Why It’s Important to Invest in Your Employees

It’s no secret that top talent makes businesses go. Whether you are a startup or a Fortune 500 company, you want and need top talent to grow and add value to your company. Company culture, productivity, and overall employee happiness stem directly from how much training, responsibility, and empowerment someone has at their current company.

With the growing need for top talent and the escalating trend of high turnover rates, it’s more important than ever to be investing time, resources, and money into your employees. Instead of spending endless amounts of dollars to hire and retrain new employees, businesses need to focus more on how to hire and retain top talent.

Additionally, startups simply cannot afford to have a high turnover because of a lack of cash flow early on. Startups (whether fully funded or not) cannot and should not throw away money, time, or effort training employees.

Avoid high turnover rates and invest in your team with these six keys:

Hire for Character, Train for Skill

I heard this saying early on. At my company, Digital Talent Agents, we are so protective of our company culture that we cherish character much more than skill. Just because someone’s skills are a perfect fit does not mean they are a perfect fit for your company.

In interviews, besides asking about a candidate’s qualifications, I like to figure out what type of person they are, what they like to do outside of work, and what their true passions are. It’s much easier to teach someone a skill if they are willing and motivated than it is to motivate someone who has the skills — or worse — try to change their personality or workability within the company.

Our motto is, if we’re going to build this company right and have fun along the way, we want people who we’re going to like being around and people who will challenge us to be a better company. If you are not 100 percent sure if someone will add to the company culture and mission you have created, then don’t hire them.

Have Mentorship

One of the biggest reasons people leave a job or are unhappy with their current employer is that they don’t feel challenged or feel like they are experiencing personal growth. Not only do people want to be led, but they also want to feel a personal attachment with their peers and managers in the workplace.

At DTA, every full-time employee is assigned a mentor who is not in his or her department or a direct manager. This allows for full transparency and true mentorship, and it promotes personal growth that is beyond a person’s job requirements. It causes employees to be more involved and more knowledgeable about multiple aspects of the company.

Be Consistent

Consistency as a leader is the key to investing in your employees. Dr. Bob Nelson, President of Nelson Motivation Inc., shared some great insight on consistency:

“Consistency builds trust and creates a relationship where there are no surprises and you can count on the other person,” Nelson said. “If you are inconsistent, it makes it difficult to know what the future will hold, so people end up spending more time worrying about the future. If you don’t want the relationship to have wide swings in expectations and follow-through, you need to systematically build your relationship over time, being predictable in all aspects — including communication and development.”

Give Responsibility

Giving responsibility to those within your organization shows that you trust your employees. The goal is to replicate your own leadership qualities in your organization, and that will not happen without giving responsibility and showing your trust in up-and-coming leaders.

Michelle Randall, principle of Enriching Leadership, said, “Employees aren’t mindless minions who execute your orders for money. Giving them responsibility grows their abilities by valuing their input and opinions and giving them the ability to fail. It’s a show of trust and builds their capacity — and capacity building is part of a manager’s responsibilities.” 

Have Checkpoints

It’s important to hold your employees accountable, but it’s also important to be accountable to them. Spend time with each employee to ensure that things are going well personally and professionally in their role within the company. This is a great opportunity to work out any problems or issues and, most importantly, a great time to brainstorm ways that the company could be doing things better.

Hold monthly one-on-one meetings with everyone in your organization. As things start to grow and scale, spend time with your leaders and have them spend time with the individuals in their department.

Be Flexible

Hold your employees accountable, but also be flexible to their needs. By creating a flexible environment and culture, you can really empower your employees to embrace failure and learn from their mistakes instead of constantly walking on eggshells.

At DTA, we have a very flexible work schedule. Every employee is encouraged to work from where he or she need to be, especially if something happens and they need to work away from the office. This creates an environment where employees are more concerned with working to accomplish their goals instead of getting caught up on the amount of hours worked or how many days off they get in a year.

Entrepreneurs, CEOs and executives need to have processes in place to ensure that they are developing their talent and that their employees are happy and productive. If employee development and morale go unchecked, you will end up spending much more time, money, and energy due to high turnover and internal issues. Additionally, if you are spending more and more time correcting mistakes, letting people go, and hiring new employees, it will stunt your business’ growth — no matter how well the company is doing.


Do you lead like LeBron?

This article by Michelle Randall originally appeared on FastCompany.com. To follow Michelle’s expert contributions there visit: www.fastmichelle.com

Business leaders are like athletes: They need to be able to adapt to rapidly changing elements in their environment and respond with speed, power, and accuracy.

Unlike in sports, however, where it’s relatively easy to perceive what your opponents or teammates are doing and respond accordingly, the things that business professionals need to pay attention to and respond to are often very subtle, and can be hidden in nuance.

That’s because, while sports require physical agility, business requires cultural agility.

In today’s global market, business leaders and organizations need to be able to work effectively across cultures. This demands a certain skillset. Business professionals need to be able to recognize, and respond appropriately, to different behaviors and worldviews in order to build strong working relationships across cultures. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as it might sound.

When we meet on the playing field of business, we tend to dress alike, and we speak about the same things that are important to us. But this often masks the different assumptions and worldviews that we have, causing us to miss information that’s critical to building relationships and working together more effectively. Other times, we do notice cultural differences, but simply don’t know what to make of them.

If we strive to recognize cultural behaviors that we don’t understand rather than simply disregarding them, we can often work them out in our minds until we realize, “Oh, that’s what that was about.” That’s perception, which is the first step toward cultural agility.

The second part is then, how do you act? How do you know how to act in a way that will be relevant and important to the other person, and that he or she will understand and respond to favorably?

