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Open heart surgery

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Open heart surgery

Are employers paying lip service to retention, but practicing a different reality? High levels of employee turnover is bad for business – replacing an employee can cost up to 50 percent of their annual salary – but to direct attention solely on the numbers means never getting to the heart of the matter, and it really is the heart we’re talking about because for the employees themselves, money is rarely the issue. 

Staff leave when they don’t feel important to the team or the company. They see themselves as a small part of the machine and having very little impact on the products or services delivered overall. If an employee doesn’t feel valued, it’s not hard for them to walk away when someone else comes calling. There is no emotional attachment. And if employees aren’t attached to the company, you, or their fellow workers, consider the impact of that on your culture, both in the company as a whole and in localised teams. Making staff feel important and valued requires an intensely personal touch. Relationships between managers and staff must be purposeful and intentional. Communication should be deliberate and relevant. Vague hellos in the hallway don’t cut it. Managers must know their staff and communicate in a personal and meaningful way. And praise should be specific. Not, “You’ve done an awesome job this month”, but “I recognise how you’ve improved this process and reduced our errors, thank you”. Rewards also can be personalised. Team pizza is always appreciated but if you’ve noticed someone has been putting in extra hours, give them some time off. Notice, care and personalise.

Employees leave when they feel they have stopped growing and developing. When you are green you grow and when you’re ripe you rot. This is lethal for employee morale as others start to develop a feeling that there is a ceiling for them too. You’ve invested in many of these staff for years and strong employee retention will help support your productivity. Recruiting and training new employees takes time. An unfilled position means work is not getting done. And new hires have learning curves. Keeping current workers satisfied with their roles will ensure productivity is not interrupted. Some employees will certainly run out of room to grow in your firm but on the whole, you should have smart career plans for these valuable assets. Career planning can become a beast of a topic but it doesn’t have to be if you have good managers in place who are empowered to lead their teams. With a strong personal touch, managers can combine the desires and ambitions of their staff with the needs of the company and ensure the future growth of both.

Employees walk because they don’t get the support they need. Requests for training are viewed suspiciously and are frequently vetoed, sometimes using the budget as an excuse but often for no reason at all. When employees ask for better equipment or other investments to improve the way they work, they are often told it’s not a priority. Not supporting an employee sends a clear message to them and their colleagues. “You don’t care. We’re not important”. Effective retention strategies start right at the beginning of the employer / employee relationship, actually during the recruitment process. A picture is built of the company in order to attract the employee and ideally to retain them. Employees are more likely to stay with a company that fulfils the promises made when their employment offer was extended. Companies that fail to maintain the same level of interest to long term staff as they do to new recruits are seen to have broken an agreement and to have destroyed trust. This leaves a sour taste and bad news can spread quickly amongst current, and future, staff.

Of course, employees are what make a company tick – without them, nothing can be built and clients cannot be serviced. Your initial investment in staff should be protected through ongoing, committed support where employees are given the tools they need to do a job they are proud of. And maintain that personal touch with high levels of face-to-face interaction. Take a sincere and personal path to understanding what makes your employees tick and support them in the ways which they value most highly. Micromanagers. There is a very strong correlation between employee job satisfaction and the level of freedom they have to do their jobs. Employees hate micromanagers, and people leave managers, not companies. Where managers are consistently involved in the day-to-life role of an employee, they become frustrated very quickly. This is not surprising when we consider that, in the business world, employees are both adult, and typically very well qualified. Low morale as a result of micromanagement spreads like wildfire. As one employee leaves for a workplace where they have more space, others become reluctant to fill their shoes as they’ve seen how creativity and drive can be stymied. Promoting responsibility and accountability in individual roles has a major impact on increasing morale. Employees that enjoy their work and the atmosphere surrounding them, are more likely to stick around. Retention strategies, such as retaining and coaching the right managers, are important because they help create a positive work environment and strengthen an employee’s bond with the firm. Strategies that impact employee engagement, such as opportunities to lead cross-functional projects, increase company morale and give employees a sense of pride in their work.

Of course companies need to have rules but all too often, they get out of hand. Rules and policies become divisive; a way of keeping order and putting employees in their place. When adult professionals begin to feel like children, or worse, prisoners, it’s usually a signal that they’re working in the wrong place. The impact of too many rules doesn’t take long to become infectious. The noise around the water cooler is gets louder and turnover rates will rise rapidly. Keep rules and regulations to a minimum. Where they are required, phrase them in a positive way so as to encourage behaviours which will help grow your firm. Try saying yes more often than you say no. Tolerating Mediocrity. Attrition rates are high in firms where poor performance is tolerated. A team is only as good as the weakest link so when a firm allows poor quality to exist within their workforce without consequences, everyone else gets dragged down to the same levels. Top performers won’t stand for this detrimental impact on their careers and they will not hesitate to walk out the door.

This will pull your results down even further and sends a message to other staff that you don’t care enough. Transformational leaders don’t stand for mediocrity. They focus on each and every individual in the team they are leading in order to improve their lives. They influence the beliefs of team members, by understanding each one personally, and driving individuals and the firm collectively. Anyone who does not want to join the party is managed out. Not recognising accomplishments. Top performers motivate themselves but they do like to be recognised. Failure to acknowledge achievements and strong performance is a mistake which will cost in terms of recruitment fees and training new staff. Your best performers are the mostly costly to replace as they often have that je ne sais quoi which money can’t buy. Some firms like to treat everyone equally but what message does that send to the very best, and the very worst performers? Don’t be afraid to pay special attention to individual achievers. That sets a stronger message as to what kind of firm you are, and what kind of talent you want to attract and retain.

Use your transformational management skills combined with personal communication to find out what makes your highest achievers feel good. This could be financial incentives or it could be a public pat on the back. And do it often if performance merits. The costs will be significantly less than. There are many reasons why an employee might choose to leave for a new opportunity. You’ll notice that financial reasons, or for better benefits, are less prevalent than one might think. The primary reasons boil down to feeling valued, and feeling as if they add value. To not pay attention to these concerns as a matter of ingrained culture amongst managers, not only adds to higher attrition rates than ideal but also gives rise to a negative climate amongst remaining staff. There are simple ways to keep your staff engaged and they are highly cost-effective too.

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