In this fast-paced uncertain world, managers are being forced to do more with less. What if there was a simple way to do this?
What would it be like to have a time machine and go back to a pre-covid world? Your staffing levels are workable. Hardly anyone calls in sick. No one has resigned recently. Stress levels are normal for a busy environment. Productivity is good. Your team’s mental health is stable. Team morale is enhanced by close physical contact. You mostly feel in control of your environment.
Unfortunately, that time machine doesn’t exist just yet. However, managers can use the current situation to find new and innovative ways to increase employee engagement and performance through the much-underutilized skill of talent development.
In this article, I will discuss five simple talent development hacks for managers to improve employee performance, improve retention rates, and reduce stress.
Table of Contents
- What Is Talent Development?
- Managers Are Being Forced to Deliver More With Less
- 5 Ways to Use Talent Development to Improve Employee Performance
- Next Steps
What Is Talent Development?
The Association Of Talent Development defines talent development as:
“Efforts that foster learning, employee engagement, talent management, and employee development to drive organisational performance, productivity, and results. To some, talent development is an important tool for unleashing human potential. To others, it is a set of practical capabilities for driving organisational results by creating the processes, systems, and frameworks that advance training and development strategies, succession planning, and learning opportunities.”
This article focuses on what managers can do to unleash human potential. Most managers are unaware of the power they have to unleash human potential within their employees. It is such an untapped leadership skill. This is in part because talent development traditionally sits within the human resources systems and frameworks.
Managers Are Being Forced to Deliver More With Less
The covid pandemic has led many companies to reduce staffing levels. When someone leaves, often they are not replaced, creating more stress and pressure on existing employees. This pressure leads to more resignations, compounding the problem.
The stay-at-home covid protocols have led people to rethink their working lives. Many are now opting to leave stressful jobs and start their own businesses working from home.
According to the World Economic Forum, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021 to start their own business. It was part of a period known as “The Great Resignation.”
Today, a company’s biggest threat against losing valuable employees is not other companies but technology.
Covid introduced people to a whole new range of technology that allows people to work remotely from anywhere in the world. This, combined with the explosion of SAAS applications, allows budding entrepreneurs to start businesses with little capital and marketing expertise.
However, all is not lost. Managers hold the key to not only stopping the mass exodus but increasing employee performance, productivity, and engagement exponentially.
Just as diamonds are made when subjected to extreme pressure, so has covid opened the possibility for managers to unearth the hidden diamond mines within their employees.
5 Ways to Use Talent Development to Improve Employee Performance
Below are five ways that managers can use talent development to improve employee performance.
1. Exchange the Management Hat for the Leadership One
Effective managers wear two hats: one representing management tasks, the other representing leadership skills.
John Kotter, in his book Leading Change, defines managers as “primarily being responsible for planning, budgeting, organizing, staffing, controlling, and problem-solving. Leadership, on the other hand, defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.”
As a manager, which hat do you wear most often? The manager or leader?
To use talent development strategies to improve employee performance, you will need to be wearing your leadership hat.
The best definition of leadership I have encountered is: “taking people to places they would not ordinarily go to by themselves.” (unknown source). If you want to get more from your people, you need to take them to places they never imagined themselves going.
When conducting sales training in organizations, I would find standard sales training would only marginally increase sales performance. Whereas, conducting mindset training would triple sales and referral rates. This resulted from shifting people’s beliefs about what was possible.
The technique used to achieve these results is discussed in the fifth hack, later in this article.
Wearing the manager hat will keep things from falling apart, but it won’t get you 10x performance results. If you are not getting the results you want, then ask yourself: what hat have I been wearing lately?
The more you invest in a leadership mindset, the higher the return you are going to get from your employees.
2. Discover Your Employees’ Strengths and Tap Them
The book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, outlines how the company Gallup conducted a study with over 2 million successful managers, teachers, and employees. They found that productivity and engagement increased significantly by developing strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, companies still insist on developing employees’ weaknesses at the expense of their strengths.
