Follow the Leaders
Two months into the new year, Fahrenheit Advisors wanted to know what’s keeping Virginia CEOs up at night. We talked to eight VACEOS Forum Members about their outlooks. While each leader operates in a different industry, most shared confidence in the months ahead and a similar approach to capitalizing on them: focusing on people.
“The biggest issue is finding talent.”
For several leaders we talked to, recruiting is a top priority. Hiring the right talent, however, remains challenging, especially with unemployment at a 50-year low.
“Good people are working and have good jobs,” John Griffin, leader of Fahrenheit’s Executive Search and Recruiting practice, says. “There are not as many job seekers on the market, and volumes are lower than ever.”
Blame the somewhat uncertain economy for the talent shortage. While many of the business leaders we talked with remain optimistic about the future, inflation headlines and news about layoffs at big companies dampen enthusiasm for workers to leave a stable job for a new one, especially if they have families. If workers decide to move, current employers often convince them to stay with aggressive counteroffers.
Even in this environment, companies with aggressive recruiting goals can take steps to improve their chances of landing the right talent. Griffin advises companies:
“We need to prepare leaders better.”
As companies throw everything they can at recruiting, including salary increases, flexible work options, wellness opportunities, training, and more, CEOs we spoke with also are focusing on developing their existing talent.
Learning management systems, virtual training catalogs, and executive coaching give business leaders an arsenal of development tools to sharpen and expand workforce skills. Still, business leaders need to focus on people before the process.
“To develop and retain your top talent, start with an HR strategy,” Melody Donovan-Hopkins, a Fahrenheit human capital consultant, says. “Having a strategy ensures that workforce development aligns with business landscape changes.”
There’s no right or wrong approach to building an HR strategy, but Donovan-Hopkins notes some best practices:
By aligning employee career development opportunities with organizational priorities and growth, an HR strategy supports career-pathing opportunities that provide employees with clear direction for lateral, promotional, and cross-functional opportunities.
An HR strategy that helps workers see and understand their career growth potential strengthens their commitment to learning new skills, taking on more responsibility, and staying with the company.
“Our focus is on culture.”
CEOs we interviewed are also thinking about their company culture, the underlying foundation for the success of any people initiative.
“If your culture is strong enough, your people are your greatest recruiters, they rally to your mission, and they are committed to your success,” Laura Bowser, leader of Fahrenheit’s Human Capital practice, says. “A strong culture fuels an employee pride that invests them in the organization’s success.”
To ensure culture remains strong, Bowser recommends assessing it every year.
Ask employees about the mission, vision, and values and their perceptions of the company’s brand, marketing, and communications. Responses will reveal what employees know and feel about these attributes and activities, and the insight will lead show leaders where work may be needed to strengthen culture.
Cultural change is hard work, takes time, and can’t be forced. “It’s like turning an ocean liner,” Bowser says, “but if you put it off, it’s never going to happen.”
And if it doesn’t happen, companies with weak cultures face uphill struggles with recruitment and retention that can derail growth. Bowser recently sat down with Brand Federation’s Kelly O’Keefe for a conversation about brand and culture’s impact on a company’s workforce.
As 2023 hits its stride, the CEOs and leaders we talked to have a confident approach to their businesses and the months ahead. They’re working to recruit and retain the right talent, sharpen their teams’ skills and capabilities, and create a winning culture.
It’s a smart approach.
People-focused initiatives provide long-term protection against setbacks and prime organizations to capitalize on opportunities, no matter the economic environment.
Thank you to the VACEOS Forum Members who shared their outlooks with us, including: