A Better Model for Talent Retention

In this ever improving economy, we have returned to the race for talent. More and more talented employees are getting calls from recruiters offering new and exciting opportunities. This presents challenges for both Organisations and Employees.

Organisation Challenge

Increasingly we see Organisations counter-offering employees who have handed in their notice having been successful in securing a new position, in an effort to woo their exiting talent to stay.  More often than not, however, it is a case of ‘too little, too late’.

Monetary offers are just a quick fix, will only last so long and are not a long term sustainable talent retention solution.

So what do Employees value in today’s World of Work value? Research shows that employees today recognise that learning opportunities and career development are core motivators:

66% of employees say they value learning opportunities over monetary compensation (Learnkit Workforce Survey – December 2015)

“Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers.” (Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2016)

Yet Organisations are struggling to meet this challenge – offering outdated and static approaches to learning and career development which do not meet the needs of Employees or the Organisation in a World of Work which is changing at an unprecedented pace.

Career Development today needs to reflect this new world of work – addressing both Employee needs (Career Development) and the Organisation demands (Future Skills Development)… a career case with a business case.

Employee Challenge

When the LinkedIn message or the call comes from the recruiter it can be quite alluring. Only last month one Executive Coaching client told me she was really enjoying her work, was highly engaged and had never thought about leaving until she agreed to a cup of coffee for “just a chat” with a headhunter. Her head had been turned by the chat, her mind-set had now changed and Lucy (not her real name) was considering leaving.

We made the next Executive Coaching session a career coaching session. Lucy had been busy in her work and had not considered what she wanted in the future. She was almost expecting someone to tap her on the shoulder and offer her the next role internally. This happened in the past and she expected it again. My advice to Lucy was to be prepared and know what she wants before anyone internally or externally invites her for a cup of coffee.

I shared the Harmonics ‘My Career, My Business Model’ with Lucy (see below). It made a lot of sense to her and allowed her to work through a number of revealing exercises to gain more career clarity. The model is predicated by our belief that every employee today should own their career development and run it like a business owner. In every successful business, there are three key functions that require attention; Research & DevelopmentOperations and Sales & Marketing.

  1. Research and Development (Creating)
  2. Operations (Doing)
  3. Sales and Marketing (Communicating)

From Current to Future State

As with all businesses, you may have strength in one particular area, but neglect others. In the model above (Current State) we have highlighted where people place the majority of their time and focus.

Lucy’s focus was on working very hard and spending her time in the centre silo in Operations mode, busily doing stuff. She neglected to spend time in Research and Development mode to investigate internal opportunities she could create for herself. She also assumed her great work ethic would stand up for itself and spent little time in the Sales & Marketing function i.e. communicating and building valuable networks in the Organisation.

The fatal mistake Organisations are making is not offering their ‘at risk’ talent the opportunity to engage in proactive career development programmes. If talent know what they want and have invested internally on a journey of personal career growth, the alluring headhunter offers are much less appealing and easier to resist. In this particular case, following our career coaching intervention, Lucy knew what she wanted and politely declined the external offer.

A Proactive Talent Retention Solution

At Harmonics, we have developed a number of highly successful career development programmes specifically targetting talent retention in Organisations. Career Accelerator for High Potentials; Career Accelerator for Female Talent seeking to target Executive Roles; Career Best Programme which offer Managers open workshops and one to one career coaching; and our 24/7 access online Career Development Portal with remote career coaching which offers thousands of resources for all employees to self-direct their future career development.



Top Trends in World of Work Affecting Employers & Employees

Here are 4 current and emerging trends in the world of work that are affecting employers and employees. These trends were highlighted by OI Global Partners, a leading human resources consulting firm that helps organisations with executive coaching and individuals manage their careers.  Harmonics is a member of OI Global Partners.

For organisations and individuals who want to move forward, it is imperative they are aware of these trends. Additionally, in order to enhance their competitiveness and ability to succeed, they must make the necessary investments in education and training to keep pace – or better still, to stay ahead – of these trends.

  1. Understanding candidates needs

It is no secret that we are working harder and faster these days.  We are so focused on our daily tasks and deliverables that we risk losing sight of our strategic, long-term goals for success and fulfilment.  For example, many organisations are struggling to find the ‘right people’ for the open positions that they need to fill; however, in order to attract and retain the ‘right people,’ they first need to know what the ‘right people’ want from their employer.

  1. Opportunities to Learn

Research data indicate that organisations must offer learning opportunities to attract, retain and cultivate engaged and productive employees. In 2015, Learnkit did a study that gathered together feedback employees revealed about their company’s training and onboarding, and showed that onboarding has a shocking impact on their engagement.

