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Work isn’t Working Caroline Whaley, Co-Founder Shine For Women

Work Isn’t Working 

Thinking out loud with our Founder Caroline Whaley: Insights from our expert leaders and coaches 

If there’s one thing that has become really clear recently, it’s that work just isn’t working for people anymore. Most of us imagined a day when we would all be back full-time (or at least majority-time) in offices, but in reality, that just hasn’t happened and is being led by our younger employees.  Finding ourselves in the midst of such a huge battle for great talent, we just have to rethink work if we are to keep our most valuable resource happy and productive. Cal Whaley discusses… 

It’s been another turbulent year for the job market. From the massive job losses in 2020/21 we now find ourselves in a huge war for talent. You only have to look at the number of cancelled flights in the UK due to staff shortages or see that Cisco is recruiting 5000 new employees this year to know that all of us must focus on not just recruitment, but engagement and retention too.  

In fact, the best way to think about employees now is to consider them your most important stakeholders – much like we used to consider customers and shareholders. The reality is that without great employees, we won’t have customers or shareholders anyway.  

A recent article by People Matters on how to win the war for talent in 2022 notes that “identifying quality talent is not difficult but requires a considerable amount of time, money, and effort.” The article goes on to say that “job seekers expect a consumer-like experience and human touch to nurture their journey.”  

And that’s before they even set foot in the building.  

It’s crucial for employers to nurture young talent through this difficult time. Without these rising stars and without gender parity, organisations will lose the energy, diversity and creativity that we all need right now to transform and future-proof our businesses. 

There are steps employers can take to look after young workers and keep them engaged and inspired: 

Flexibility comes in all shapes and sizes 

Thinking out loud with our Founder Caroline Whaley: Insights from our expert leaders and coaches

At Shine, we’ve always believed that personal choice is at the heart of what most people want. Naturally, there are similarities between us all but if our work with thousands of women around the world has taught us anything, it’s that we are truly all individuals – with different needs, desires, personalities, qualities, values and skills. What works for one person can be diametrically opposed to the next, even when we are of similar age, life-stages or beyond.  

On top of that, many of us still are reluctant to speak up about challenges in our personal lives. Whether managing mental health issues, dealing with complex care needs or just needing a break to recharge, somehow we are still finding it hard to speak up for fear of retribution. Yet, one of the most loved aspects of our workshops is so often the fact that people get to share what’s really going on for them, to connect on the most basic human level, to verbalise their challenges and be supported by other like-minded women.  

Furthermore, in work we rarely share our personal passions, goals and ambitions with each other, as though they don’t matter. Yet these are our lives we’re talking about, not just the subset that is our career, so there’s every reason for organisations to support those choices too. Lululemon employees are encouraged to set career and personal goals and go out of their way to celebrate both. Guess what? Their engagement levels are twice as high as the industry average. 

Interestingly, whilst the pandemic was brutal for so many, there are elements of forced behaviour change that many of us actually want to maintain. Working from home has enabled us to have family meals, pick kids up from school, get reports written in peace, use commuting time to get some fresh air and exercise instead. The list goes on. It’s just not surprising that whilst it seemed so harsh at the time, some of the forced changes and creative problem solving in our personal lives have proved worthy of permanent change. We shouldn’t be surprised that a ‘typical’ working day or week feels no longer relevant when individuals are juggling so much in their lives. Taking ownership of how we manage our professional and personal lives is something we have wanted for decades and with talent shortages abound, there’s every reason we should now be demanding it. 

Any organisation that’s not truly listening to their people is going to get burnt here. Understanding what people really need is vital. There’s no reason why there can’t be some rules in place to ensure collaboration and productivity remains high; in fact bringing people together is essential to maintaining culture and creating a sense of belonging. There’s no need to be afraid of setting boundaries for your organisation; in fact people respect them if they are reasonable. It’s just vital to listen before creating them, give people time to adjust to them and be open to changing them as time progresses. More often than not, including a diverse range of your people in your decision-making will go a long way.  

Show the love 

At Shine, we do an exercise when we tell people what we most appreciate about them and the impact is extraordinary. The fact that it has such an impact is extraordinary in itself but the reality is that we do not expect to receive appreciation and positive feedback and because it’s so rare, the effect is beautiful and profound.  

Multiply that into a whole organisation and you can just imagine what might happen. Appreciation and gratitude are some of the most compelling reasons to stay in an organisation. They create such a sense of wellbeing, of belonging, that far outweigh traditional perks. Whilst we enjoy those perks, they do nothing to retain good people. But recognition does.  

The great thing here is that appreciation is free! We can all give and receive it and it’s so simple to do. There are some important things to remember though. Firstly, it has to be totally genuine (we can all sniff out BS). It has to be specific (‘hey, great job’ is not going to hack it), it has to be owned (‘I really loved the way you handled that issue so calmly’ versus ‘We all think that you did a good job’). Lastly, be vocal. Making public statements of appreciation and recognition go such a long way and also open the door for others to follow suit, thus creating a culture of appreciation.  

Go for it. It’s the best thing you can ever do to create an extraordinary organisation and a team of inspired, engaged humans.  

Growth matters (put your money where your mouth is) 

Thinking out loud with our Founder Caroline Whaley: Insights from our expert leaders and coaches

Another vital way to engage and retain your great talent is to invest in their development. This not only is a clear indication that you value your people broadly but on an individual level can be highly motivating.  

The days of gradual progression through one or two organisations is over and younger employees are constantly scanning for opportunities to grow and move up swiftly. They are taking more control of their personal and professional development than ever before, expect more and will show their gratitude to the organisations that feed their growth. It’s not a sure-fire way to retain all your talent but meaningful development opportunities that ensure they grow in professional skills will pay back for sure. Even more so, the opportunities that enable them to grow as human beings, as highly effective leaders now and in the future, are the ones that will engage and inspire your very best talent that will lead your business into a new era of work.  

Work that will work for everyone.  

Share this article with your colleagues and the people around you and encourage a healthy discussion. And for anything else, follow us on social media or get in touch via email but remember when women thrive, men thrive, business thrives.  

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