What’s your Secret Sauce?

10 steps to help you create a work environment that will attract and keep the best talent in this new normal


It goes without saying; the Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way in which people work, how they feel about work and their working environment. Traditional office jobs and the way we lead our teams may never be the same again – and it could be for the better, as long as we adapt. The pandemic forced millions worldwide to work remotely, and numerous companies have elected to make this move, or some hybrid version of it, a permanent feature of their business models. However, to maximise the real benefits of working remotely, we need to find ways to ensure we attract and retain the best people and that they remain productive, connected and engaged as we move forward into uncharted working waters.


One of our clients, an HR director for a pharmaceutical organisation, hit the nail on the head! She said businesses need to better understand their own ‘Secret Sauce’ – the magical ingredient that attracts talent and encourages them to stay when their working environment has changed exponentially from what they originally bought into.


Leading in ‘this new world’ will mean an adaptation of traditional leadership skills. What has got us success so far may not necessarily be right going forward. Leaders need to really understand their own behaviours and the behaviours of others, to lead and engage their teams even better at this critical crossroads of working methods. ‘People are less tolerant now, and we can’t, as leaders, behave in the same way as we did in the past,’ she said.


When it comes to managing our human capital, we need to do everything better, not just some things. From more meaningful internal communication to attracting and retaining the right talent. Employees are demanding more from their organisations and their leaders. And just as they need employment, businesses need capable, motivated and engaged teams.


Your Secret Sauce is your people, and we all need to understand them better so that your sauce becomes the envy of every other business, and they want to steal your recipe.


Kinley & Ben-Hur support this view: ‘managers need to include insights from psychology and behavioural economics to shape the environment in which decisions are made if they want to become more efficient in realising organisational transformation.’


Just as much as managers are leaders, they are also coaches with the capacity to educate their teams to help them reach their potential. In this vein, rather than investing in costly methods to increase efficiency and productivity, it makes sense to establish a dynamic culture of open communication, feedback loops, re-evaluation of working practices and openly consider shortcomings in human behaviour. This way, needs can be voiced, problems discussed and understood, and interventions commonly agreed upon. Research by Dianoux et al. offers the useful strategy that behavioural nudging can be a particularly vital lever in agile organisations, helping communication and creativity. You can still make great strides with baby steps.


Here’s a recipe for you to create your own Secret Sauce:


  1. Gain a deep understanding of your behavioural preferences as a leader.

  2. Ensure everyone on the team understands, buys into them and does the same.

  3. Ensure everyone understands their own unique behavioural strengths and weaknesses and how to leverage their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

  4. Gain an in-depth understanding of the business processes and working methods people need to follow to do their jobs successfully.

  5. Ask what the context is that you all work within and understand what your dominant biases are.

  6. Understand the best way for your business to measure performance, consistency and quality.

  7. Understand the gaps between the ideal processes and the current behaviours and what can be done to narrow the gap.

  8. Consider what would happen if a group of people with completely different behavioural preferences were to carry out the exact same processes. What would need to change? What skills would need to be trained? Entropy is ever-present, and you will need to adjust to changes in people and processes continually.

  9. As you adjust your processes, pinpoint those new skills that need to be taught and competencies developed to ensure the right behaviours are practised.

  10. Put in place an ongoing behavioural nudge and coaching programme to keep pushing the desired behaviours in the right direction. Behaviour change doesn’t happen overnight, and it is an iterative process, mainly as people come and go and the dynamics of the team change with them.


All this will make a real difference when teams are led by leaders who collaborate, listen – really listen, innovate and rapidly adapt to changing circumstances.


People who are listened to and understood as individuals want to stay, want to contribute, and help build a thriving and successful business. That is the difference your Secret Sauce will bring you.