Key findings of the study showed that:

  • 66% of employees say they value learning opportunities over monetary compensation.
  • 63% of employees said they would be more engaged if they had better training.
  • According to Learnkit, better training “equates to happier employees, improved culture, better customer experiences, and an overall positive impact on your bottom line.”
  1. Employees Must Upskill to Remain Employable

For individuals who are currently employed and who want to advance in their career, research data indicate that they need to invest in themselves to ensure they are enhancing their current skills and learning new skills. For example, recent McKinsey research finds that up to 45 percent of the tasks performed by US workers can be automated by currently existing technologies and about 60 percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their activities automated. As a result, professionals should ensure they are diversifying their skills to help ensure their long-term employability.

  1. Leadership & Collaborative Skills in Demand

Additionally, professionals should cultivate so-called “soft” skills such as communication, leadership and coaching. Given the rise of startups and the increased emphasis on speed and innovation, professionals must be able to lead and thrive in a less structured and more collaborative work environment.

While subject matter expertise is still important, our clients are telling us that they need more people who can lead and succeed in an ever-evolving and rapidly changing economy. Today, new business opportunities and challenges can emerge very quickly. Therefore, organisations need people who can anticipate and/or respond by engaging the human and financial resources that are necessary to be successful.

The biggest takeaway for individuals and employees is that they have to take responsibility for remaining employable. Every individual (and not only Millennials) must realise the importance of being a lifelong learner if they are to adapt to the new world of work.

For organisations, they must help their workforce prepare for the new world of work through self-directed learning and career planning.


Action Plan for Skills Needs to be on the Election Agenda

Jobs or Skills – the Real Election Debate

The amount of jobs created, lack of quality jobs or the promise of new jobs in the next five years appears to be a constant theme across the election debate. One politician said the government needs to create secure, well paid jobs rather than low paid jobs undertaken by so many people across Ireland.

Whatever your political persuasion, there are a number of things to be put straight before any more promises are made about jobs in this election:

  1. The amount of low paid jobs will continue to grow because many service industries require part time, flexible staff to meet their customer changing needs. This isn’t going to change anytime soon. The only way out of working in this low paid sector is to become more valuable by learning new future work skills in demand.
  2. No government can promise secure well paid jobs in the future because they don’t exist anymore. Every job is temporary in the new world of work! The future of work is now increased project work, contracted employment and an increase in self-employment.
  3. Jobs were invented for the industrial era (e.g. Henry Ford car manufacturing). We have long left this era of production lines.  Machines have replaced the majority of this kind of work and in the next five years will replace much office and administration jobs too.
  4. No government can promise 200,000 jobs in the next five years; they can target it as a goal, but with the amount of global job displacement about to happen in the near future it is not straightforward.
  5. There has been a two tier jobs recovery. Those with the right skills and education got the best jobs and those without didn’t. As individuals, we have to take responsibility to upskill ourselves and stop waiting for the Government to bring back the low skilled and highly paid industrialised jobs.

Governments only have the power to create the conditions for multinational and indigenous businesses to create employment here. Businesses decide what they pay and this will be strongly based on the law of supply and demand.

Highly skilled engineers, scientists, sales and IT professionals will continue to be in demand. These high quality jobs will be taken up by those who are agile and constantly educating and developing themselves throughout their lifetime and not just once by going to college post leaving cert.

The jobs debate is superficial and not understood by politicians. It is easy to say we promise to create ‘X’ number of jobs in the economy in the next five years. It creates sound bytes and headlines for voters John and Mary to believe.

The real debate is the skills debate.

  1. Do we have the skills in this country to take advantage of the new indigenous start-ups and multinationals coming here or expanding their functions?
  2. Are our secondary schools still focused on points attainment for college places rather than developing the whole person with the future knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the future?
  3. Are our universities truly aligned and partnering with industry needs and flexible enough to swiftly develop and deliver “just in time” rather than “just in case” flexible learning for adult learners over 12 months of the year and on weekends?
  4. Are our third level students exiting college industry-ready with the employability skills to find new work?
  5. Are our retraining agencies really providing the type of skills and knowledge training necessary to meet the future workforce requirements?
  6. Are our people currently at work investing in themselves by developing future work skills or waiting for the employers to do it for them?
  7. Is the government creating a learning environment in this country by providing personal tax breaks to ensure lifetime learning is part of our lifetime journey?

Does Ireland Inc have the right skills to stay investor friendly?