To begin, there are six key skills that will help you master cultural agility:

1) Self-awareness. Being aware of your own cultural biases, behaviors, and worldviews.

2) Being attuned to your environment, and to cultural nuances. Adjusting your behavior to harmonize the relationship – without mimicking.

3) Adapting to cultural differences and ambiguities. Being flexible to the situation.

4) Being authentic. (It’s not about putting on somebody else’s culture, but about being able to interact in a way that’s relevant and important to them.)

5) Acquiring knowledge about other cultures. Immersing yourself in the foreign culture and seeking out new experiences.

6) Continually assessing how you’re developing in each of these areas, and looking for opportunities to grow.

These skills come more naturally to some people than others. It would make sense that those who are more culturally agile are those who have traveled more, or have had more exposure to foreign countries, but that’s not always the case.

Let me give you an example. I have a client who’s from a very small town in the Deep South, where he runs a manufacturing company. He just recently got his first passport. He has no stamps in it yet, but it’s a prized possession for him. He’s never been outside of the borders of the United States, and has spent very little time outside the geographic borders of the town where he grew up. Nevertheless, he’s one of the most culturally agile people I know. He’s aware of his own biases. He’s attuned. He adapts. He’s authentic. He may not have a lot of international experience, but he’s incredibly enthusiastic and engaged and fully present with others. He has a sort of explorer spirit. When he meets new people, he looks at how they are different from him, and instead of judging them, he says, “Wow, that is really neat. How can I find out more?” That has a lot to do with cultural agility.

But cultural agility doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Most people need to work at it, continually building on their skills even after they begin to see results.

If you’re looking to succeed in this global economy, it’s time to hunker down and get serious about improving your game. Put these skills of cultural agility into action on the playing field of business, and you’ll have a real shot at taking home the gold.


How the Walkman Caused the S&P Downgrade

Here’s my newest article for Fast Company. Check it out and whether you agree or don’t, please share your thoughts by commenting.

I was walking across my university campus 20 years ago when it hit me. My bulky Walkman was piping my favorite tunes through muff-like headphones when I noticed just how many other students were also plugged into their own music. We were ensconced in our own customized micro-environments with no need to interact with any sounds we hadn’t selected for ourselves, or even with each other.
At that moment, I was filled with dread for a likely future when we would become alienated from each other by our personalized, parallel realities. Fast-forward tro today’s era of mass customization. More far-reaching than entertainment, the Internet delivers news to us that is automatically filtered for our individual preferences. As a result, we never need bump into a viewpoint that opposes our own.

I currently live in Northern California and travel regularly to the Southeast U.S. As I listened to conversations in each region during the recent debt-ceiling debacle, both the differences in opinion and similarities in attitude were jarring. Whether it was the doomed “Reid-Pelosi-Obama economy” or an unwavering devotion to Keynsian economics, everyone at the respective tables was in such vehement agreement that the other viewpoint was completely incomprehensible. The result across the board was the wholesale dismissal of the people holding the differing opinions as uninformed, stupid, or just plain nuts.

The United States has become fairly accustomed to this dismal state of affairs over the past two decades. We bemoan the viciousness and voracity of divisive politics, but we’ve lived with it because the ramifications have been mainly private. Then comes Standard & Poor’s to pop our own personal bubbles and deliver stinging payback for our political dysfunction….
Read the rest of the article at Fast Company.


Focus on People for Successful International Acquisitions

When Daimler and Chrysler merged in 1998, the combined company was expected to become the largest car manufacturer in the world. What was supposed to be a marriage of equals, instead became a cautionary tale for international acquisitions.

While a number of factors derailed the alliance, there’s a general belief that the cultural differences between the two companies – one German, the other American; one a high-end brand, the other perceived as blue collar – played a huge role in working relationships that grew increasingly toxic.

As a counter example, the merger between Renault and Nissan is a text book case of two companies whose merger surpassed all expectations. Continue reading


Are You Surrounding Yourself With Fools? (You Should Be.)

By FC Expert Blogger Michelle Randall:

Not having broadcast TV, my husband and I just discovered The Tudors.

Beyond the fun of religion, sex, and beheadings; at its heart, the series is a fascinating depiction of how a young Henry VIII transforms into an infamous tyrant, to whom no one who dares speak the truth or else find themselves on the chopping block–quite literally.

There is only one exception, Henry’s Fool, Will Sommers, who speaks the truth that no one else dares, with equal parts searing wit and jaw-dropping directness. He could do this because absolute monarchs grated relative immunity only to their court jesters. Thinking about my own role as an executive coach, I realized that I am indeed a Fool. Continue reading


Negotiating on the Same Side of the Table

by Michelle Randall

Imagine a basketball team, split over passionate differences in strategy, refusing to work together, even taunting each other during a big game. This team would be stealing the ball from its own players who would be blocking shots made by their own teammates, fouling and pushing each other out-of-bounds. In short, it would be a game of perplexing alliances or, even worse, a game of one-on-one-on-one-on-one. Would a team like this have a chance of winning a game? Most likely not. In fact in a game with fractured teams scoring on their own teammates, how would you even determine the winner? Would fans (if there were any) buy tickets? Would they show up for the game? With this as a political reality would voters actually show up at the polls? Continue reading


Politicians: Coaching’s Next Frontier

by Michelle Randall, CPCC

“We believe in co-active relationships, partnerships and community, knowing that our impact will be much greater than if we acted alone.”


Imagine that Co-Active principles replaced partisanship in government. “We operate from a foundation of respect and trust that each individual has inherent value to add. We listen with deep curiosity and intent to discover and build on each other’s ideas and intentions.”

What would be different in our legislatures? Continue reading