Why Do You Stay
Ponder this: How will you know what everyone on your team really wants?
When do you think most leaders ask questions like “What can I do to keep you?” You’re right: they ask during the exit interview. At that point it’s typically too late. The talented employee already has one foot out the door.
Have you ever wondered why we ask great questions in exit interviews but neglect to ask early enough to make a difference? Love ’em leaders do ask. They ask early and often, they listen carefully to the answers, and they collaborate with their talented people to help them get more of what they want, right where they are.
It’s Your Job
Ponder this: Who’s really in charge of engaging and retaining your best people?
A majority of managers truly believe it’s largely about the money. These managers place the responsibility for keeping key people squarely in the hands of senior management or the compensation department. They blame organizational policies or pay scales for the loss of talent. Or they point the finger at the competition or the location. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Well, the truth is, you matter most.
The retention buck really does stop with you. We are not ignoring the impact of senior management, organization policies, and individual employees’ attitudes and actions. But we know you have great power to influence your talented employees’ decisions about staying. Conduct stay interviews with every employee you hope to engage and keep on your team. Find out what these key people want and help them get it! Show that you care about them and their needs. Remember them. Notice them. Listen to them. Thank them. Love them or lose them.
Ponder this: How are you helping build their future?
Employees have one thing in common: they want to know that someone cares about their careers. And that someone should be you if you want engaged, productive people on your team. Help them find opportunities to shape their careers according to their own unique wants and needs. When you do this, you’ll find your best employees will want to stay a while and build their careers in your organization.
Ponder this: How will they know you truly respect them?
Attitudes are at the core of showing respect and honoring others. But actions are involved too. Actions that contradict verbal assurances of respect erode dignity. Check out your beliefs about differences and audit your actions. Listen to your employees, respond to them, and—bottom line—treat them with respect and dignity.
Energize the Job
Ponder this: How often do your people have to leave to learn something new?
Our favorite stay interview question is “What do you want to learn this year?” It seems all great performers are interested in learning. And when promotions and pay raises are in short supply, you might turn to learning as a way to enrich their jobs, alleviate boredom, and even rerecruit them to your team and to your purpose. Learning on the job (sometimes called on-the-job training) is a powerful way to engage or reengage with the work. One by one and team by team, you can build and reap the rewards of a learning organization.
Ponder this: How often do your employees have to choose between work and family?
Flexible work arrangements and the core belief that work is something you “do,” not “somewhere you have to be,” is a winning engagement strategy.
If your definition of family-friendly is allowing your employees to accept a personal phone call, it’s time to learn what’s going on around you. There are positive payoffs for your efforts, including increased loyalty, money saved, and the competitive edge that a loyal and productive workforce will provide. Become a family-friendly manager, and keep your talent on your team.
Ponder this: How many career paths do they see?
Helping employees reach their goals often means helping them consider moves they may not have seriously considered before.
help them see what they could gain by trying a move that isn’t a simple vertical step. The more options you can create with them, the more you will increase your organization’s chances of keeping treasured talent.
Hire For Fit
Ponder this: What was your best hire ever? How can you repeat that?
Great managers are great recruiters. The best never take down their “Help Wanted” sign. If you get the right people in the right roles in your organization and on your team, you absolutely will increase the odds of retaining them. And don’t ever stop re-recruiting your key talent. Remember, your competitors want the talent you’ve worked so hard to hire.
Ponder this: Information—do you have it? Hoard it?
Information is a form of currency on the job. How you spend it and how you acquire it has a big impact on your ability to engage and retain talented people. Stay in the loop, and keep your employees in the loop. It will help you keep your talent.
Be A Mentor
Ponder this: What are they really learning from you?
Your employees want you to teach them the ropes, and they know their careers will suffer if you don’t. Your failures and your success stories provide valuable insights that just don’t come in other ways. They want you to model the behaviors you expect from them. Managers who mentor establish great rapport with their employees and find that there is a strong payback in engagement and retention.
Run The Numbers
Ponder this: What is the real cost of talent loss?
Run the numbers. Calculate the costs of losing and replacing key talent. Assessing these costs can be eye-opening for managers with an “easy come, easy go” attitude toward turnover. Sharpen your commitment to keeping your most valuable employees fully engaged and on your team.
Ponder this: When did they last say, “I love my job”?