Governments create the environment for industry to flourish. We have a lot going for us in this country; we often are the best at what we do in our chosen fields worldwide. We operate in a global economy where many US multinationals have established their EMEA headquarters here (and we hope the majority stay for many years to come). Inevitably, some of these new technology businesses will fail, move on or close down. That is the nature of globalised commerce. The great thing is these companies have come here in the first place and our people have had the opportunity to learn valuable skills for future employment opportunities. Jobs will come and go but Ireland Inc has now become a source of talented skilled people with a great work ethic. But how do we ensure we continue to have the right talent pool to attract further inward investment?  With so much change approaching with the future world of work, how can individuals remain employable?

The politicians appear to be basing their job figures on something over 3% economic growth for the next five years. Who would have predicted two years ago the sterling growth we had last year? So let’s get real, we don’t know if we are going to head back into a global recession due to factors outside our control, like China or oil prices, or if we’ll continue to grow at record levels. This is outside our control.

Why not personal tax breaks to create a Learning economy?

What our Government can control is the right environment and right taxation policies to create a learning economy. But the responsibility for the recovery also lies with us as citizens, we need to stop waiting for promised jobs and take more personal responsibility to change ourselves.

We need to change the election conversation from promising jobs to bridging the skills gap to highly skilled employment. In doing so, we will give everyone an opportunity for future employment, not just quick fix job lotto prediction numbers that win votes.


How to Attract Top Talent

They are telling us lies again Daddy

From an early age my daughter realised that toys advertised on TV did not live up to expectations when they came home from the toy store. So each time she saw a TV advert that appeared to be good to be true, she would give me this look and nod knowingly “they are telling us lies again Daddy, aren’t they?”

I mentioned this recently when speaking to a multinational organisation embarking on a new marketing and advertising recruitment campaign.  They wanted advice on how to differentiate their organisation in the crowded marketplace for engineering and IT talent.

Here is an uncomfortable truth for all HR departments with responsibility for recruitment:  Telling candidates that your culture is amazing, that you can offer employee benefits that beat the competition hands down, that your organisation is growing and that you need really great people to join you on your great journey, doesn’t work.

So many job adverts read the same.  The talent you seek are educated and discernible – now more than ever and, like my daughter, they see through it. They have fallen for these job advertising tricks before and been let down. They have been told super amazing stories from recruiters and head hunters about how this job is the perfect fit for them. Yes, some organisational cultures may be better than others, but we need to get real.

Does this apply to your organisation?

  1. Do you know people who are or have been burned out through work overload?
  2. Do you chase quarter on quarter numbers and is your corporate target double digit growth this year?
  3. Do you or your boss instigate regular developmental career conversations?
  4. Have you ever received career coaching support to be at the best you can be?
  5. If you reach a certain level, will you need to relocate to another location for future career growth?
  6. Do you feel respected and appreciated as a human being?

Most senior executives I coach through career transition are looking for the holy grail – the one organisation that truly gets it right and allows them the opportunity to become human, optimise their skills and be at their best. They want to move on from hierarchical pressure-driven organisations.

It is a consistent theme emerging from career coaching conversations I am having. And, as we reach the end of the first month of a new year, I can sense a growing frustration. People are tired of the race to deliver, tired of the endless back-to-back meetings, tired of unhealthy and stressful environments.

Organisations, if you are in a race for talent or want to keep the talent you have, you need to become more human.

Nature has four seasons for a reason, to replenish itself. From growing up on a farm, I know that grass cannot grow consistently 12 months of the year – not to mind year on year growth without serious damage being done to the field. Nature simply doesn’t work like this and neither do healthy organisations. So why not create healthy organisations and talent will come without the expensive marketing?

What talent want:

  1. They want to make a difference in their work, more autonomy, the opportunity to do their best and be at their best.
  2. They seek to work in organisations that offer regular feedback and recognition for work well done.
  3. They want to learn new skills, find challenging work but to feel less stressed.
  4. They want to work in an organisation that lives and breathes its values and not just have them on the wall for the visitors.
  5. They want a place where they can be themselves and feel valued as a human being.

This doesn’t sound too onerous does it? Yet why is it so rare?

Top talent will be attracted to an organisation committed to creating a human experience where they can join to develop new skills. The organisation needs to be mature enough to know this talent may leave again in a few years to develop newer skills elsewhere. Who knows, they may re-join later in their career with further embellished skills or, more importantly, they will refer others having experienced what is the exception rather than the norm.


