People leaders at multinational corporations are puzzled. The pay packages are top notch. The benefits are generous. They offer yoga classes and breakfast bars. Yet the employees are leaving — in droves.
Answer: They want to learn more, not just earn more.
Take The Voyager Path To Company Loyalty
We all have an inner world and a story we tell ourselves about who we are. We attach to that story — our personal myth — because it provides us an identity. Yet as we travel through life, as we learn and mature, we outgrow those identities. A personal myth that fit us well in the past stops reflecting who we have become. It needs to evolve.
I have called the part of us that learns and evolves our inner Voyager. Like the heroines and heroes of legend, we are all Voyagers on quests of discovery. Our inner Voyager is essential to who we are and resides in our center of well-being. The Voyager exists in us to carry our fundamental need for personal reinvention and our innate capacity for self-transformation.
Knowledge workers are “reshuffling” when they can afford it because they are embracing their Voyager’s craving to learn and develop. They seek managers who see them as humans-in-progress first and as employees second. They desire corporate cultures with learning in their DNA. They value work that is personally rewarding, not because they will receive a reward for doing it.
Companies that adopt the Voyager mindset will stem the tide of departures. Companies that cling to conventional tools for attracting and retaining talent will lose.
3 Ways Company Leaders Can Put This Into Practice
Drop the distinction between “soft” and “hard” skills
To the extent that learning is valued at work, companies traditionally invest in ensuring their employees acquire “hard skills” in job-specific domains, such as finance or operations, or with tools and processes, such as SEO marketing or coding.
Companies with a Voyager mindset take “soft skills” just as seriously. These skills relate to the way we work together, such as communication, collaboration, coaching, and conflict resolution. They’re skills that advance our emotional rather than practical intelligence. So-called “soft skills” also teach us about ourselves.
Putting “people skills” on an equal footing with “technical skills” shows you care enough about your employees’ happiness and success to invest in development that contributes to their job performance but also transcends it.
Employees will remain with companies who teach them how to execute while equally stretching their abilities to build, maintain, and repair relationships. Their allegiance will go even deeper if they’re gaining self-awareness at work, exploring what makes them tick and discovering how to get out of their own way.
Focus on intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation
Companies with a Voyager mindset must flip their incentive systems from an extrinsic, or external, motivation to intrinsic, or motivation that comes from within.
The Great Resignation demonstrates that many knowledge workers are no longer motivated solely by the traditional external rewards that compensate for hard work with wealth, status, fame and prestige. Simply put: The old system of motivating people to work hard by paying them more no longer works.
Companies with a Voyager mindset recognize that knowledge workers are not in it for the trophies, the promotion or even the money. They are in it for the journey.
Mastering a new software program is a form of learning. Getting a certificate that shows you completed the course is a reward. Yet neither of those sate our inner fire for the learning that comes from new experiences. Training is good. But it won’t motivate Voyagers who long for transformation to stick around.
Instead of dangling stock options, enable a workplace culture of adventure where explorers need to learn throughout their project expeditions in order to fulfill their mission. Instead of promising lofty titles, ensure that your high-potentials have consequential work that satisfies their deeply-felt longing for lives of meaning.
Work that fulfills our sense of purpose is intrinsically satisfying. Work that challenges us to overcome our fears and triumph over inner demons is intrinsically satisfying. Work that positions us to fulfill our sense of destiny is intrinsically satisfying. Employees will stay where they are if they can journey into the unknown and come back wiser about what matters to them most.
Broaden mentoring from career development to human development
In conventional terms, a mentor is someone more experienced who commits to guide you through different phases of your career. Your mentor teaches you a professional craft, helps you navigate sticky situations at work or weighs in when you need to make important decisions. Sometimes mentors develop a sense of care and affection for their mentees, though this is not required.
This concept of mentorship makes sense, but it will not keep talented people from leaving your organization. Companies with a Voyager mindset forge mentoring relationships that help people succeed in their careers and help them become wiser human beings. This goes beyond teaching your mentee a new model or skill-set.
Workplaces that retain talent during this Great Reshuffle will evolve their senior leaders into developmental mentors. Developmental mentors recognize when someone they supervise outgrows their personal myth. Then, they inspire them to stretch into a new broader identity. Developmental mentors show people a bigger version of who they can become and hold the vision of that grander identity until their mentees can integrate it into the story they tell themselves about who they are.
Fix Your Learning Package, Not Your Earning Package
The Voyager impulse to learn through new experiences is an innate driver of any human life. You need only watch a child delight in a seashell or a senior citizen taking classes at their assisted living residence to recognize this timeless urge.
When the mystery called life grows stale and we cease to be challenged, our story stagnates. Our inner Voyager feels sidelined, stuck on the dock and longing for a fresh expedition.
Before COVID-19 locked us up, most of us were too busy ticking down our to-do lists to take stock of the state of our personal story. But a year spent in pandemic-induced isolation brought this realization to the fore: Humans are not designed to remain moored. We need to move forward.
Having survived a deadly threat, people do not want to go back to the grind. They have awakened from the trance of overwork to the realization that society has overvalued prestige, status and wealth. More money and conventional perks no longer satisfy the revived inner Voyagers. Knowledge workers now want opportunities to season themselves more than they want higher salaries or better bonuses.
Businesses that grasp this sea change will become Voyagers themselves, adapting, learning, and expanding their stories. Those are the winning companies who will find talent knocking at their doors.