7 Steps to Keep Your Best Employees
By Tim Rutledge
Imagine two doors in your organization. One is labelled ‘Entrance’; this is where recruiting happens. This is where you bring the right people into your organization.
Most companies direct lots of resources at managing the ‘Entrance’ door. Behind this door are all the activities related to finding and onboarding the very best candidates for your organization.
The other door is labelled ‘Exit’. Most companies devote almost no management attention to the factors that send people to the ‘Exit’ door.
How do you keep talent from leaving, or from disengaging but staying? How do you arrange things so that talent doesn’t think that the grass might be greener somewhere else?
There are two kinds of workplace engagement. Macro-engagement is what organizations can do, by way of policies and practices, to create engaging employment experiences. Micro-engagement is what individual managers can do, whether the organization is being helpful or not.
Here are the elements of employee engagement. They each have macro and micro aspects.
- Communicate the big picture. Help employees to understand how what they do every day connects to something bigger, usually outside the organization. Companies can promote this through mission and vision statements, and by publishing and openly discussing company values and their behavioural expressions or competencies. In Employee Engagement, I walk front line employees through a process that helps them to indentify the meaning in their jobs. This helps them to rise above the dozens of ‘whats’ of their roles and connect to ‘why’ in a way that is meaningful to them.
- Implement flexible working conditions. Employees increasingly want flexibility in where they work, and when and how they get their work done. Technology enables this. Feeing tied to a desk during ‘face time’ hours is disengaging. Employees appreciate being able to occasionally be somewhere else during regular business hours. They don’t mind working at odd hours, but they do mind micro-managing. If you cut them some slack around this, their engagement will increase.
- Promote individual learning. Employees understand that to thrive in today’s workplaces they need to remain current, and constantly increase their knowledge and skills – their employability. This is not a nice to have. Around fifteen years ago organizations began to teach employees that, while they didn’t own their jobs, they did own their careers, and employees learned this lesson very well. Employees expect help with training, education, and a variety of challenging and interesting assignments.
- Differentiate performance. High performers will not work alongside people who are performing below standard. Have you ever been in this situation? One or more of your co-workers was not meeting performance standards, and management wasn’t doing anything about it. Performance ratings were not differentiated; people received the same ratings regardless of performance. Do you remember how that felt? It’s likely your engagement – and your performance – suffered at least a little.
Remember that head hunters are regularly wooing your top performers; talent is a product that they can move quickly. If your best people are bored or don’t feel recognised, or if they feel their coworkers are dragging them down, the grass will start to look greener somewhere else. Speaking of recognition . . .
- Recognize achievements. It never ceases to amaze me that some managers – too many – seem congenitally unable to say ‘thank you’ when someone accomplishes something. The number one reason why employees resign is that they didn’t feel that their contributions were recognized. Ignoring the superior contributions of key employees is akin to escorting them to the ‘Exit’ door and holding it open for them.
- Listen. Listening is a skill. Hearing is not; if our hearing equipment works, we can hear. But we’re not born with listening equipment; listening has to be learned.
We all know what it’s like not to be listened to. If this happens at work, and you leave a meeting with your manager thinking that you weren’t really being listened to, you experience feelings of disengagement. If you feel that you actually were listened to, that contributes to feelings of engagement. Which feelings do you want your key employees to be experiencing when the head hunter calls?
- Coach. The role of a coach is to bring out performance in employees. It’s usually referred to as a discovery process, but I prefer to call it an uncovery process. What the coach does is uncover the potential in the employee’s performance and actualize it. You know that when you’re on the receiving end of skilled coaching, and you hit the ‘aha!’ moment in your learning and/or performance, what an engaging experience that is.
These are the elements that make the “Exit’ door look unattractive. All the skills in the world marshalled at the ‘Entrance’ door will be in vain if the ‘Exit’ door is wide open and no one is guarding it.
Tim Rutledge, Ph. D. is President of Mattanie Consulting.
Here is his contact information.
Myth #11: Not everyone here should be a top performer. We need some Steady Eddies, or we'd drive ourselves nuts trying to satisfy everyone's career expectations.
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