Talent retention: why traditional methods are no longer enough
Business Chief sits down with Jen Scherler Gormley, HR Lead (UK), Cisco to discuss strategies to retain source and develop talent.
Currently in the UK, 43% of employers feel it has become more difficult to fill job vacancies over the last 12 months, with 31% seeing salary increases of more than 2% being used as an incentive for recruitment and retention of talent.
When it comes to recruitment and talent retention, Jen Scherler Gormley, HR Lead (UK), Cisco, believes that the flatline approach of annual appraisals and ratings for objectives and development simply isn’t enough. Performance ratings disenfranchise a large proportion of employees, creating year long labels regardless of a person’s change in performance over the next 12 months at a company. “For us, recruitment and talent management is about empowering people to be their best selves, as well as bringing everyone together to create an environment where individuals and teams can thrive. Five years ago, we revived our performance management processes by ditching annual appraisals and ratings.” Gormley further comments that the organisation’s move to eliminate annual appraisals from its talent strategy in 2015 has yielded positive results for its talent retention, seeing higher engagement from existing employees as well as providing a strong differentiator for attracting new talent.
Being ‘conscious’ is an important part of workplace culture, states Gormley. With 59% of UK workers looking to move jobs as a result of being undervalued, having no career progression and having unsupportive managers. With this in mind, it is important to focus on three key entwined areas: environment, the unique characteristics of the organisation and the specific experience of individuals, in order to manage and lead a positive culture. To incorporate this into its organisation, Cisco has implemented a digital platform that enables weekly connections in relation to what support is required and what individuals loved and loathed about the week, to aid its elimination of annual appraisals. “We call this ‘check-in’,” says Gormley. “It has been adopted at all levels of the organisation - including our CEO and executive leadership team - providing important information to drive a different kind of conversation with team members providing greater regularity, as well as allowing in the moment redirection of work, support and continuous coaching. Performance is ultimately personal to each individual and it is important that continuous conversations take place between employees and their leaders.”
According to Gormley, a workplace’s culture should be built on a foundation of accountability, empowerment and the freedom to speak out to achieve goals within an organisation. Transparency and empowerment is a driving force to build trust within an organisation and is a key element of ensuring that talent is retained and thriving.
When looking to source talent, Gormley highlights the importance of combining human connection with innovation to not only develop employees, but also the business. Industries are continuously changing and adapting, and organisations shouldn’t shy away from utilising multiple forms of employment such as apprenticeship programmes, alongside traditional employment methods, as well as utilising transferable skills. “There is no one answer to this, but we’ve found that the human connection intertwined with innovation, is fundamental to building and maintaining a culture of continuous learning as well as attracting talent that aligns with our values.”
Inclusion and diversity is essential to innovation. When sourcing, maintaining and retaining talent, it is key to ensure an organisation is inclusive. “We have found that certain language used in job profiles could dissuade female talent from applying. Therefore, we have implemented a tool that analyses the language in our job descriptions to ensure that we are attractive to a diverse pool of potential applicants. In addition, every year, we take part in Girls in ICT Day to encourage a higher percentage of girls to become a part of the industry by utilising technology to communicate with and support girls across the globe,” says Gormley. “Fundamentally, inclusion is a bridge to connect diverse perspectives, providing a platform for new ideas and inspiring innovation.”
Internal changes within a company can put a strain on organisations. With this in mind Gormley believes it is important to maintain frequent communication between leaders and team members to ensure that workplace culture doesn’t get left behind in the process. Companies should instead utilise internal changes to enhance communication and manage its talent. “We care a lot about our culture. We are driving for an environment where healthy conversations happen between individuals and teams, where no one is isolated and each person feels able to proactively support their colleagues,” says Gormely, who feels its implementation at Cisco provides a level of transparency she has not seen in other companies, resulting in greater engagement from employees to actively participate in conversations regarding experience and individual growth.
Ultimately, when it comes to talent retention, traditional methods are no longer enough to encourage employees to stay long term within a company. Companies need to be more conscious of their employees by maintaining human connection and communication, in order to drive accountability, empowerment and freedom within an organisation. As a result of incorporating these foundation into a company, organisations should see an increase in innovation and inclusion, as well as experiencing greater engagement when it comes to individual growth and performance.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.