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Sustainable Employee Retention

Some have stated that “the most widely overlooked — and the most impactful — pillar in employee retention is the quality of managers.”

Although the quality of managers is important, there is very little a high-quality manager can do within a restrictive and tropophobic workplace. It’s the organization’s responsibility to help managers become great by transforming its organizational structure design principles. Unfortunately, most organizations have no clue about organizational design principles in general, let alone about Open Systems Design Principles in particular.

Digital transformation may enable HR leaders to retain talent in the short term, but, eventually, digital transformation only exacerbates retention issues within restrictive and tropophobic organizations.

Yes, the digital transformation of all functions is inevitable and we are reaching an apex. However, digital transformations must enhance the workplace, not exacerbate it, specifically with the need to embrace new technologies such as AI, machine learning, etc.. The digital transformation of enterprises have impacted all areas, especially work culture, employee expectations, and talent management in general.

Although it’s easier than ever for everyone to communicate and stay connected, this poses many challenges to organizations based on restrictive and tropophobic organizational structures, because these structures were deliberately designed to restrict communication (top-down). And this is further evidenced due to the increased transparency brought about by digital transformations. Everyone is expected to communicate openly, immediately, and truthfully. Employees expect more than ever a high level of transparency from their employers who can no longer afford to fool them. This requires a new organizational design, namely, Open Systems Design Principles which play a major role establishing trust and employee engagement.

It’s not enough to use technology to enhance employee experience, or to provide technologies that enable them to do their jobs better, if the overall organizational structure remains restrictive and tropophobic (i.e., bureaucratic).

Successful companies compete with the best talent. Yet, the biggest mistake HR leaders make when attempting to build a sustainable talent acquisition and retention strategy is focusing on symptoms while leaving the malady intact.

Yes, first impressions are very important. However, providing an inspiring employee experience even before the first day without sustaining it, it’s much worse than no providing any experience at all.

Putting a “human touch” on recruiting practices, or involving the hiring managers, and having a career portal that reflects the culture of the organization, will not be sustainable, unless this culture emerges from an enhancive and tropophilic organizational structure.

There is an obvious and direct link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction and, thus, business success. However, this link is neither tangible nor measurable within restrictive and tropophobic organizations.

The more engaged employees are, the more passionate they feel about the organization’s mission and vision, the higher their efficiency and productivity. In addition, customers can tell when employees are inspired, driving customer satisfaction and sales growth much higher. Inspired employees drive innovation, collaboration and stay in the organization longer, minimizing turnover and increasing profitably. From every angle, engaged and inspired employees increase efficiency and productivity.

Onboarding and orientation are seen as a strategic necessity for companies, spending plenty of time completing paperwork, reviewing the handbook, enrolling in benefits, and taking a tour of the office believing -hoping?- this will help new hires become part of their culture, without even realizing that their culture remains restrictive and tropophobic.

Why waste valuable resources reinventing the wheel? The core components or best practices for employee engagement can only emerge from an environment conducive to ideal-seeking behavior. Namely, from enhancive and tropophilic organizational structure based on Open Systems Design Principles.

HR leaders that want to build a competitive retention and positive employee experience must prioritize the transformation of their restrictive and tropophobic structures. Senior leadership, especially CEOs, need to embody moral authority in order to properly convey the Vision of the organization. Calling yourself “Chief Culture Officer” and “I work as hard as you can” will do little, if anything, if your culture is based on restrictive and tropophobic principles. From the CEO down, everyone in the organization must understand and adopt Open Systems Design Principles in general, and an expansive/tropophilic organizational structure, in particular.

Without the top of the organization’s total commitment and active involvement in establishing an enhancive and tropophilic structure, no retention strategy will ever work and every effort will be futile.

Some “experts” argue that “the most widely overlooked and the most impactful pillar underpinning employee experience is the quality of managers.” Yet, the quality of managers is mostly determined by the quality of their organizational structure. Most organizations waste valuable resources with “leadership development training,” but no training will have a positive impact within restrictive and tropophobic structures. Training managers to support and empower their people is a futile exercise within these structures. Within expansive and tropophilic structures, training managers is not necessary because the support and empowerment of their people is part of its DNA.

Likewise, within restrictive and tropophobic structures, field surveys asking employees to rate their managers in order to ensure daily actions match desired behaviors, is a self-deceiving exercise because the resulting metrics — what some call “Manager Effectiveness Index” — are entirely subjective. Whereas, within expansive and tropophilic structures, there is no need to chart managers’ progress because its patently evident to everyone around them.

Another “pillar” highlighted by some “experts” as one of the best practices of employee engagement, is trust. In fact, trust is the most impactful pillar underpinning employee experience. Although most organizations strive to build a trusting culture, they fail miserably because trust cannot take place within restrictive and tropophobic structures.

Caring has also been mentioned as a main pillar behind employee engagement. Yet, most organizations fail to stand behind their employees on many counts.

No doubt about it, great businesses are powered by great people, and great people are powered by great organizational designs.

We know we can’t expect employees to stay physically forever, but with an expansive and tropophilic organizational structure, their legacy will remain forever by becoming our best employer brand ambassadors.

Within an expansive and tropophilic structure, no engagement “strategy” is necessary, because every employee is intrinsically motivated and engaged on a daily basis by a leadership with integrity, transparency, trust, and humility.

Everything is meaningless if the workplace doesn’t have a nurturing and caring environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and safe enough to speak their mind.

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

Sustainable Systems International

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant and stocks trader, keynote speaker, published author, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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