You only have to look at the field of sport to see the truth of this. If a swimmer is good at the 100-meter distance. Does the coach turn around and say, “let’s now practice the 1500 meters so that you can get good at that too”?
What does the coach do? They focus on 100-meter distance and tap into every bit of natural potential to create a world-class champion.
What if leaders thought like this—where every day, they help employees tap into their strengths and become world-class performers?
There are many tools on the market for assessing employees’ authentic strengths. One simple way to get the ball rolling is to ask employees what they love to do. The things that people love to do are the things they are naturally good at.
The reason for this is when you succeed at something, it provides positive reinforcement. This makes you feel good, leading you to hone that skill while reinforcing positive feelings towards yourself.
The more you help your employees develop their strengths, the greater the return on investment for everyone. The compounding effect kicks in when you do this with all your employees.
How much time and money do organizations waste forcing people to be good at things that will only yield marginal results at best? However, the biggest loss is performance and results. This simple talent development hack can improve your employees’ performance and results within a very short time.
3. Develop a Mindset That Everyone Has Talent
Think of all the people who report to you. How many do you believe to have genuine talent? If you said everyone, then move on to the next talent development hack.
If there are people in your team you do not believe are talented, you would be wise to fix this sooner rather than later. You cannot afford this mindset. It is costing you and the company a lot of money in lost performance and revenue.
Start by asking yourself why you believe this person is not talented? Is it a perceptional bias on your part? Could it be they are working on their weaknesses and not their strengths? While you hold a mindset that your employees are not good enough, then they will always remain underperformers. Learn why this is the case in talent development hack #5.
Good leaders are not afraid to ask the tough question: how might I be contributing to my employees’ underperformance?
As a leader, you have the power to fix this. No one lacks talent. If your employees are not operating to their full potential, then empower them to do so, whether that be in your department, the company, or somewhere else. Great leaders empower everyone to succeed.
4. Are You Tapping Into the Power of a Group Mind?
Is your department working as a group mind or a set of individual minds?
The classic team-building survival game of being stranded on an island with limited resources always shows that many minds will always outperform one. When participants are asked to rank items in order of importance for survival, individual scores are always less accurate than team scores.
When people come together and operate as one mind, the power of that is inestimable. For this to happen, you need to ask yourself: Am I or the company’s culture fostering individual mindset over group mindset? What type of reward systems and incentives does the company use? Ones that reward individual or group mindset?
What type of leader are you, one that fosters individual or group performance?
Here is a simple talent development hack to foster a group mindset.
Get the team to brainstorm all the barriers preventing them from being the top-performing department in the company or field. If they already are the top-performing team, then get them to brainstorm how they can still improve their current performance.
Prioritize the list, with one being the biggest barrier. Start with the top barrier, and ask the group to brainstorm how they can remove this barrier. It must be something they can do as a group, not something that somebody else has to change or do. Influencing other people or groups is allowed provided they develop the strategy and implement it.
As an added benefit, study the group dynamics to see who are the leaders, influencers, strategists, communicators. When you observe exceptional skills, get those individuals to share their strategy for success with other team members. You can also extend this activity to include other teams in the company.
Apart from the fact that group minds always outperform individual ones. This activity is powerful because people do not argue with their own data.
If team members come up with their own solutions, they take ownership of driving success. If you, as a manager, tell them what to do, you retain ownership for driving success.
5. A Little-Know Neuroscience Concept That Will Increase Performance
Within the field of neuroscience, there is a concept called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons were first discovered in 1995 by accident. A group of researchers in Italy led by Giacomo Rizzolatti were monitoring neural activity in the brains of monkeys as they made reaching movements.
One day, a researcher inadvertently mimicked a monkey’s movement. From this, the researchers noticed that when the monkey observed the researcher’s mimicked action, it sparked neural activity in the monkey’s brain that was identical to when the monkey had made the reaching movement itself.
