Catch 22 for attracting and retaining employees. Book cup on table

How can you give your people freedom to soar without flying away?

For leaders and organisations striving to attract and retain employees, there’s a catch-22 in 2022. How can you offer flexibility so people will stick while giving them the freedom to learn, change, grow and improve?

How can you create stickiness without showering workers with financial incentives and golden handcuffs? And how can you attract and retain talent when everyone is busy? The workday is getting longer, competition is increasing, and burnout is real?

A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation that individuals cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations. Joseph Heller coined the phrase in his 1961 novel, Catch-22. 

Integrating freedom and stickiness is a challenge for people leaders.

“Sticky” entered the business lexicon in 1936 with “sticky pricing”, referring to the resistance of market prices to change quickly. While in “Tipping Point” (2006), Malcolm Gladwell introduced the “Stickiness Factor” to describe the ability for things to capture our attention for an extended period. “Sesame Street succeeded because it learned how to make sticky television”, writes Gladwell. Further, “Made to Stick” (2007) by Dan and Chip Heath describe ideas and messages that resonate and survive instead of those that fade quickly.

As businesses emerge from the pandemic, ‘stickiness’ feels like the right way to describe the challenge of attracting and retaining employees. Hybrid work, genuine competition for skills, and remote employee experience present both opportunities and threats for leaders.

The real challenge is to blend the freedom today’s workers desire with a thriving work culture where people want to stick around. We call it ‘sticky culture.’

Sticky culture has three levels, and each has its own unique challenges.

  1. For organisation leaders, creating a culture to attract and retain highly skilled workers is about instilling confidence to do purposeful work. Building connectedness to the organisation, teams and teammates, and recognising and celebrating efforts and achievement.

  2. For team leaders, team culture is about everyday work, team purpose and collaboration, with digital tools that save time and help get the job done.

  3. Collectively, it is about making change happen in all the little things to make work inspiring for each individual. Change and project management are about big projects, strategy and plans. Change making is about inspiring individuals to contribute their creativity and energy every day in many little ways.

Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

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