January 28.2019, 10.52am

Empower smart talent from day one for a better employee experience

Good leaders hire smart talent; great leaders empower them.

The idea makes sense, and it’s not just HR teams who buy into it – as senior executives in some of the biggest companies in the world firmly believe in empowering their workforce.

“People want guidance, not rhetoric,” says Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, “They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”

There’s a number of ways organisations can empower smart talent, but the most effective methods start with the employee experience. Innovators in the field are cultivating a corporate culture that encourages the bold and gives them the tools to reach their goals.

Give employees what they want

There’s no question that people are ready for the new era of work. Instead of blindly following a path set out by the company, they want to blaze their own trail and contribute to the growth of the business.

It’s a trend that presents itself in a few ways. Nearly three in every five employees who don’t have a lot of autonomy in their work would apply to a role that gives them greater control – even if it resulted in a pay cut, according to our Smart Talent Expects report.

But what are the characteristics that can cause smart talent to jump ship for another opportunity? Our research found that four traits stand out as the most desirable:

  • Empathetic to the needs of employees.
  • Supports a healthy work-life balance.
  • Empowers people to reach their maximum potential.
  • Pushes team members to make use of their broad range of skills.

Of course, these traits all share a common thread: the employee experience.

“Empowering employees starts before day one,” Sharon Looney, Chief Human Resources Officer at CoreHR, says. “When a company’s leadership can create an environment that encourages excellence and independence from the first minute of onboarding, they’ll have something special on their hands.”

How can companies empower smart talent?

At its core, empowerment is a support system. It’s positioning the policies, structure and culture of the company to benefit employees as much as possible. HR leadership first goal should be in creating a positive environment throughout the organisation. We know what you’re thinking: easier said than done. While it will be a steep challenge at some companies, especially if internal policies are a roadblock, it isn’t impossible.

Digital solutions like cloud-based HR software have made it easier for CHROs and managers to realign the organisation and the company culture in the direction they want. The change is largely due to the recruitment and onboarding solutions, which harmonise a process previously marred by inconsistencies.

“In the past, new employees could have completely different onboarding experiences depending on who hired them or what department they were moving into,” Sharon says. “Onboarding is an overlooked aspect of corporate culture. First impressions mean a lot and without an organised process, businesses tend to leave it up to good faith that people will adjust seamlessly.”

Recruitment and onboarding solutions enable HR managers to set the pace from the start, showing them the tools new team members can use from day one to feel empowered. Whether these are mechanisms for autonomy or they simply explain the culture and how it supports independent thinking, people won’t have to go far to understand how they can get the best employee experience possible.

It’s never enough to simply say that the company wants to empower individuals; it needs to be actioned. Currently, 42 percent of smart talent believe that their business has yet to give them the technological tools to excel in their role, despite nearly three-quarters saying that technology should play a fundamental role in reaching their full potential.

Rolling certifications and annual or bi-annual reviews play a key role in understanding the immediate needs of employees. Talent management platforms give managers and team members the tools to track qualifications, get real-time feedback on projects and ensure that everyone’s on track to reach their goals. It’s the action behind the idea of empowering smart talent and it can’t be forgotten.

How can you identify change-makers in your business?

Discovering smart talent can be challenging depending on your company’s workplace culture. Self-reflection is a great place to start, though.

“Our research found that people who feel as though their strongest skills aren’t being used well or who haven’t received training are the most likely to leave for greener pastures,” Sharon says.

Address those inefficiencies immediately by instituting regular one-to-one meetings, a clear succession plan and industry-recognised recommendations for upskilling. Providing the tools for people to launch their professional growth will quickly reveal who the key change-makers are.

In general, smart talent will be passionate about their role and excited – especially in the face of complex projects. They want the company to do well and their work to shine through in that success, which is why many might feel confined by traditional hierarchies that aren’t supportive of autonomy.

Instituting a cohesive recruitment and onboarding strategy, as well as giving employees the digital and physical tools to succeed on their own will help HR teams to identify the top performers in due time. At the back-end of it all, HR is instrumental in using modern technological solutions like cloud-based HR software to align the business in one direction.

Read our report Smart Talent Expects to learn more!

Sharon LooneyBy Sharon Looney