People who do what they love usually do it very well. If passion is missing at work, your best people may not bring their best to work. Collaborate with them to uncover and discover what they love to do—what brings them meaning. Link them and their work to your mission and help them remove the barriers to doing what they love. You’ll gain enthusiastic employees who will stay engaged and productive—and on your team.
Reconsider The Rules
Ponder this: Which would you rather keep—the rules or the people?
How long has it been since you questioned the rules? And how much do you encourage questioning? Allow your employees to ask about the way work gets done and about the rules that hinder their productivity and satisfaction. Really listen, support their questioning, and bend or break the rules to help them get what they need. You will greatly increase the odds of keeping your talent.
Ponder this: Which matters more, praise or pay?
Over and over, research tells us that money is not the major key to engaging and keeping good people. We double-checked this research with our own, and it proves true. When employees across the globe answer the question “What keeps you?” few have dollars in their top three reasons. People want recognition for work well done. Assess your pay scale to be sure it’s fair. Then praise your good people. Find creative ways to show your appreciation, and you will increase the odds of keeping them.
Ponder this: How many of your employees feel like they’re on a short leash?
Allowing job sharing, flextime, telecommuting, or working on the lawn on a laptop is not pampering. These options are ways to meet your business goals and retain talent. That means listening to what people want, going to bat for their needs, and ultimately giving them options and opportunities to do things differently. Truly listen to the diverse requests your employees bring you. Ask them to provide ideas for how this change might work—for you, the team, and the organization. Make an honest attempt to win flexibility and improved work conditions for your people.
Tell The Truth
Ponder this: How many of your employees really know where they stand?
Talented people want to hear the truth about themselves and the organization. They need to feel free to tell you the truth as well. Honest feedback is a gift you can both give and receive. Truth telling can help keep your talented people engaged and growing. Tell—and hear—the truth.
Ponder this: When you tune out, how do you miss out?
Get to know your people. Make time to understand them by really listening to them. Notice your own listening style and improve it (there’s always room). Your efforts will pay off. Employees who feel heard and understood will stay engaged and on your team. Those who don’t will find another place to work with a boss who will listen.
Ponder this: What do they really value most?
Finding creative ways to deliver on values is a powerful factor in keeping good people. How satisfied are they with their everyday tasks? What do they love about working in your organization? What do they wish would change? Do you know enough about your employees’ values to answer these questions? Values may be difficult to uncover, but they are worth the effort. They are powerful forces in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. Imagine your employees as your customers. What do they value most? How can you help them attain it?
Ponder this: Are they sick or tired?
Savvy managers view work-life balance and stress reduction initiatives as strategic business tools, not employee perks. If your employees are well and feel a balance between work and life outside work, you are far more likely to have a well-functioning organization. Your best employees will work hard, produce for you, and stick around in an environment that promotes their emotional, mental, and physical health and fitness.
Ponder this: How does understanding generations help you manage individuals?
Remember, you don’t have to tie yourself into knots (or worse!) trying to accommodate each generation’s individual whims, and you don’t have to worry about learning a new set of whims when the next generation comes along. People from different generations are largely alike in what they think, believe, and want from their work life. Once people accept this fact, and make their actions consistent with the principles that apply to working with people of all generations, the gap will be retired. —Jennifer Deal, author of Retiring the Generation Gap
Learn about generational differences not to separate people but to understand them better and work with them more effectively. Use A-to-Z strategies with all, but keep in mind those that appear to matter most to each generation. And remember that retention is essentially an individual activity. Find out what each of your talented employees wants, regardless of his or her generation.
Ponder this: Why would you give power away?
Yielding will increase the odds of retaining your best people. As you give people more power to create, make decisions, and truly affect the success of the team, their job satisfaction (and your odds of keeping them) will go up. At the same time, your ability to compete successfully and accomplish your business goals will increase. You have phenomenal power to yield. Try it and see what happens.
Narrow The Knowing-Doing Gap
Ponder this: How wide is your knowing-doing gap?
You can avoid having the love ’em message and strategies be just another good idea (flavor of the month). Here’s how to sustain momentum and continue to build a diverse culture that attracts, engages, and retains the best people.
Evaluate yourself often and commit to continuously improving. Close your knowing-doing gap. Hold yourself and the managers who report to you accountable for building an inclusive workplace that is so productive and fulfilling your talented people will want to stay, create, and make their mark. That’s a zenith.
Many great managers do just that, and you can too.