Engaged Employees Moving Up

Recently I wrote an article “Business is Good, Why Are My Best Employees Leaving?”  The article spurred some interesting comments.  Many believed the key reason that employees leave organizations is because of poor salaries.  Others felt that the culture, upward mobility, meaningful work or lack of strategy were the reasons.  What I have found is that people leave for different reasons.  The key to retaining top employees is to customize your strategy to meet the specific needs of each person you hope to retain.

The earlier article focused on determining root cause of turnover by taking an in depth look at data.  Determining why people leave can help an organization to craft a retention program. However a retention program to me sounds like playing defense.  If all you play is defense in a game the best that you can hope to achieve is a tie.   The same theory holds true as it relates to your employees.  If your focus on retention, you might find ways to get people to stay, but is that really the goal?  I believe the goal should be to get people to want to work for your organization and to feel so fulfilled that they are never tempted to look for a job elsewhere.  Stop trying to block the exit door. Instead, focus on getting your employees engaged in opening new doors within your organization.

Defense is not enough

Ken Blanchard the management guru and author of “Leadership and The One Minute Manager” when describing situational leadership talks about “Different strokes for different folks, and different strokes for the same folks too."  What he is referring to is the need to tailor your approach to each specific employee and that even that approach must change from time to time.  Getting the best out of your employees is about creating individualized plans.  As a manager it is important to know what motivates each of your employees and to work to bring out the best in each person. 

"Different strokes for different folks, and different strokes for the same folks too."

My firm, Groove Management has found that there are some quick wins that an organization can have to improve engagement and culture.  Below are five quick steps to achieving and maintaining peak employee performance.

Step 1: Development Dialogues  Hold a development dialogue at least twice a year with each direct report.  Ask them what is most important for them over the course of the next six months to a year from a career standpoint?  You might find that certain life events outside of work are creating balance issues in the short term.  Being aware of those issues helps a manager to meet the employee’s specific short term needs.  The employee must take some ownership for understanding their own motivations as well.  5 Keys to Success At Work and To Achieving Personal Happiness can help employees conduct the necessary self reflection.

Step 2: Communicate Strategy  Communicate the strategy and how each employee’s role impacts the businesses strategy often.  People need to feel that what they do matters.  Connecting each employee’s work to the strategy is the best way to show how they are adding value. 

Step 3: Timely Feedback  Provide timely feedback to each employee.  People need to know where they stand.  If you catch someone doing something great praise them in public.  If you catch them doing something wrong, let them know but do it in private.  Timely feedback is a great motivator and the most effective way inspire someone or to correct mistakes and poor performance.

Step 4: Have Fun  Make work more fun.  Even a stogy workplace can be fun if the manager makes room for it.  Mix things up a bit.  Have your team meeting outside, take the team to another part of the office for a meeting and serve a snack.  There are tons of ways to inject fun into the work.  If your employees are having fun while at work, they will be more productive as well.

Step 5: Stretch Assignments  Provide stretch assignments periodically.  Everyone wants to grow and learn. Work can become monotonous.  Providing each employee with work opportunities outside of their daily responsibilities is a great way to keep work interesting and to help employees to grow. 

Step 6:  (Bonus Step) Be Realistic  Not everyone can be satisfied.  There are always going to be those employees who will continue to complain that they are underpaid, undervalued, overworked, etc.  My advice is that you help them exit gracefully. They are taking up a seat within your organization that can be filled with some fresh talent with new ideas and an appreciation for the company.  Parting ways is not always a bad thing. 

If you tailor your approach to each person on your team, you will find that your best employees not only stay, but they continue to grow and have an even greater impact on the organization.  Their success justifies additional compensation, reflects well on you as a manager and lifts the performance of the entire organization. So stop talking about retention and start talking about engagement and development.