Sheahan: Rethink Retention, Promotion

By Aliah D. Wright Oct 2, 2013

SAN DIEGO—Business strategist and best-selling author Peter Sheahan posed this question to senior HR leaders: As an employee, “is it easier for me to leave your company to get promoted or stay?”

As more than a few voices at the Society for Human Resource Management Strategy Conference responded “Leave,” Sheahan nodded his head yes and smiled.

“This is the strategy people are adopting,” he said as he walked around the room, encouraging HR professionals to rethink the ways in which they approach talent management.

Sheahan, CEO of ChangeLabs and author of six books, including Making it Happen: Turning Good Ideas into Great Results (BenBella Books, 2011), has worked with Apple, Microsoft, IBM and others to grow their brands through innovation and change their behaviors to adapt to a constantly evolving business world.

Nearly 350 senior human resource professionals were in attendance as Sheahan delivered the conference’s opening keynote address. “Most of us are faced with a transformation, a shift around culture and leadership and management,” he said. “What do we really think the role of HR will be?”

Sheahan said that role will be having the right people, performing in the right ways, at the right price. “Think about your role through that lens.”

In order to get there, however, HR leaders have to break through their assumption that everyone should have a certain type of background in order to do his or her job well.

“The days of recruiting people that look and sound like you—the executives—are long gone,” he said. “Stereotypes will limit your progress.” He added that many executives are unaware that their biases affect whether they believe that a candidate can succeed in a position.

Job Hopping for Career Advancement

Once upon a time, people went to work and bided their time as they waited not only for leaders to take note of their hard work but for top executives to leave or retire, Sheahan said.

Not anymore.

“We’re starting to see this much more contemporary approach to career development,” Sheahan said. “We have to convince people to stay long enough to get a return on their career investment without leaving the four walls.”

In today’s working world people are increasingly asking themselves, “Does working here say something aspirational about me?” Sheahan said.

Studies are increasingly showing that employees crave flexibility and mobility in where they want to work, but they’re also showing that “the number-one thing is not just do you pay me fair,” he said, but “individuals are demanding a narrative—a story. Working here says something about me,” he said. “HR’s role is to become fully fledged marketers” in order to get people to want to stay in a role that may pay them less.

“Research we’ve seen shows that people will come to work for less if where they work feels good—even 11 percent less.”

Aliah D. Wright, author of the best-selling A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, LinkedIn…and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites (SHRM, 2013), manages the business leadership page for SHRM Online. Tweet with her during the SHRM Strategy Conference @1SHRMScribe.

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