Creating “Get To,” Not “Have To,” Jobs

THIS is your priority. To create “get to” instead of “have to” jobs for your people. As in, when asked about where they work or what they do, your employees say, “I get to go to work at…” or “I get to work on…” and not “I have to go to work at…” or plain old “I work on…”

As a CEO, this goal should be at the center of your strategic plan. And when you boil it all down—whether you’re the leader of a $1 billion firm or a $10 million firm—there are several ways you and your executive team can create “get to” jobs for your people.

1. “I get to work on the best projects”: How do you and your marketing director make this happen? Target the most interesting clients with the most challenging projects. Pursue those project owners that are pushing the envelope in their industries. Get aligned with the institutions that are exploring the frontiers of health care, science, and technology. Figure out how regulations and technologies are going to change markets and industries, and promote your brand as the thought leader in these areas (skate to where the puck is going…). Position your firm to be the first one called by clients with the most challenging and rewarding projects. Then, your people will say, “I get to work on the best projects.” 

2. “I get to work with a great team”: How do you and your chief people officer (or HR director or chief talent person) make this happen? It’s simple, but not easy. Hire, develop, correct, and fire based on your firm’s values. This is why the “soft” part of strategy development is so important. What’s the “soft” part? It’s defining your mission (or purpose), vision, and values. Engineers hate this part of strategic planning—they want to get to the “here’s how we’re going to do this” phase as quickly as possible. Architects, on the other hand, have a hard time progressing beyond it—they love to debate mission, vision, and values—often while the house is burning down around them. But back to working with the best people. Go hard on your values. Live ’em. Make sure your managers embrace them and that every single employee has the opportunity to learn them, apply them, and see them in action. They’re not the prescription for a cult. They’re not a rigid “system.” Instead, they are the guideposts along each employee’s career journey that make clear what’s expected from them and their teammates. Most sets of values never make it beyond just being on a digital page. For those firms where employees feel they “get to work,” values are almost tangible. Struggling with establishing a set of values? Here are ours (we discuss and challenge them a lot!):

• Honest + ethical
• Hard-working 
• Responsive 
• Reliable 
• Continuously improving
• Sincere 
• Energetic
• Subject-matter experts (industry)
• On top of client and project engagements
• Direct and to the point, no affectations
• Low overhead, low maintenance
• No drama, zero tolerance for bullsh*t

3. “I get to work for a firm that values me”: How do you and your team achieve this? Beyond doing everything that Mark Goodale wrote about in last week’s “What Does It Take to Get Young Professionals to Break the 40-Hour Barrier?,” you need to create outstanding wealth-creation opportunities for them. Best-in-class base compensation, bonuses, benefits. You provide them with the flexibility that meets individual, team, and enterprise needs (no easy feat). You create multiple forums for collaboration—some in company-owned physical spaces, some off-site, some digital. You provide them with all of the tools they need to be successful. You support their research into innovation and improvements and new ideas. Yeah, it’s a lot. But what you’ll get in return is loyalty, commitment, and employees who say “I get to work” for your firm rather than having to work for your competitor. 

4. “I get to work for a great firm”: You don’t have to be visionary to have your employees say this. But you (and your executive team) do need to be genuinely mission-driven, committed to growth and continuous improvement, engaged with stakeholder communities, and be super communicative and honest about what’s important and where the firm is headed. So many times we’ve worked with firms where this “secret sauce” is tangible and contagious, and it’s pretty remarkable to see it in action and part of the culture. 

5. Coda: Much of this reads like mom and apple pie. That’s the truth. But it’s hard to pull off. And even harder to do it consistently over time. That’s why firms large and small live with a costly 15% turnover rate.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? You can reach Mick Morrissey @ 508.380.1868 or [email protected].

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