Skip to Main Content

The “war on talent” is no longer a new notion, and employers know that attracting and retaining top talent is crucial to the success of the organization in today’s economy. At our most recent Young HR Leaders meeting, our panelist and thought leaders, Manika Turnbull, VP & Chief Diversity Officer from Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC); Lisa Padden, Founder and Principal from Big Toe Consulting; and Kim Marzano, Senior HR Business Partner from Advanced Resources, shared their insights and experiences with rewards and programs that are both innovative and effective in winning the “war on talent.”

Our moderator Diamond Greer, Co-Founder of Let’s Vibe L3C, set the “vibe” for the morning through a word cloud that bore the question, “When you think of engagement, what words come to mind?” Not surprisingly, words like retention, inclusion, and productivity dominated the cloud. So if engagement drives retention, inclusion, etc., then what drives engagement?

We focused the bulk of our discussion around specific programs that our panelists have implemented or experienced, and more importantly, the impact these programs have on their workforce and the organization as a whole. Two such examples of those programs are the Business Resource Groups (BRG) utilized at HCSC/BCBS and the “leadership walk” program.

The group talked extensively about HCSC’s BRG. These groups are formed based on common bonds between the members, i.e., a Veterans Group, African American Group, or their largest group, EMERGE, which stands for Engaging Millennial Energy to Recognize Growth Enterprise Wide. These groups are each self-governed with chairs, vice-chairs, etc., and are structured like counsel or general assembly meetings focused on advancing their groups goals or objectives.

Most interesting about these groups is the involvement of their executive leadership in providing a “call to action,” which will directly impact the initiatives of the greater organization. For example, senior leadership asked the EMERGE group, “How do millennials buy and access insurance?” HCSC leadership team prioritized an initiative to develop a go-to market strategy for the market of millennials who purchase insurance directly from the carrier. The responsibility of the EMERGE group was to compile their recommendations for the executive team in how best to do this. So, the EMERGE group conducted focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and surveys to determine the best approach to market to their peers. The leadership team took this information and used it to develop their go-to market strategy and is in place today organization wide. Not only is this an incredible use of your internal resources for practical, real world solutions, it’s such an amazing way to drive engagement. This group truly feels like the work they are doing is meaningful and impacts the bottom line. In addition, members of this group may not experience leadership roles in their day job but could experience a leadership position within these groups providing development, career progression and meaningful work that they may not have otherwise experienced.

Another program that seems both innovative and easy to implement was simply named, “Leadership Walks.” This can be structured in a number of different ways, but in this example, the walk is held once per month during the lunch hour. The “leader,” who can be anyone from the executive team, communicates to the workforce that they will be in the lobby at 11:45 AM for a lunch hour walk, where anyone can join them for one-on-one time, open dialogue, etc., This simple program is innovative in that it provides a number of unique opportunities both for the employee and the employer. For the employee, the accessibility to leadership provides the opportunity for them to own their own engagement and have clear line of sight to their own role within the organizations overall objectives. It also provides a sense of worth and “meaning” to the work which is one of the most important aspects of engagement. From an employer’s perspective, this walk gives opportunity to hear feedback and ideas from employees in all levels throughout the company and promotes healthy lifestyle, etc.

A theme that continued to emerge throughout the morning’s conversation and a key takeaway from the event is the notion of employees taking ownership of their own engagement by voicing their opinions on how the company can best connect to the company, emphasizing that it is both the responsibility of the employee and their manager to have “critical path” conversations to understand the goals and drivers of the employee. Employees must express what they’re passionate about, what gets them excited about coming to work, etc. Taking these ideas and finding a way to create programs or “connect the dots” between the employee’s passion and the goals of the organization is key to continued engagement for the existing workforce and is also a significant driver for recruiting key talent.