How to win the post-pandemic war for talent

Leadership strategist Dan Pontefract suggests things execs can do now to stave off a potential exodus in the near future.
Leadership, Jehyun Sung

By Dan Pontefract

There’s a war that’s about to start, and it has nothing to do with the imminent second wave of toilet paper hoarding madness.

Coming soon to a socially distanced office near you, a new battleground will emerge: the “post-pandemic war for talent.” It could get ugly.

Those bright-eyed, super-clever team members furiously working away from the confines of their living rooms will soon be vaccinated. And with it, the ultimate question will undoubtedly be asked by the people whom we call “top talent.” Did my leader honestly care about me during the pandemic? Do they care at all?

For an alarmingly large number of employees, the stark answer will be no. “My boss never cared about me before the pandemic, and nothing has changed during it either,” some will say. With that type of sentiment – and a vaccination scar to bare – leaders can be assured that the “top talent” they once cherished as they ploughed through new assignments, projects and deals will already have negotiated a new salary and position at a competitor.

“If only I cared a little more,” the now forlorn leader might mutter to themselves.

Alas, there is hope! The pandemic is certain to take us well into 2021. If leaders act now, they just might retain their talent and fend off any poaching or, worse, employee fleeing. Here are five ways they can instil a little more care into their leadership style and stave off the potential for that post-pandemic war for talent.

Chat About Norm

No, not Norm from accounting. A caring leader will set up a private chat with each of their team members to discuss a series of norms that likely have never been discussed, let alone created. For example, does the team member have a preferred communication style? Would they rather not receive texts from the boss? How about meetings, length, frequency, or even where they occur? Having a chat about “norm” means you care enough to inquire about their preferred working style. That’s as caring as it gets.

Make Introductions

You’re the leader. You’re supposed to know people in positions of influence who possess boatloads of experience. Now, think about the growth plan of your team members. Is there anyone in your network – inside the organization or outside of it – that might be a good fit to help that employee develop a new skill? Make your network part of your team’s development plan.

Ask For Help

Instead of trying to solve every problem that comes your way on your own, request assistance from the team. Your vulnerability is an act of caring. Who might help you with the problem? If something has gone sideways, who from the team can help you get things back on track? When you ask for help, you immediately offer up a trust bond. The more trust bonds, the more likely the employee wants to stick around.

Establish 10-Minute Listening Sessions

Listen. Leaders don’t do enough of it. Team members crave contact time with the boss, but it’s even more impactful if you’re just there to listen. Once a week, set up a 10-minute listening session with all of your team members. Let them riff on whatever it is that is irksome. No answers are required. Just listen and let them unload.

Recognize Their Efforts

One of the simplest ways to care about an employee and to appreciate their value is to recognize their efforts. Sending a templated thank-you card on a service anniversary is not the type of recognition that really means anything these days. How about offering kudos at the next team meeting? Why not send a private text or DM, acknowledging something that they’ve completed or done well? Randomly call them up just to say, “great job.” When we don’t recognize the effort, we ignore an employee’s value.

These techniques are not a silver bullet; however, they are bound to resonate with your team members. Care a little more, and you just might inject some optimism that retains your top talent post-pandemic. Even if there is another run on toilet paper.

Dan Pontefract, former Chief Envisioner at Telus, is a leadership strategist and the author of Lead. Care. Win. How to Become a Leader Who Matters. 

Photo by Jehyun Sung via Unsplash.