benefit for their employees, providing training and professional development is an incredibly smart tactic for boosting profits.   

Giving employees opportunities for skill development and training can have a massive impact on the value they contribute. Businesses that provide formalized training can more than double their income per employee than companies that don’t.  

Investing in employee skills is investing in the agility and strength of your company. It creates a stronger relationship between company and employee, encouraging loyalty and engagement, which can lower turnover rates. The cost of turnover alone should be a driving factor in implementing strategies to keep your employees learning and engaged.  

Losing an employee can cost 1.5-2x their annual salary. Yet, it can cost between $135 – $750 for an individual community college course, depending on the length of the class. That’s a reasonably small investment compared to the cost of losing an employee or maintaining unproductive employees.  

Now is the time 

The beautiful thing about living in our age of technology is our access to resources. There are seemingly endless ways companies can provide learning opportunities to their employees. Online learning databases like SkillshareAlison, and Udemy are all options employees can access for learning and development in their own homes.   

Now that a vast amount of the world is learning to work from home, there is no better time to take advantage of these training opportunities. Not only will it give your employees a chance to grow and develop their skills and what they can offer your company, but it may also help address the feelings of isolation and culture loss that many are struggling with during the pandemic.  

An investment into a shared future  

Providing learning development opportunities isn’t just a way to engage your employees—it’s a value statement that can have ramifications across your company culture and employee experience.  

You’re not only investing in the potential of your employees to grow their roles within your company, but you’re telling them you think they are capable of that growth. Show them you value their contribution and also their potential as a professional.  

Having confidence in the power and potential of your employees will lead them to see the value within themselves and feel that their value is recognized. It will create a relationship of trust and confidence that is irreplaceable. It will save money. It will save time. And it will inspire growth in the deepest level of your business. There is nothing to lose but disengagement and apathy.  


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Aleksandr Davydov

Don’t Lose Momentum (No, We’re Not Talking About Growth)

We’ve all been experiencing the effects of the pandemic for a few months. And chances are, you’ve begun to think about whatever the “new normal” is that people are talking about.

What is going to change permanently?
What will revert to how it was before the pandemic?
How will our jobs/company function for the foreseeable future?

You’ve got your mind on the future along with everyone else. You’ve seen all the posts about returning to work, what companies can expect when they reopen, etc.

In the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders, it was challenging to have a conversation that didn’t revolve around the pandemic. Like at all. Leaders spent a lot of time reassuring their teams that everything would be ok, that they didn’t expect them to be perfect, that it was ok to feel anxious or scared.

And this was the right thing to do. During any time of transition (pandemic or not), employees need to be reassured that they’re allowed to take time to adjust, to make mistakes, and to struggle.

It’s a critical part of ensuring the psychological health of your employees, boosting a positive company culture, and developing trust-based relationships within your company structure. And generally, after a certain time, you can expect the transition period will come to an end, and you can begin looking for a higher level of consistency from your employees.

But this isn’t a normal transition. It isn’t a merger; it isn’t a change in leadership or processes; it doesn’t have that lovely, reliable beginning, middle, and end that comes with most other transitions.

Sure, it had a beginning, but we have no way of knowing exactly when this will all be over. We’ve been told to expect multiple waves of shut-downs and stay at home periods that could reach into the next two years. And no matter who you are, whether or not your job has been affected, you will experience the effects of the pandemic in your life.

Emotional burnout

So your company leaders did all the check-ins and wellness reviews they could when the pandemic started. But often those precious one-on-one check-ins that everyone is raging about are emotionally draining.

For leaders who made significant attempts to increase communication with their teams and to offer support to employees one-on-one, it wouldn’t be surprising if they have begun to feel drained.

Those check-ins demand emotional presence; they require tact and patience and genuine connection. All of which takes energy. Not to mention the extra effort it requires to do this stuff remotely. Plus, if you’re a leader, who’s checking in on you? No one? Your cat?

If you’re not emotionally drained by now, just wanting to focus on the work at hand, you’re probably part of a select few. The novelty of working from home is no longer filling the gap of social connection and society being open. For the majority of people, the consensus sounds something like, “We’re sick of talking about COVID, and we just want things to go back to normal.”

Nurturing that precious momentum

When the pandemic first struck and everyone was experiencing their first few weeks at home, the video calls, virtual happy hours, and one-on-one check-ins were running rampant. But now that we’re all tired and burned out, those key actions are becoming more and more difficult to maintain.

And unfortunately, there is no one solution to make it easier. But letting them slide because you’d rather focus on your work and ignore the pandemic isn’t a good solution. Those who are prone to isolation, anxiety, and distraction are now at even higher risk of losing their path.

It’s critical we continue to consistently check in with each other. If you’re a leader who’s feeling burned out on check-ins, consider setting up a buddy system and encourage team members to check in on one another. Spread the responsibility around to your whole team.

Remember, this is a long haul. To maintain the health of our communities, we need to buckle down on our wellness plans and cement them into our weekly schedules. This is not the time to let them slide.

If anything, the “new normal” will be more people and wellness-focused. So if you want to think about the future, go ahead. Just don’t forget to include the vital acts of community support and wellness that we all need so badly today.


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by alexmia