How the C-suite Can Maintain a Competitive Workforce in Today’s “New Normal”

How the C-suite Can Maintain a Competitive Workforce in Today’s “New Normal”

February 15, 2023

By Michelle C. Haas
IBM, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta are among some of the big companies that have recently announced massive layoffs. This is an era that has been characterized by the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and widespread concerns among managers of all kinds about keeping employees engaged and on board during their entire employee journey.

It’s a “new normal” for many companies as they struggle to maintain a healthy bottom line, while competing for top talent in specific hard-to-recruit roles. Layoffs don’t help. In fact, when layoffs emerge, top talent is often the first to jump ship — because they can.

In this new normal, C-suite leaders need to be sure they have the right people with the right skills in the right position. While most large company C-suite-level executives don’t oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations, they are in charge of setting the vision and making sure the vision is brought to fruition.

That’s no longer just a human resources challenge. Business leaders set the stage, lay the foundation, and build a high-performance culture to attract, and retain employees. Here are some things leadership can do to ensure they have the right workforce in place to succeed, today and into the future.

Groom the Pipeline

Grooming the pipeline is a two-part process that involves a focus on both new hires and existing talent.

When recruiting, leaders need to have clear insights into the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are the hallmark of effective leaders and look for those attributes in new hires. Those new hires may eventually move into leadership roles within the organization someday.

Building bench strength needs to occur at all levels and areas of the organization. Today’s frontline customer service rep could be tomorrow’s CMO! The ability to build a strong workforce, and leadership team, reflecting the diversity of the communities the company serves starts at the leadership level.

Once on board, it’s important to identify future leaders and provide them with opportunities for mentorship with key individuals as well as training and development. That training should include cross-training to expose employees to multiple facets of the organization’s operation.

With a broader emphasis on strategic thinking, leaders can bolster the health and success of their organizations while also developing leaders of the future.

Prioritize Employee Development

The shortage of skilled workers in many industries, and roles, challenges organizations’ ability to grow as they continue to struggle to be agile in today’s new normal. Employee development needs to be focused on not only the KSAs employees need to have today, but those they’ll need to do different, more advanced work in the future.

Creating a culture of talent mobility and investing in training and development is a win-win: organizations demonstrate that they value and are willing to invest in employees which boosts talent acquisition and retention — and employees gain growth opportunities that help bridge talent shortage gaps.

Motivate and Inspire

McKinsey research shows that the CEO plays a pivotal role in setting a clear direction, aligning the organization, managing stakeholders, and serving as “motivator in chief.” The best CEOs act with intent, employ active listening and empower employees. They’re able to get the most out of their teams, today and every day.

Yes, employees look to their direct managers and supervisors for cues about what’s acceptable in the workplace, and what behaviors are valued and rewarded. But they don’t stop there. Today's employees are looking all the way up the ladder for motivation and inspiration and are much more loyal and engaged when they see a clear future, and consistent leadership up through the C-suite and CEO.

Provide Tools

Managers need time and tools to manage effectively. If they’re bogged down in administrative processes that pull them away from their people, they’re not being effective. It’s important to prioritize technology investments to help managers save time and money through automation so they can focus on what's important, people.

When technology is used effectively to balance the needs and expectations of the modern workforce, employees, managers, and the organization all benefit from a boost in employee satisfaction. And because we know a positive employee experience and high employee engagement lead to better productivity and profitability, the C-suite will see ROI in the bottom line.

Manage the Entire Supply Chain

The supply chain is a critical part of any organization — ensuring that its goods and services are reliably developed and delivered. That requires equipment, processes, and the workforce, all working together in harmony.

You’ve likely heard the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” That relates well to supply chains. In most organizations, supply chains are only as good as the people charged with managing them and moving them forward. People have the potential to be the weakest link.

If employees involved in your supply chain aren’t privy to the vision and goals of the company, misalignment occurs, and frustration sets in. To keep your supply chain moving and operating efficiently and effectively, you must ensure that employees understand the organization's vision — and the valuable role they play in achieving that vision.

Incorporate Meaningful Recognition

When employees are recognized for a job well done — by peers, managers, and senior leaders — they know that their company values them and the contributions they make to the success of the team and the company overall.

Gallup reports that companies that make employee recognition a priority have workers who are 56% less likely to be looking for a new job.

But that recognition needs to be meaningful!

Gallup’s research also reveals that an astonishing 81% of leaders say that recognition isn’t a major strategic priority for their companies. To maintain — and sustain — a competitive workforce, CEOs need to bridge this divide. They need to make meaningful recognition a top priority.

Foster a Strong, Inclusive Culture

Employees — all employees — want to feel that they matter and are included in key conversations and communication that impacts their jobs, and the organization. They want their diverse perspectives and experience to count. That requires a strong, inclusive culture.

Companies that provide a fantastic employee experience and nurture a positive culture have no trouble attracting, and keeping, high performing talent. Leaders who create an outstanding employee experience help their organizations become “destination employers” that both current and potential employees consider ideal for establishing and growing their careers.

Regardless of the industry, company, or economy, providing and sustaining a competitive workplace should be top-of-mind for CEOs and other C-suite leaders. It’s all about people. Companies that continually focus on their employees, focusing on the strategies above, will have a competitive advantage and outperform companies that fail to provide this foundation.