People throwing graduation hats in the air.
Source: photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash
I have spent over 30 years working and being a higher education student. Over time, external criticism has remained constant: Colleges and universities need to start behaving more like businesses.
No matter how you feel about it, everyone can benefit from learning from other patterns and structures. And there is one thing that higher education does really well, which can and should inform the way we all do management work: the ongoing and intentional practice of developing an unashamedly enthusiastic and loyal fan base known as alumni. .
It is no secret that many people are leaving or are considering quitting (or have already quit) their jobs for something they consider “better”. According to the World Economic Forum, 20% of employees plan to leave their current employer in 2022, with an increase in pay and the search for meaning at work cited as the two main reasons for this departure.
According to Gallup, “only 20% of employees strongly agree that they like what they do every day. And even more they feel chronically exhausted: 28% of US employees say they feel exhausted at work very often or all the time. ”And one of the primary causes of that burnout, according to Gallup, is a lack of support from their manager.
If you are a people manager, know this: one way or another, your people will leave. Either another opportunity will present itself, a life situation will force a change or there may be an internal promotion or role change. Or they will leave because you, their manager, have a negative impact on their health, well-being and future prospects.
Your people are your number one marketing tool. So, consider this: If your people left you right now, would they do it as enthusiastic and loyal fans of you and the organization, or as embittered and discontented former employees, relieved to have run away?
What would happen if you started thinking of every person on your team as a future alumnus? How could you change your management strategies? Here are four to consider.
Strategies for turning your employees into alumni
- Co-create intentional career plans from day one. Not all members of your team have aspirations for advancement or future management roles. Alright then. But each individual has the opportunity to learn and grow while on your team and to think about how this position fits into a future work life.
Take an active part in that journey by co-creating intentional career plans with each individual on your team. Ultimately, their growth is their responsibility. But get them to do that job when you build intentional conversations about it and let them know that you support any future career decisions they will make. Be a partner with them on that journey, not a hindrance in the path.
- Create opportunities for ongoing engagement. People want meaning and purpose from work, which means finding ways to connect the work to their meaning and purpose. One of the benefits of co-creating professional development plans is that it gives you insight into their meaning and purpose, which then allows you to find opportunities to build that connection.
Maybe he’s asking them to join a committee or lead a project. Maybe it’s shifting a responsibility or supporting a professional development experience. Not everything wants or has to connect, and sometimes people have to leave to find that connection.
But they’ll do it with gratitude and loyalty when they know you’ve done everything you can to help them find what makes their hearts sing.
- Conducting residence interviews. Organizations love an exit interview. And often the employees do it too, especially the most discontented, because it finally seems like a safe space to burn a place. But really, what is this for? He rarely solves what the problems were and certainly does nothing for that departing employee (other than some momentary satisfaction for revenge).
To turn your employees into future alumni, you need to start doing regular residence interviews. And that means being willing to ask and really listen to feedback. It means making it safe and comfortable for people to tell you where you fall short and how you could make things better. And then you have to actually act on that feedback.
This is not a one-time exercise, nor is it an annual conversation in performance reviews. It is an active, ongoing work. Universities always ask for feedback from their former students, and you should too. These are your most experienced and acquired consumers and their voice matters.
- When they leave (and they do), be their biggest fan. Your people will leave. As I imagine, one day you will too. So, think about how you want the experience to go for you. Do you want your manager to scold you, shame you and tell you how disappointed they are in you? Because that’s what happens all too often with young professionals.
And at that point, their attitude is, “I’m so glad I never have to think about that place again.” It’s okay to be sad, disappointed, or grieve over someone’s departure. This is very normal. But the way you behave right now will make the difference between someone thinking, “I’m disappointed to leave, but I will recommend everyone I know to apply for this job”, instead of “I’m so happy to be going out and I I’ll make sure everyone I know never runs for just one position here.
Be their biggest fan. Getting someone to their next career opportunity is a victory and one you should be enormously proud of. Remember, these are your future pupils. Will they cheer from the sidelines or lead a boycott? It is entirely up to you.