Purposeful work: the secret weapon in the new war for talent



By Michael Mankins, Eric Garton, and Dan Schwartz


The post-pandemic job market has proved vexing for many employers. Starting in mid-2021, a record number of workers quit their jobs, providing evidence for what many were already calling “The Great Resignation.” Companies scrambled to retain workers and cope with critical labor shortages. In their haste to respond, however, many firms pursued strategies that employees did not value and that had little impact on employee retention. The result: Even in today’s contracting economies, quit rates have remained at historically high levels.

We’re not surprised by the poor results. Research indicates that the primary driver of today’s high attrition rates is the growing disenchantment most employees feel toward work. Increasingly, work is seen as purposeless, having little value or meaning to employees. The push for greater efficiency and standardization has left many workers jaded, bored in their jobs, disconnected from coworkers, and not particularly loyal to their employers.

The failure of most employee retention strategies stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what motivates most of us to work—namely, engagement in the work that we do (see Figure 1). Sure, we want the basics. We want to feel safe in the workplace, have the resources we need to be productive, be rewarded fairly, and have some flexibility in where, when, and how we do our jobs. But these are merely “qualifiers.” They can make the difference between employees being satisfied or dissatisfied, but they are not enough to create high levels of engagement, loyalty, and retention.

The failed ground and air wars for talent
In the aftermath of Covid-19, many companies are fighting “the ground war” for talent. They are boosting pay, offering greater flexibility, and modifying other “qualifiers” to retain their best people. In most cases, these tactics haven’t done much to move the needle on worker attrition. Why? These moves are undifferentiated and easily matched. Any company can change its pay structure, work-from-home policies, and other qualifiers in response to tight labor markets. But so, too, can its competitors. Any gains are fleeting.

A recent Harris Poll survey indicates that 20% of employees who left their jobs in 2021 for better pay and/or greater flexibility now regret their decision. Many report that they plan to leave their new job and return to their prior employer or find another job. So far, the ground war has produced a swirl of employees moving from one company to another, but it hasn’t had much impact on aggregate quit rates. These tactics have done little more than cast “the great resignation” as “the great reshuffling.” Continue reading

How remote and hybrid work broke performance reviews.






The swing to remote and hybrid work demands a new approach to the employee-performance review, says this founder of an HR tech startup.



There is a theory called “Dunbar’s number” that the maximum number of people we can really know or relationships we can really manage is 150.

Executives know when it comes to running a high-functioning business, they need to foster keystone people and manage out anyone who isn’t working out. To do that, they need to really know the people who work at their company. In an office, proximity can give them a good sense of that—they see who’s going to meetings, who’s got people stopping by their desk, and who gets chatted up at the water cooler. So, according to Dunbar’s number, that means that up until a company reaches roughly 150 employees, in an in-person workplace, the executives probably have a decent grasp on who everyone is, roughly what they do, and how they’re performing.

But when a company moves to remote or hybrid work, CEOs and other executives lose that peripheral vision—they only see who they’re actively in meetings with. And that Dunbar’s number shrinks; some theorize it changes to about 50.

With remote and hybrid work, it becomes very difficult for executives to really know all of their employees well enough to become the sole source of information on their performance and contribution to the company. And, unfortunately, most traditional performance reviews take a top-down, hierarchical approach, where feedback on performance is based on a single manager’s opinion and, possibly, cherry-picked 360 peer reviews (input from colleagues, peers, underlings, etc).

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Early in the pandemic, Josh Bersin called it the Big Reset: “The Coronavirus is accelerating one of the biggest business transformations in decades.”

As the business landscape evolves and employees reassess their priorities, leadership is changing as well. To reset thinking on what it means to be a leader today, we asked Josh Bersin and other thought and business leaders for their perspective.


  • Great Leadership is about getting the best out of your team, by allowing team members to play roles where their superpowers can enhance the work of others!

