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“Retention is a leadership problem”: The Lead the Future Podcast with Sharon Giraudel

BIG IDEA

Leaders are crucial to employee retention.

“We’ve invested a lot in helping leaders understand the role that they play in terms of culture,” Sharon Giraudel, the head of human resources for New Gold Inc., said on our Lead the Future podcast recently. Like many organizations, Giraudel said, New Gold has been reinvesting in culture post-pandemic, and leaders have been a big part of that shift.  

“Retention is not an HR problem,” Giraudel said. “It’s actually a leadership and a business problem.” New Gold has been working with leaders to help them understand the impact they have on their direct reports’ engagement and job satisfaction” which links to performance. 

Surveys consistently show that as much as 70% of the variance in employee engagement comes down to managers. If leaders are burnt out, disengaged, or otherwise ineffective, employees will be, too. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Talent is the number one challenge for many organizations right now. 

“The number one issue that I hear from my colleagues, including other industries, is the talent issue,” Giraudel said.  She said there are additional challenges for New Gold as a mining company, because we have the added challenge of having operations in smaller or more remote communities”. 

But it’s not just mining: talent shortages are real and persistent, continuing beyond the pandemic-inspired Great Resignation. As more experienced employees begin to retire, talent shortages will likely persist at both the entry level and, crucially, the leadership level. That means no organization—and no leader—can be effective without a clear focus on employee engagement and retention. 

THE IMPACT

Leaders have a huge impact on employee engagement—and affect people beyond the workplace, too. 

Leaders make or break the employee experience, “not only in terms of performance,” Giraudel said, “but even in terms of confidence, in terms of how people feel about themselves, and ultimately, your mental health.”  

Giraudel said it’s important for leaders to understand the impact they can have on their employees. “It’s not just about the workplace, some of the impact that you can have on an individual actually extends beyond that,” she said.  

WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO

Do your employees know what they can expect from their leaders? 

At New Gold, Giraudel said, they’re embedding the Leadership Contract beginning at the leadership level to establish standards for success. This helps them create clear behavior and performance expectations for leaders. Those expectations include having a one-company mindset, serving as role models for the company’s values, embracing diversity, fostering innovative thinking, and more. It’s mandatory for all leaders to attend training that establishes clear expectations, and those expectations are part of performance reviews and other retention conversations.  

Leaders are also asked to post our Leadership Contract in their workspace, Giraudel said. “We do ask our leaders to really make it visible,” she said. We are planning to extend the ideas of the Leadership Contract to the whole organization which will really help make those expectations part of the culture—and help employees know what they can expect from their leaders and from one another.

NEXT STEPS

Take our Leadership Culture Survey to assess the health of your team or organization. Are your leaders aligned with the culture you want to create? 

About Leadership Contract

We are Leadership Contract Inc (LCI), your partner in strategic leadership development. We help you operationalize leadership accountability at all levels of your organization so you can drive strategy, shape culture, and spark change.

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