It is easy to blame organisational policies or pay scales for the loss of talent. Although these are certainly part of the equation, the fact is that the manager is the person that often matters most. Moreover, most proven retention strategies are within the sphere of influence of the manager.
Most proven retention strategies cost very little, if anything, in real dollars. The investment is in caring and commitment, intangible values that build upon the branding and performance of a firm.
Here are a few of the things that are known to work:
“Colleague Relations” are typically the most positive of all the cultural assumptions measured. Unfortunately, trust and confidence often sharply erode just outside the small circle of colleagues.
This shows an opportunity – to use the manager as a credible conduit of messages and symbols to make your environment an increasingly attractive place to work. Mentors, trainers and other models have their value, but it is the employee’s manager who seems to have the greatest influence.
It is common for people with solid potential to suffer discontent yet stay on the job. Instead of leaving, they simply find ways to disengage. Their departure is psychological, rather than physical and is sometimes called “retiring in place.”
Clearly, disengagement can be just as costly as departure. The Gallup organisation, who found disengagement costs US businesses about $300 billion a year. Plausible approaches to this challenge include combining tasks, forming self-directed teams, increasing clients contact, rotating assignments, job sharing, and others.
While it is true that much of the talent companies are losing these days are relatively “old timers” otherwise called the baby boomers, it’s also true that today it is more difficult to retain talent.
Getting the right people in the door in the first place is obviously a key to increasing the odds of keeping them. Are you using pre-hire personality assessment tools? There are some excellent, very inexpensive ones available.
Also, how are job candidates specifically screened for a good fit with your organisation’s professed values and emerging culture? There are some simple interview techniques that help.
A common reason for high turnover is the violation of an employee’s expectations. Ever heard of a bright young employee who waited a month to get a computer, then was transferred to a work group that was never mentioned in any of his interviews? Yes, he had barely broken a sweat in his new job, and his trust of his new employer was already very fragile.
While building his EDS empire 30 years ago, Ross Perot offered a bounty to employees who referred job candidates who were hired. The bounty was paid in stages – when the person started work, when the person passed his first anniversary, when the person received a promotion, etc.
The system not only generated a terrific candidate pool, it clearly motivated employees to help their new colleagues “feel at home” in the EDS culture. That simple system supported the EDS slogan that “Eagles never flock. You must find them one at a time.” The small investment in keeping good employees was much less costly than replacing them.
Even when they’re well paid, receive recognition and have opportunities to learn and grow, people will leave if they don’t like their supervisor. It suggest that you have to be crystal clear on what your company stands for and what it will not stand for.
What do bad employees do? They intimidate, condescend or demean, swear, behave rudely, belittle people in front of others, give only negative feedback, lie, act sexist or racist, withhold critical information, blow up in meetings, refuse to accept blame or accountability, gossip and spread rumors, use fear as a motivator, and other bad things.
Not a single one of these behaviors fosters respect, trust, or good performance. Unfortunately, these behaviors are not at all uncommon, and sometimes they are exhibited even by high profile managers. It’s a message with profoundly negative consequences.
Many people tell us their workplace is a fun-free zone. They’re not looking for constant laughter and water balloon fights. They’re just looking for a fresh twist on things, a little spontaneity. Studies show that fun enhances creativity and it certainly does not diminish productivity when everyone’s work and collaboration goals are clear.
Let the fun happen. It will bring more happiness. Here’s an example. Fluor Corp. invited a group of young, gifted children to a management training meeting. The kids sat with one group of Fluor managers while another group of managers worked independently. At the end of the day, the mixed group of managers and children had generated far more innovative ideas than the managers-only group.
Considering all the hubbub and investment in mentoring these days, companies obviously see the value. But should it be only downward mentoring?
How about trying “upward mentoring” on a trial basis? You really can teach (some) old dogs new tricks, and probably one of the best sources of those new tricks is the younger people in the organisation – some of the very people you can least afford to lose.
Inviting younger employees to mentor older ones would likely be good for all involved. A fresh approach to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
One of the most disheartening things that can happen to a good employee is to perceive that not all co-workers are held accountable for excellent performance. Be sure your performance review system fairly addresses issues under the employee’s control. Clearly link work back to the stated business objectives. Remember that “they treasure what you measure.” Then be sure that high achievers get the credit they deserve.
See: Talent: How Do You Make Them Stay?
The original article first appeared on Forbes.