Small businesses and corporations alike have been through a lot over the last year. The global pandemic has shifted not only how we do business, but where we do it. To stay afloat and comply with CDC guidelines, it was an obvious choice to turn to remote work arrangements, sending employees home armed with equipment to keep the business running where possible.
With many employees facing the general uncertainty that comes with layoffs, health concerns, maintaining mental health, and keeping a roof over their heads, a surge of new skills and side hustles emerged changing the way they view making money and leveraging time. As the world opens back up and shifts to a familiar but not quite normal status it’s important for executives, business leaders, and managers of people to realize that the employee you sent home may be a very different employee upon returning to the office.
Armed with new skills that may be more closely aligned to their passions and an entrepreneurial mindset, employees may be looking for more than just their regular paycheck to feel fulfilled and engaged in their day job. In the age of The Great Resignation, how do you keep your employees engaged? You invest in their personal brands.
Demonstrate Genuine Interest — Taking a page from the classic “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, it’s important for leaders to hone in on their employee’s interests if they are willing to share.
Employees may fear retaliation for demonstrating any interest or ambition outside of the company they work for. This in turn can create anxiety and resentment as they don’t feel they can fully express themselves and their passions. If an employee is brave enough to share a passion project, side hustle, or new skillset, they should be celebrated and given the opportunity to leverage it with the support of the broader company community.
Leaders should be careful not to lure employees into a sense of security with sharing only to then use those same passions against the employee in future conversations about employee performance. It is the ultimate betrayal of that employee’s trust in you as a leader to have their passions thrown in their face or be made to feel they have to choose between what gives them security and what gives them passion.
Encourage Mentoring Opportunities — Having an advocate, advisor, and coach can make a difference in how your employees feel about themselves and their job (bonus points if their mentor can add value to their extracurricular interest).
Encouraging a culture of seeking and providing mentorship organically for the best interest of everyone involved. Requiring it may turn what would otherwise be an enriching experience into a chore that leaves both the would-be mentor and mentee feeling stuck, frustrated, and a waste of time.
Monetize Their Experiences — This can look different depending on the industry and scope of your employee’s skillsets. Paying to send them to conferences or to attend training and certifications aligning to the skillset they have that may or may not be within the scope of their current job function, hiring them as independent contractors to do work that you’d otherwise outsource to different companies, or promoting their side hustles and passions in the company newsletter or blog is a great way to earn them business and demonstrate an investment in their personal brand. By sponsoring your employee’s passions you not only become an advocate but an investor in their brand which in turn gives you as an employer more visibility and great PR.
Celebrate Their Success — This can be difficult as leaders want to retain their talent and in doing so may push their talent away. The fact of the matter is that there is always going to be another offer, opportunity, or high paying salary to compete with and fear of employee flight should not prevent you from investing in their personal brand, it should do the opposite.
Employees will always remember 2 types of leaders; the leader that developed, supported, and encouraged them and the leader that did the opposite. How they go on to tell the story of their path in the future will influence not only the leader they become but the way they sing your praises. As an early investor in their personal brand, you become part of their brand keeping them engaged with you well beyond the expiration of their employment.
Written by Rahkim Sabree.
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