5 Reasons Why People and Organisations Fail to Change

Helping people and organisations bridge the gap from where they are now to where they need to be is what keeps us at Harmonics ticking. Many people and organisations fail to change when they need to. When change is the only constant in our lives today, why is it the case?

Here are the 5 most common reasons, I see in our coaching practice, why people don’t change:

  • We don’t see ourselves realising our goals. We discount ourselves as amateurs and not worthy of visualising success or having the potential required to become successful. That “little old me” gremlin thinking stops us because of something someone said to us at some stage along the way to reinforce the belief we are not “powerful beyond measure” (to quote Marianne Williamson). Visualisation has proved critical in assisting high performance athletes to achieve their goals. It is a powerful technique that few people use in the corporate world.
  • We don’t persevere in pursuit of our goals. When there are tough days, when we get let down, when it doesn’t go right for us, we simply give up. To make transformational change happen for ourselves or on a change project at work, we will face great resistance. That is why it is transformational; otherwise it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Perseverance and a sense of self-belief are required so we are ready for whatever life throws at us to enable us get through it. Like any sports player in a game, we have to be prepared to stand up and be counted in achievement of our goals.
  • We don’t want to rock the boat. Chasing our goals means we will have to make sacrifices and losing our best friends along the way may be one of them. When we change, our friends and colleagues feel threatened because they do not want us to change. Change needs to come from within and we should be strong enough not be fearful of criticism and what others say. Seek out others who have already rocked the boat and learn from them not from those who play it safe and seek approval from everyone.
  • We don’t want to be found out and fail in public. Think of a kicker in a big game with all 80,000 people in the stadium training their eyes to see if the kicker will strike it between the posts or not. Standing out is a scary place to be as there are only two results – success or failure. Goal kicking is a lonely practice as footballers spend hours and hours on their own refining techniques that will work for them. Goal kickers focus consistently on practicing and perfecting their art in pressure situations. They challenge their comfort zones and grow as a result.
  • We don’t see it as important enough to go full out for it. This happens when we are not connected emotionally enough to our goal. We would like to see the change happen but, if we look at ourselves critically, we know deep down we haven’t really put everything on the line to make it happen. Jockey AP McCoy, a fearsome competitor and winner, said recently that when he looked around the weigh room he knew no one had worked harder than him to achieve their goals. AP was extreme in his pursuit of winning; nevertheless you have to give it absolutely everything to make transformational change happen in any walk of life.

John Fitzgerald is the Founder of the Harmonics Group. Harmonics specialise in helping Organisations plan for change, manage change and support their people through change.


Charity Donation 2015

As it is the season of giving, we want to live up to one of our core values – making a difference. So this Christmas we will donate €3,000 across a number of charities instead of giving corporate gifts. We have chosen six charities that have a real connection to our team at Harmonics. They are:

Milford Care Centre

Pieta House Limerick

Marine Search & Rescue

St Vincent de Paul

Irish Autism Action

Plan Ireland


Businesses Must Prepare for New Year ‘Brain Drain’

As a new year approaches, many employees take the time over Christmas to reflect on their career direction. Harmonics has found January to be the busiest time to receive calls from top talent seeking private career coaching advice in search of a fresh start in a new work environment.  However, from an organisations perspective, this potential talent exodus can seriously impact business growth projections.

John Fitzgerald, MD of the Harmonics Group, has been working with several organisations to avoid the brain-drain.  “A company wanting to retain top talent shouldn’t be thinking purely extrinsic rewards like a promotion or salary increase. This is not always possible today as company structures become flatter and budgets may be constrained.  Organisations need to be more proactive and partner with their talent and work with them to create career growth opportunities that provide a win-win.”

With the economy improving, Ireland’s workforce has become more transient forcing companies to review their current retention strategies. Harmonics is working with companies to implement effective career management programmes which, when aligned to the business strategy, ensures they are more prepared for this changing environment where top talent is now hot property.

“We have found Organisations are commonly forced into making counter offers to retain their key staff. When you are counter offering you are purely throwing money at the problem. As one HR Director described it to me, it’s like playing in goal against Barcelona with wave after wave of attacks coming for his best people. If recruiters are out there under pressure to hire top talent, they will find your best people and keep coming back again and again with new and enticing offers.” he continued.

“Businesses must respond to the new world of work, rethink their career and reward frameworks and start proactively partnering with their people. You may not retain all of your talent, but isn’t it better to have proactive realistic career conversations rather than reactive rushed counter offer chats that just kicks the can down the road and postpones the inevitable departure” concluded John Fitzgerald.


Career Best Insights – Lessons from Las Vegas!

