We all know the love story as old as time: boy meets girl, they date, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after the end. Except, no one really tells you that a big part of “happily ever after” is figuring out how to grow old together. Growing old together involves coming to terms with how inevitable change is – whether you like it or not, it’s going to happen. Let’s face it, there will be things that worked in your relationship at the beginning that simply doesn’t anymore, and you and your partner WILL change. Relationships that have gone the distance haven’t succeeded because everything stayed the same from the start, but because they were able to adapt and realign to change.
The same goes for the employees in your organization, their goals and aspirations will change.
From mastering new skills to achieving financial security, the things that drive and motivate your employees will change/evolve with time. Regardless of what that is, “going the distance” in your employer employee alliance will require you to be responsive to these shifting priorities.
( Side Note: If there’s one book we recommend that captures “how to win” at talent, it’s THE ALLIANCE by Linkedin co-founder, Reid Hoffman)
Imagine it’s your first decade of marriage and your partner is aspiring towards financial security for the family. Naturally, they prioritize long hours at the office over quality family and friends’ time. Fast forward to the third decade of your marriage and your partner’s priorities have now shifted towards family time and optimizing their health as they soon realize that the children will be “leaving the nest”. Because priorities and goals change over time, re-visiting your aspirations for your marriage at regular intervals helps make sure that both parties are still “rowing in the same direction”.
The same goes for the employer-employee alliance. Employee A who initially joined your company because they were motivated by the opportunity to learn general management skills is 3 years later now driven by the opportunity to have a stronger work-life balance. This might, unfortunately, come at a time where the company is in exponential growth mode and needs all hands on (two) deck(s)!
Employee B, who joined right after his/her only child started university is no longer driven primarily by financial gain but now wants to transition into entrepreneurship, and this might come at a time when you are looking to build him/her up as your successor in the business.
As the above examples show, if you fail to have regular checkins with your employees about their goals and aspirations, you risk losing touch with what motivates and keeps them engaged. To your surprise, you might wake up to find out that you are both rowing in opposing directions.
The skills, networks, and experiences your employee is striving to achieve in order to fulfil their medium- to- longterm goals should merge into the work they currently do to get your organization to where it is trying to go. When these two things are no longer aligned, it’s time to revisit and course-correct by either re-assigning them to another mandate within the organization, or transitioning them out of the organization.
Haba, but it’s not that easy to just shift direction because the other side has “changed their parade”? That’s true, but imagine you are getting 50% of someone’s full potential because they are not motivated and engaged. Not only do you suffer because you are not getting the full return on your investment, but also they suffer because they are not living up to their potential productivity level. The situation is sub-optimal and therefore is not sustainable in the long-run. So you can choose to ignore it and have resentment build on both sides ( as with many an unhappy marriage) or you can address it proactively by having a conversation and developing a plan to adjust the employee’s scope of work.
Course-correcting will surely involve expenses on both sides as you might have to invest in succession planning for the current employee who wants to transition to a new mandate / job role. You might also have to invest in upskilling them to be able to perform in their new role. If the employee is a top performer and you want to keep them, then you’ll make that investment to avoid losing them or having them stay and be disengaged.