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How To Build A High-Performing Team And Retain Top Talent with Snowflake Global Director of Market Intelligence Guan Wang (Video)


“People are the most valuable asset of an organization. Every leader needs to have a strategic playbook to build high-performing teams and retain top talent,” says Guan Wang, Global Director of Market Intelligence for Snowflake. 

In the kickoff for Workshop Wednesdays last week, Wang chatted with the community about how to build a high-performing team and keep it. As someone who grew Snowflake by 300% in the previous two years with a 0% turnover, you’ll want to hear his tactical strategies for those in leadership roles. 

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The Threads That Bind Customer and Employee Life Cycles

Most of you are familiar with the customer life cycle, including customer acquisition, onboarding, adoption, cross-selling and upselling, and retention. 

Every stage of the customer journey is critical to delivering a best-in-class customer experience. The same is true for the employee journey.

Wang weaves together the narrative of the customer life cycle and employee life cycle, where many common threads exist — customer acquisition is similar to talent acquisition. Both are the first stage of the journey. 

Stage 1: Talent Acquisition

Like customer acquisition, talent acquisition is focused on recruiting. Some companies have a recruiting team and a separate talent sourcing team to identify candidates for initial phone interviews, while others have hiring managers in charge of the end-to-end talent acquisition process.

Stage 2: Employee Onboarding 

Employee onboarding is similar to customer onboarding. Some employees only require a few short hours of training, while others may require days or even months, especially where tech boot camps are involved for job functions like software engineering, data science, and machine learning. 

Stage 3: Employee Development

Customer adoption is all about ensuring customers adopt your products or services,  while employee development ensures team members adopt the skill sets and mindsets to succeed in their growth. 

Stage 4: Employee Promotion

Employee promotion is similar to cross-sell and upsell, with cross-sell focusing on customers adopting additional products and services, and promotion recognizing your employees or team members’ achievements in their current roles and moving them up or across the organization to more challenging roles. 

Stage 5: Employee Retention 

The similarities between customer and employee retention are more obvious, with a goal of keeping good people around. 

Employee retention has been a hot topic over the last couple of years, with many companies struggling to keep talent due to the Great Resignation. 

But this year, especially in recent months, many companies are beginning to worry about the micro economy, with potential layoffs across industries impacting employee sentiment and attrition. 

The Playbook For Building And Retaining A High-Performing Team 

A company’s core strategy needs to focus on its customers and its people throughout the entire life cycle of each. 

To build a high-performing team, you must understand the top attributes that make one. 

Every conversation you have with your people and every conflict you run into as a leader shapes the attributes of your team and, ultimately, drives your team’s performance. 

As a leader, you can adopt specific tactics throughout the entire employee life cycle to help build a high-performing team. 

The 5 Attributes Of A High-Performing Team

There are 5 attributes and actions you can take to build these attributes, and they include:

Trust is the foundation of a high-performing team. To build trust as a leader, you need to be human. More specifically, you need to cultivate a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up, and team members support each other and leverage each other’s strengths.

  • Constructive Conflict 

Every team runs into conflicts. It’s inevitable. As a leader, it’s your job to facilitate and find solutions. How do you do this? By demanding debate. This means you need to get input from stakeholders, find the root cause of your issues, and develop some solutions with minimal politics. 

  • Commitment 

We all commit to something at work, but why do some teams do it so well and not others? As a leader, you need to build an alignment on common objectives with your stakeholders. Once you can clarify direction and priorities, engage your team members throughout the entire process, so everyone is on board and clear about the goal. 

  • Accountability 

How do you build a culture of accountability? As a leader, you confront difficult issues head-on. Sometimes this requires holding team members accountable and managing the poor performers. Accountability also means holding the same standards for everyone on your team. 

At the top of the team performance pyramid is results. As a leader, you must focus on establishing objectives and road maps regularly for your team. And ultimately, it’s your job to inspire your team members to deliver results according to those objectives and roadmaps. 

Key Tactics For The 5 Phases Of The Employee Life Cycle

Now that you understand the employee life cycle and the key attributes of a high-performing team, let’s switch gears to tactics to apply to each of these phases. 

Phase 1: Hiring 

At Snowflake, the key tactic for a leader is to build a clear vision and mission for the team to share with all candidates during the interview process to ensure early alignment. 

Leaders can build the company brand, deliver a great candidate experience, and nurture a strong talent network to help you hire the best people. 

Phase 2: Onboarding 

At Snowflake, a key tactic for onboarding is to set clear expectations, help team members build their network, and provide detailed instruction and documentation as they start working on projects. 

Create an onboarding plan so new employees are always clear about products and expectations goes a long way toward growth and success. 

Phase 3: Development 

You will never hire the perfect person who knows everything on the first day of the job, which is why talent development should be a core tactic to help your people succeed. 

Prioritize learning and development for team members, and focus on understanding and supporting your employee’s needs as they grow into the next phase of their careers. 

Phase 4: Promotion 

At a certain point, some of your team members are ready for promotion. Promotion can be a really sensitive topic. Wang’s philosophy is to celebrate promotions as team wins rather than individual career milestones, using the opportunity to inspire other team members and nurture opportunities. 

Phase 5: Retention 

Retention is another sensitive topic. Many industry-leading companies struggle to retain top talent. 

According to a LinkedIn survey, the tech industry has a 13.2% turnover rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average is double that rate at 26%. 

A tactical strategy for retaining top talent is executing steps 1-4 exceptionally well to ensure team members are happy and moderated. Create a psychologically safe environment where your people can openly share their perspectives, challenges, and, sometimes, mistakes. 

Building a high-performing team is about building trust and communication and deciding what kind of leader you want to be. You can create an incredible company culture by looking to those successful, high-growth businesses and seeing what’s working for them. 

Growth is always a work in progress, even for leaders. Remaining open to new ideas and continuing to learn from other innovative humans will go a long way toward building and retaining a high-performing team. 

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Published on November 8, 2022

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