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Five ways to attract, grow and retain talent in a changing work environment

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Scott Lerner is CEO at Better Choice Companya growing pet health and wellness company, with over 20 years of experience in the CPG industry.

It’s no secret that it’s a tight job market. As a result, there has been a shift in employee/employer power dynamics. Employees know what they are worth and what they want and are not afraid to go for it. It’s up to leadership to steer the culture toward a collaborative environment where employees and leaders redefine how to make your company one of the best workplaces.

It starts with attracting the right talent and keeping them motivated and engaged. And today we would be remiss if we didn’t take into account the need for more connectivity. More and more employees can choose where they want to work. That often means working from home, where they can avoid a rigorous commute, spend time with family, and avoid the expense of eating out for lunch.

Our company has hired more than 25 remote employees in the past year, none of whom I had personally met before joining us. And we’ve awarded a significant number of promotions across our company. How do we do this? We use five guiding principles that have enhanced our ability to retain and inspire top talent. It has enabled us to attract the right people and grow our business in today’s environment.

These are the core principles that keep us on the right talent track.

1. Let people and culture be the focus of HR, not the process.

Take care of your people and the culture in which they operate. Learn their stories and listen to what they think is missing. For example, our employees wanted more communication and connection, so we created regular virtual town halls with leadership accessibility. Employees want transparency and fairness, and this allows for a more open approach to sharing the good and areas that need improvement. This gives employees the feeling that they are all involved.

These insights also enable us to create programs that employees want. We recently introduced a “pawternity” program, a puppy leave initiative for new pet parents to take time off. We also set up an unrestricted PTO to show confidence and appeal when people were feeling burned out. When inflation rises faster than salaries can keep up, these benefits, combined with a strong culture, can keep employees happy.

2. Encourage people to ‘own their own day’.

Ditch traditional office hours and let employees decide when and how they do their jobs. The more you allow people to set their own schedules, the more you get from them. Put power in the hands of the people by trusting your staff and treating them like adults.

Everyone works differently, so you can’t treat them all the same. This is especially true today, when private life and work life intersect in ways that were not the case before. And it has to start at the top. Leaders must lead by example. If I have to pick up school or take someone to sports practice, I make that very clear. Sometimes these activities cut into the workday, and that’s OK. I make the time at other times of the day.

3. Prioritize connectivity.

In a remote environment, you have to force connectivity to keep people’s mental health intact. Isolation leads to unhappiness and also affects productivity. There’s no reason you can’t have virtual interactions like you can in a real office.

For example, I spend 30 minutes every morning chatting with people through Microsoft Teams. I created this virtual water cooler moment to learn what’s going on in employees’ lives (both in and out of work). It helps me be a more empathetic leader, and it allows me to show that I’m human like everyone else. You can also create virtual social opportunities, such as happy hours or lunch-and-learns.

4. Underline transparency with measurements.

Employers need to be clear about the direction of the organization and the expectations of the employees. Be very transparent about your annual goals so that employees know what you are trying to achieve. Regularly discuss expectations and evaluate progress. This helps the whole team succeed, and this camaraderie towards a common goal contributes to a solid culture focused on winning. It also encourages you to celebrate both individual and collective success.

5. Connect different functions.

Connecting different business units gives people a well-rounded view of the entire company. For example, our marketing and innovation team works closely with our supply chain team. We have developed products that can succeed in a challenging supply chain environment by working closely together. Linking people to different functions makes them feel more involved in the bigger picture.

The war for talent is real. Every company today is challenged to attract (and retain) the right employees. The best a leader can do is create an environment where there is a connection between leadership, people and the culture; an environment where people feel valued, respected, heard and trusted. This is what drives satisfaction and attracts winners.


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