The concept of building walls has made its way into public discourse as of late. Not all walls are intended to keep people out. Some walls are built to keep people in. These include the people want to keep on our team, such as valuable employees.
The walls some employers create to keep employees from leaving the company are not made out of brick and mortar, but out of fear, guilt and manipulation. You need not resort to these emotional walls to keep good employees from leaving.
Team Aventr traveled across the United States to interview leaders of companies that easily retained their talent, and to learn how they did it.
In this article we will reveal the common attributes that resulted in engaged team members who had no immediate plans to look elsewhere to advance their careers!
A Defined Company Culture
No doubt there are warning signs of bad company culture, but happy workplaces rarely appear without the necessary structures in place to support a clearly defined good company culture.
Since any applicant under 40 is likely to ask you about your company culture during the interview process, the first action item to attract great talent and improve retention is to define your company culture.
Take some time to learn about the cultures behind America’s top workplaces and consider adopting some of the things that are working well for them.
A Culture of Trust
Trustworthy employees who are not trusted won’t stick around any longer than they need to.
As your team members demonstrate competence, be sure to entrust them with greater responsibilities without overwhelming them.
It’s okay to add responsibilities quickly as long as the necessary resources are made available and communicated so that your employees can carry them out.
Micromanaging sends a signal to employees that you do not trust their judgment. Once your staff is fully trained in best practices, consider taking a step back and letting them employ some of their own methods for completing their duties.
All the Right Tools
Few things are more frustrating for an employee than not feeling as if they have the resources they need to follow through with the projects assigned to them.
This is easily remedied by having a solid training protocol in place, providing a formal introduction to the veteran team members they can go to for help, and a clear escalation list so they know who would be best to speak to when key personnel aren’t present. Exit interviews reveal that many employees leave after a short time because these simple things are not in place.
There are some superstars who are willing to fight through all kinds of obstacles in order to get what they need to complete the task at hand, despite how little their leaders have prepared them. These are indeed valuable people to have on your team, but they are the exception.
Having your overachievers squander their ambition on chasing things that could have been easily provided to them in advance is a poor allocation of resources. Their energy would be better spent learning additional job functions in the hope of a future promotion, or brainstorming innovations for their current position.
When employees are on board with the company vision, the sense of purpose and meaning that work was intended for often follows. People who perceive their job to be part of their life’s mission are unlikely to leave it any time soon.
Leaders can help facilitate a shared vision between the organization and its people. Education reformer Michael Fullen wrote:
The development of authentic shared vision builds on…personal vision building through moral purpose, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration. Collective vision building is a deepening, reinforcing process of increasing clarity, enthusiasm, communication, and commitment. As people talk, try things out, inquire, re-try—all of this jointly—people become more skilled, ideas become clearer, shared commitment gets stronger.
The more employees get to play a role in the direction the company is heading and feel involved in the process, the more likely they are to share the vision of the company as a whole.
Creating clear core values and a company mission statement that appeals to persons of integrity will help attract the best applicants in the first place.
If you don’t have these, or your existing ones need updating, consider involving your existing team in the process. This will help engage and retain some veteran employees who may have lost some zeal over time.
A Culture of Communication
While we are all about reframing, we don’t believe in putting such a positive spin on things that it obscures the truth.
Open communication between management and staff helps teams thrive. The discomfort that may accompany some of the more difficult conversations won’t last forever, but employees failing to meet unspoken expectations probably will. If it isn’t made clear to a new hire, or even a seasoned employee that they are not working up to par, you should have no expectation for change. Wishful thinking has never transformed another person’s attitude or work ethic. Difficult feedback should be conveyed in a way that preserves the dignity of the individual, yet without sacrificing the clarity of the message.
Feedback is a two way street. Active listening by both leadership and team members is what makes a great culture of communication. Both audiences need to welcome important, sometimes unsettling information without reacting in such a way that the other party is reluctant to bring future concerns to the table. Likewise, both audiences need to deliver such feedback with the utmost respect for the dignity of the listener.
With all of this focus on communication, positive feedback should not be ignored. There is no competitive advantage to leaving any member of your team guessing whether or not they are doing an aspect of their job correctly.
For some folks praise is equally rewarding as cash, but we recommend that you keep financial incentives intact. Not all individuals are wired to respond to praise. Whether or not they need praise, employees do need to know when their leader’s expectation of a job well done has been met.
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