-Michael McDaniel, President, Modern Workplace, DXC Technology


  • Competence – you can’t fake it, know the details of what is going on around you.  If you don’t know something, ask the questions and do the research to learn it.
  • Calmness – when the chips are down, and they will be at some point, leaders need to maintain calmness, showing empathy for people who are trying to do the right thing, clinically remove the people who aren’t, and set an example for a culture of respect, integrity all while not compromising on the vision and objectives of the business.
  • Creating the conditions for success – if your organization is succeeding in spite of itself (which with enough brute force can happen), then that is a leadership issue.  Focus on eliminating roadblocks, complexity and any other impediments for your organization to succeed.

-Mark Trepanier


  • I hear collaboration used more than teamwork now a days. Professionals need to work not only with their team but others in the organization too.  Empathy is a very strong theme with the employees having a larger pull and due to the pandemic. It’s a sign of the times and one I hope remains important for years to come.  Great leadership is effective when it is trusted and loyal. I think communicating a vision, establishing attainable and challenging goals, then rewarding them is a big part of being a leader. Great leadership is effective for the people and in turn the business.

-Jenny Illum, Director, Executive Recruiting & Diversity Recruitment. Bath & Body            Works


If you’re inspired by these perspectives on leadership today, stay tuned…there’s more to come!  And if you are interested in crafting your own contribution, please email me at janis@issg.net


High performers need these 5 things, according to science





Managers can help keep their best talent engaged and motivated with a few tips from neuroscience.




Regardless of the state of the labor market, organizations generally want to keep their high-performing employees. That means keeping them supported and engaged, so they’re motivated not only to stay, but to keep making their outsized contributions. Experts believe that we can learn a few things about managing rock-star employees from the world of neuroscience.

High performers may have stronger neural connections related to their jobs because their engagement and mastery of tasks strengthen them, says Jason Jones, founder and CEO of LeaderPath (which uses evidence-based methods to improve workplace performance), and author of Activator: Using Brain Science to Boost Motivation, Deepen Engagement, and Supercharge Performance. They may have greater process expertise, knowledge, problem-solving skills, or the ability to innovate, which can enhance motivation and performance, but may also lead to a greater risk of boredom in the wrong environments. 

While it’s not realistic to expect managers—or even high performers, themselves—to become brain scientists, cribbing a few tips from this sector can help keep those lights on. Here are a few things that neuroscience tells us high performers need.


Threats come in different forms, and none of them are good for engagement or motivation, says HR expert Christy Pruitt-Haynes, a consultant at NeuroLeadership Institute, a global neuroscience-backed consultancy that works with Fortune 100 companies. When a threat is perceived, we shift cognitive resources to minimizing that threat, and tend to be less collaborative. “So, what managers really need to understand is how each of their team members are aligned to process threat and reward, so we can move them toward that reward state and away from that threat state,” she says.

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A data-driven approach to career development and employee retention



by Michelle Howard


Challenges around the skills crisis, or “war for talent”, have been made more prominent in today’s evolving workforce. Instead of narrowing the impossible talent gap, organisations are moving their focus towards maximising and retaining the skills employees already possess.

When it comes to the IT industry, there is an added complexity given the rapid pace at which technology is progressing. Tech organisations, large or small, need people who are willing to learn, transfer skills, and adapt to these changing requirements.

According to the Equinix 2022 Global Tech Trends Survey, 63 per cent of IT decision-makers view a shortage of personnel with IT skills as one of the main threats to their business. Organisations who try to rehire former employees or seek new talent may need more time to re-skill and upskill these employees.

Leveraging the power of graph technology

Beyond training and redeploying people, it is becoming imperative to help employees reach their personal career goals. Employees are quite often confused by the complex ecosystem of platforms, systems and processes that have been deployed within their organisations. Whilst employees simply want to know what in-demand skills they should have for career development opportunities, managers may not always have the necessary data to provide this advice.

Organisations maintain large amounts of data about their employees and in most cases that data resides in siloed systems that are difficult to connect. Graph databases and graph data science allows organisations to connect siloed data and determine the complex relationships within this data which can then be applied to various use cases for workforce planning analytics and career development recommendations for employees. Continue reading