spoke to a friend recently who told me that he was interviewed by 25 people over a six month period in order to get a senior level position at a well-respected leadership development consulting firm.  

My first reaction was that it signaled a significant commitment on the part of his new firm to ensure that they bring on the best and brightest talent who will have a positive impact on the firm’s culture and business results.  But as I thought more about it I realized that this time commitment should be evaluated against other management activities that would be postponed in lieu of the interview process. When I considered it from this Return on Investment of Management Time perspective I realized that there may be other more productive ways to invest ones time as a leader.

This led me to the following question. If a leader finds herself with a free hour of time in a day, what is the best use of that time when it comes to her people? Is her time better spent finding the next star, grooming the next generation of leaders and incorporating best practices in leadership development, or making sure the most talented long-term employees are engaged in their work?

Well, the answer may surprise you.  According to a recent article by James Harter in the Harvard Business Review, investments that improve employee engagement in our longest tenured and most highly skilled employees may lead to the most positive Return on our Investment of Management Time.

His recent study of over 7,000 individual contributors over a wide range of industries showed that “…employees who hit the trifecta of tenure, engagement, and talent perform 18% higher than the average employee and 35% higher than a worker who goes zero for three.

For skilled, production, and support staff, this equates to a financial impact of $6 million and $12 million, respectively, per 1,000 employees. For highly educated professionals, the economic impact essentially doubles from $12 to $23 million per 1,000 workers.”

At first blush, this may seem counterintuitive, but if you pause to think about it for just a moment the logic is quite simple.  Employees with high skill levels and high levels of experience have the greatest potential for transforming business.

The only factor that could cause a seasoned and skillful worker to be less productive is if they just don’t care. (i.e. a lack of engagement.)  And guess what? Your employees with longer tenures are probably suffering from a lack of engagement.  Look at Hartner’s chart below which shows that employee engagement tends to drop as tenure in an organization increases.  

So that gets us back to my original question.   If I as a leader at a leadership development consulting firm find myself with a free hour in my day what is the best use of that time when it comes to my people? My answer would be simple.  Find a way to get some of your most experienced and talented employees engaged in their work.  This will generate the best return on your investment of time.

Connect with Marshall Bergmann on LinkedIn and Twitter or via email at marshall.bergmann@regiscompany.com.

Marshall Bergmann

Author Marshall Bergmann

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