Employee retention is a topic every manager I speak with wants to discuss. They tell me how important it is to keep employees and the challenge with replacing talent. I agree that it isn’t easy to find top talent and yet I also believe that a bit of turnover is good. Why do I say that? Sometimes as managers we become complacent and settle. Maybe you have had someone in the organization and while they aren’t performing at the level you would like, the idea of interviewing and onboarding someone new makes you physically sick to your stomach, so you settle rather than replace. Maybe there is someone on the team who is great yet you have no new opportunities for them so you cross your fingers and hope they don’t leave. Honestly, turnover can be good for an organization. New blood can shake up the team, infuse new ideas and bring a whole new set of skills you might not have realized you need. Star employees who have no place to grow within your organization will become disengaged over time and their performance will wain, which will become obvious to others.
I’m not a gardener but I do know that if you don’t periodically prune the trees and bushes they will grow but not as lush and green and full as if you prune. The same is true with you team.
That being said no one wants their best employees to walk out the door if they can prevent it from happening. There are some obvious considerations for keeping staff happy (learning opportunities, advancement, compensation/benefits etc), and few that you may have ignored. Let’s discuss those first.
Kindness and caring goes a long way. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” What a great insight. Little things you do matter to people. Do you ask about their vacation when they return? Do you recognize when they are ‘off’ and ask them about it? When was the last time you asked about their children, spouse, wedding plans…you get the picture.
Say thank you, and mean it. Employees know when you are unhappy with something they didn’t do or handled incorrectly. But how often do you say thank you? Thank you for staying late to ensure the project was completed or thank you for going the extra step with a client or thank you for stepping up and working on their skills. There are dozens of opportunities every week to say thank you, and compliment them. Take the time to acknowledge these opportunities and mean it when you say it.
Have their back, even when it’s inconvenient. It’s often easier to dismiss their complaints and ideas. When you ask them about why something occurred that isn’t in their area of responsibility but you act like it is what do you suspect they are thinking? If something goes wrong do you support them by providing feedback and maybe training or are you the manager who screams and yells, or worse yet ignores them but it’s so very obvious you are upset? Take the time to let them know you have their back, even if something negative happened or they come to you with complaints. You don’t have to agree with their view of the world, but you do have to have them feel like you want to support them.
Treat people fairly, if not equally. Not everyone has the same idea of what fairness means, I get that. Take a look at areas such as dress codes, vacation or sick leave allowances, asking certain people to work overtime, acknowledging the same one or two team members and not others are good place to consider. Is everyone treated the same or is it obvious there are different rules for different people?
Don’t ask people to do what they can’t do. Developing new skills is good for the company, the team and the individual, that’s clear. Yet asking someone to step into a role without training, resources and support is a recipe for disaster. Demanding someone habitually stay late or work weekends when you know they are a single parent may put an unfair burden on them. Giving an assignment to someone with a turnaround time that isn’t possible ensures frustration on all sides and a guarantee of a poor outcome.
What keeps people from leaving your company is about how they feel about how you treat them, which is way more than simply compensation and career opportunities. Make sure those you really want on the team feel cared for, important, valued and treated like you would like to have others treat you