The rules of the Career Game have changed

Last year I went to a Career Conference in Las Vegas. Not a bad location for a Career Conference I know, but I learned some valuable lessons from the card tables that I believe you can use in your career. (I’m not a gambler by the way, but when in Rome!)

Insight 1: Learn by observing how to play the game

This was my first visit to Vegas and I had very little knowledge of how to play the tables. Like anyone starting a new role, I felt nervous not having all the insider knowledge nor fully understanding the rules. The first thing I did was observe and I spent most of the first evening standing behind players learning how the game was played by those with more experience than me. I was invited by the dealers to wholesale jerseys join the games but resisted untilI I learned the rules.

Insight 2: Back yourself to succeed

There are many card games to choose from but I eventually decided blackjack was the game that suited me. It was a low risk entry point, and I could count to 21! What I didn’t know was when to stick and hold and when to ask the dealer to hit. Bit by Children bit, I learned more but the first Reduction hands I played left me feeling like a novice and exposed. Similarly when we change work roles we feel we don’t have all the skills and knowledge and this can bring us into a dark place as we begin to doubt cheap mlb jerseys ourselves.

Insight 3: Find a mentor to guide you

From my observation of the tables, I noticed one particular dealer who conversed a lot with the players. He was in fact teaching the new players the rules of the game. His game was more fun and held more hope for me. As the games progressed, I asked more and more questions from my new card dealer mentor Larry. I told him I was a novice and I asked for help. He gave me great advice and looked out for me more than others. By educating players, Larry got more engagement and fuller tables. I was truthful and said “I don’t know how” and he freely offered me hints and tips. You will learn a lot faster by saying “I don’t know the answers, help me”, rather than going along fooling yourself and others, that you know the game.

Insight 4: One mentor is not enough

The rules of the game are that the dealer moves on after about 30 China minutes and a new dealer is introduced. This can mean a culture change at the table – shifting from jovial Larry, to a seriously cheesed off dealer who obviously doesn’t enjoy what he does for a living. This is when you make a decision to leave the table and seek out new pastures where other more helpful dealer mentors may be working. Similarly, it is foolish to depend on one Career Mentor to give you a steer and help you with potential opportunities throughout your career. Mentors can leave or retire. Depending on one influential person is a risky career strategy and may well leave you isolated and feeling very vulnerable.

Insight 5: You don’t win every hand

The dealers also taught me not to get too disappointed when I lost a few hands, as the table wins too! The laws of the game are such, you can’t win them all. There are other players in the game and if you try to be too selfish, this actually means in that other players lose out too. As in your career, you won’t succeed at every interview. There are some roles you go for that in hindsight are not meant for you but are meant for others who are better suited.

Insight 6: Don’t go in over your head

I also learned from those who sat down and punted heavily expecting to win big early. They didn’t last long in the game and burned out fast becoming disappointed that the odds were against them. They started a marathon at sprint pace. I have seen a lot of over achieving career go-getters burn out in their mid-40’s. They set a goal to reach and then, upon reaching it, wonder “is this what I really wanted?” The career game is won by being career resilient; plotting thoughtfully your preferred next steps, not by being in a mad rush to a destination you haven’t fully researched.

Insight 7: Have fun and enjoy it

The beers came for free to the tables and made for a fun atmosphere. It was all part of the casino’s role in tempting us to lose the run of ourselves. For the most part, I had fun. I played the game I liked, didn’t drink all of the free beers offered and kept my head. I spent the few hours engaged in the hands I played. The key is to remain engaged in what you do at work. Once you lose interest or the buzz, it is time to rethink your career. On cheap jerseys average, 80% of people flat line in performance when in a role over 12 months.

Insight 8: Retain your learning

Back in Ireland, reflecting on my Las Vegas experience, I realise that I have forgotten much of the skills and strategies employed in Blackjack. Why? Lack of practice and I haven’t found a way to retain the knowledge and experience I gained through my learning experience. I needed to write down what I had learned so that I could reference it and retain it. I also needed opportunities for ongoing practice (but given that it was Blackjack and involved gambling, perhaps this was for the best!).


What did Las Vegas teach me about being at my career best? Quickly (just like the cards are dealt in Vegas!) it won’t all go to plan and treat it as such. You will make mistakes, and you won’t win them all. Keep your head when all around you are losing theirs. Ask lots of stupid questions. Seek out more than one mentor who knows the game and learn from them.

Lastly, remember to keep a career journal and make notes on what you have learned. Because as we know, jobs may change and as such are temporary in nature, but the skills of managing your career are required on a permanent lifelong basis.