2019 was the 10th year in a row that Southwest Airlines was ranked as one of the best places to work for – as evaluated by Glassdoor. It also holds the distinction of never having a layoff or pay cut since its existence.

What are the lessons that organizations can learn from Southwest? It is simple really. It is about motivating people with the business fairness that clearly ties their well-being to the company’s. It gives them the strong message that they are the company.

Clearly, the approach of talent management is redundant today. Talent needs to be engaged, not managed. Talent engagement is today a business issue, not merely a ‘feel good’ people approach. It goes to the core of what employees really want — meaningful work, transparency in how they contribute to their company’s success, how individual and organizational values align, and strong leadership.

Organizations are now realizing the business nuances of engaging talent. They see the world of work transforming into something different than what it was a few years ago. People are more connected to their jobs through mobile technologies. Their motivation has changed. Purpose is important to them – and this includes the right job design, work environment, progress linked to the organization’s goals and leadership that communicates regularly and frequently. Add to this a VUCA market scenario where skillsets are getting irrelevant much faster. Moving to future-ready talent engagement practices becomes an imperative.

Whose Responsibility is Talent Engagement?

The truth is that engaged employees stride further than job satisfaction to be energized to outperform. That is why talent engagement is now a corporate priority – and not confined to only HR. Engagement and retention of people should be every manager’s ‘Number One’ job. Managers will thus do well to understand what really drives talent engagement.

Topping the list is meaningful work. Next comes the empowerment to execute such purposeful work, and be recognized with opportunities for growth. Equally important is the third factor of a positive and nurturing work environment that allows employees to have inclusive team relationships, learning and enhancement of skills. Last, but definitely not the least, is leadership at all levels that they can trust and be proud of.

As a business priority, the following steps have to be ensured jointly by leaders, managers and HR:

  • Create the right talent strategy for the organization aligned with goals and required outcomes

  • Customize structure, culture and people practices and systems accordingly — to hire, engage, and retain talent

  • Identify pivotal roles that have a disproportionate impact on business success — specifically define success in such roles, and design road maps to promote people growth in these areas

  • Listen to people across demographics – and arrive at the right blend that aligns with the organization’s culture

A key aspect for thriving talent engagement is open, honest and real-time communication. Managers must don their coaching caps to provide real-time feedback on their members’ performance, learning and growth opportunities. Such a collaboration will encourage employees to proactively seek conversations with leaders to enhance performance, and upgrade skills and capabilities. HR must act as effective facilitators and consultative partners to enable their success.

Talent engagement is a powerful enabler of positive employee experiences and value proposition. It is a huge opportunity to transform employees as organizational brand ambassadors. From here, it is but a natural next step to fostering a work culture of growth, appreciation and meaning — and an environment to create, achieve and outperform.

Click here to know more about our real-time performance engagement platform, WNS TalentTurfTM

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