Mirror neurons produce automatic mimicry. They create a similar state in an observer’s brain to the state of the person performing the action. Thus, the thinking and actions in one person directly influence the thinking and actions in another person.
Emotions Are Also Transmittable
Further research discovered that when one person sees another person expressing emotion, they activate the same areas of the brain associated with that emotion in the observer, making emotions transmittable.
In one study, volunteers inhaled a disgusting smell. They later watched a video of someone else smelling something and expressing disgust. Researchers noticed that volunteers, regardless of whether they were the participant or the observer, produced neural activity in the brain’s area associated with feelings of disgust.
Seeing the look of anger or joy on other people’s faces causes mirror neurons to trigger similar thoughts and emotions in us. If you think back to a situation when you were in the presence of someone happy, you felt happy. Conversely, if you were in the company of someone who is depressed, you felt depressed.
Horror movie producers use this concept well. They know that seeing someone else look frightened makes you feel scared as well. Mirror neurons assist movie makers to whip up emotions in their audiences.
Mirror Neurons Give Leaders the Power to Change the Way People Think
Mirror neurons highlight how easily we are influenced by other people’s thinking and emotions. However, it also gives you as a leader the power to change the way people think.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
The key tactic used in the mindset sales training to triple sales and referrals was mirror neurons. To consistently get these results, I would hold a vision of the participants achieving extraordinary sales results.
It was a three-day training program and for the first one and a half days, the participants would argue and complain that what I was saying was a load of nonsense. Then halfway through the program, they would stop arguing and get excited about the possibilities of what they could accomplish.
In the last activity on day three, participants were asked to complete a task that should not, by all the laws of physics, have been possible. The participants, of course, did not know this. However, every training group successfully completed the activity because they believed they could. I was never ceased to be amazed at the ingenious ways the groups approached achieving the task. Interestingly enough, no two solutions were ever the same.
How did I know it was the concept of mirror neurons and not the training itself that got the results?
When I was leaving the company, they paid a consultant to document the training so it could be replicated after I left. At the end of the third day, the consultant approached me and said that it was impossible to document how I conducted the training.
There did not appear to be any rhyme or reason to my facilitation strategies. They did not know how I was getting the results that I did. It was some years later when I started studying neuroscience that I discovered the secret to the exceptional results.
In another example, I taught primary school teachers the concept of mirror neurons. One teacher taught the intellectually disabled class—students with an IQ below 75. Her students outperformed the control group in basic maths and spelling. The other teachers in the experimental group saw significant improvements in both student grades and behaviors over the control group.
Leaders Can Harness the Power of Mirror Neurons
As a leader, you can harness the power of mirror neurons by holding a vision of what you want your employees to achieve. The trick is staying focused on where you want people to be and not on where they currently are.
At the sales training, had I bought into the limiting beliefs of the participants during the first one and a half days, they would never have achieved the results they did. I kept my focus and ignored all their protests and complaints.
Always remember to have your employees catch your mirror neurons rather than you catch theirs. This takes practice and focus, but the rewards are life-changing.
So there you have it, five talent development hacks to improve your employees’ performance, improve retention rates, and reduce stress.
The journey begins with one small step. The starting point is accepting that as a leader, you have the power to take people to places they would not ordinarily go to by themselves. Even implementing just one of these talent development hacks will have a big impact on you and your team’s performance. I would like to encourage you to implement just one hack in the next week.
You have so much power to change the lives of the people who report to you. Are you ready to step into that power?
You have it within you to become a world-class leader with these five talent development hacks. Imagine what the future will look like for everyone when you do this.
Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com
|||^||Association for Talent Development: What is Talent Development?|
|||^||World Economic Forum: The age of entrepreneurs: Why 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August|
|||^||American Psychological Association: The mind’s mirror|
|||^||ScienceDirect: Emotional Contagion|