It Is What It Is

It Is What It Is

Tired of hearing about the “new normal” yet. I like to call it, “It is what it is!” A coaching buddy of mine introduced me to the concept. Today Matters!

Failing Forward

My point is that every minute, hour, day, week, month, and year brings us a new normal. Those same timeframes also give us a new opportunity to have a fresh start. Of course, if you overuse your fresh starts, you start spinning like a tornado. It’s okay to fail, fail fast or fail forward, but failure is not a goal or direction to go. Certainly, the businesses and site selectors represented in this magazine know that all too well. It is what it is!

Let’s be honest. How many of us have successfully carried out a New Year’s resolution to its satisfactory conclusion? I’ve heard some research say that the vast majority of resolutions are blown out of the water by January 21. So, we’ve all failed. Fortunately, we have many opportunities outside of the new year to find out if “it is what it is.” Just do not overuse those re-starts.

Can we “birth away” a workforce shortage?

An “old normal” that could very well come back into our lives and haunt us again in the next six to twelve months is talent attraction and retention challenges. Remember those?!?! Incredibly low unemployment across the international economy combined with lower birth rates is a recipe for catastrophe. That’s what we were talking about as recently as February 2020.

In my community, even if all of the graduates stayed, we would not hit the employer needs with the silver tsunami taking place. That retirement rate may even be increasing as people tire of this mess and leave the workforce earlier. What will the “new normal” be like then. Right now, “it is what is it” and we need to re-establish the talent conversation again.

Businesses and site selectors are focusing in on these demographics and trends now more than ever. The numbers seem to be pretty basic. Get me people and I can get you a business. Simple and not easy. Those people need skills, but what skills are most relevant. Does our education system need to train people on widget production or relational production? Is it hard vs. soft skills?

Solution: Talent Engagement Cycle

Is your talent engagement cycle flawless? Will it attract the right talent? Will it attract entrepreneurs? Do you even have a talent plan? How is your plan impacting your corporate culture? How would employees define your culture (NOT your vision/mission—NOPE)? How are you engaging with up to five generations in your workplace?

The five stages in the cycle are self-engagement, pre-engagement, on-engagement, in-engagement, and re-engagement. Prospective employees and employees can come in and out at various points along the way.

The talent engagement cycle I’ve developed begins with self-engagement. One of my key themes for my speaking engagements is “Put YOUR Oxygen Mask On First”. If your employees are not growing in their leadership, regardless of where they fit on the food chain, you are doing a dis-service to your business and your employees. Corporate culture relies heavily on employee engagement and their desire to come to work every day with passion for what they do. Simon Sinek in his two “Why” books, Start With Why and Find Your Why, helps us to better understand that why. Are you playing just to win or are you elevating to a more worldly view and focus? Has your business developed their why?

Once you have established an “inside-out” philosophy with your team (i.e. employees) we move into pre-engagement. Essentially that is defining and living your corporate culture. Your “why”, as Simon Sinek would say. Why do you exist and why do employees even care to come to work? Then how does that shift into expressing your brand to the people who don’t even know they want to work for you yet? How are you communicating your why, corporate culture, vision, mission, and values? If you are a tech company, are you finding the gaming organizations and recruiting those talented folks?

Now that you’ve found that employee, the work really begins. On-engagement is how you treat that employee after they have “signed” and during their early months of employment. A tool that I have found exceptional for engagement is DISC. The John C. Maxwell Team has developed an entire program around DISC to help businesses grow their employees and bottom line. How are you engaging employees in their community? Has your employee handbook been updated to 2020 standards?

In-engagement is for the employees who are committed to the organization, at least for now. I had a great conversation with an employee charged with employee engagement at a major tech company in my community. The challenge is helping people grow in their skills when the food chain is crowded at the top. Are you using coaching or mentorship to engage your employees in the culture? Do you know the difference between the two and which one is appropriate? There is always room for leadership, no matter where the person is on the organization chart.

The final phase in the cycle is re-engagement. It is a challenge to keep all of our employees so what are you doing when they leave? If the circumstances of their departure are good, treat them like alumni from your college where you continue to maintain the relationship through something as simple as your corporate newsletter. People often leave because the grass is greener and then they realize it wasn’t so bad where they were before.

Skill Sets

I came across the following skills that Mid-State Technical College in central Wisconsin supports for its’ graduates (i.e. part of the upcoming workforce):

•             Behave responsibly—both individually and cooperatively

•             Communicate effectively

•             Demonstrate effective critical and creative thinking

•             Demonstrate cultural, social, and global awareness

•             Uses appropriate technology

Many years ago, there was a project out of Duluth MN that was picked up at several area community foundations called, “Speak Your Peace.” It centered around nine very similar soft skills that included pay attention, listen, be inclusive, don’t gossip, show respect, seek common ground, damage repaired relationships, use constructive language and take responsibility. You can see the connection with the soft skills listed at the beginning.

Many times, we don’t know how to impact people around us with these soft skills. We feel like our hands are tied.

The simple, but not easy solution:

  • Commit intentional acts of kindness, not random ones.
  • Have an uncomfortable conversation using the skills on the lists above.
  • Support local businesses.
  • Dig a little deeper to support the non-profit community.
  • If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Failing forward is part of everyday life. It is what it is. We will have to fail forward through the talent challenge again and rely on the engagement cycle to fully nurture our prospective and current employees. While those employees are on our team, we have to focus on growing their soft skills while enhancing their hard skills.

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