Our five favourite employee retention strategies

Do you want to keep your best employees?

You might think money, vacation time, health benefits are things that keep people working hard.

In a few cases, that might be true, but more often than not, those financial benefits rank low on why we stay in a job.

Think back over your career, the jobs you’ve had that you loved — the ones where you really enjoyed yourself, you dove into the work, you thrived.

Now think about what was great.

Chances are you aren’t thinking about your retirement savings plan, you aren’t remembering the amount of your biweekly deposit or the coverage you had for your eyeglasses.

You’re probably thinking about the work you got to do, the manager you had, the colleagues, and the opportunities.

If you want your best employees to stay with you (and they’re the ones most likely not coming to work for the money) then here are the top five retention strategies to help you keep your rock stars happy and productive.

People need to be seen, heard and understood.

This is a mantra for us as executive coaches, and if you memorize this alone, it will take you a long way as a leader too.

People want to be seen and to know that the boss is aware of them and the work they’re doing.

But more so, they want to be heard. They want to be asked for their input and to know that their opinion is listened to with interest.

And most of all, they want to be understood — that is, to be listened to without judgment, to feel validated in their dreams, aspirations, their fears, and their motivators.

People want meaning and purpose in their work.

I hear a lot of leaders say that the folks working for them don’t get the big picture. They’re focused on their day-to-day tasks without thinking about how to achieve the bigger vision.

This is, in large part, a leadership failing. It’s our job as leaders to help people see how their work translates into achieving the bigger picture — to paint the picture for them in such a way that they see their own importance.

People need to feel safe at work.

I’m not talking about a health and safety program (although that’s important too) — what I’m talking about here is that they need confidence boosters from you.

They need emotionally intelligent leaders who listen, encourage, praise and support their growth. They want leaders who give them hope and, of course, they need to be free of bullying and coercion.

They want you to show them that their values are accepted and part of them.|

People want to know what’s happening in the organization.

Gallup research does a massive annual survey around the world about worker engagement. The second most common problem cited by employees about leadership is a lack of communication.

A sense of hiding information, failing to share information or wielding information as a source of power leads to confusion, fear, mistrust and all sorts of dysfunction.

Good employees are always the first to leave uncertainty.

People need feedback.

No, the archaic annual performance review is not enough.

People need rich feedback, as soon as possible in the moment.

This includes positive feedback about what they’re doing well and constructive feedback on where they can improve.

We offer a number of leadership workshops that touch on communicating with staff and peers and specifically giving feedback. Participants tell us one of the most frightening exercises we do is asking them to give feedback to a colleague, face to face, right now.

But interestingly, they also tell us that:

  1. It was way easier than they thought;
  2. The other person appreciated the insight;
  3. It’s harder to give feedback than to receive it — so holding back is supporting you, not them, and
  4. They look forward to trying it again — knowing it gets easier, and more effective, each time they try.

Coach’s Questions:

If you were to tell us who your best employees are today, and five years from now we asked them what jobs they loved the most over their careers, would the one they’re doing today be on the list? Would they still be with you?

What are you willing to start this week, to ensure it is and to ensure they are?

How to deal with difficult employees

I came across this great infographic the other day and it got me thinking about the steps to deal with difficult employees.

There are a few things that I’ve learned over time when issues crop up around communication and difficult people in the workplace:

  1. It’s often not isolated to one person or one issue;
  2. Band-aid solutions, or worse, “hoping it will go away,” are used more often than not and rarely solve the problem, and
  3. In most cases, the problem can be resolved.

Here are 9 steps to take when you’re dealing with  difficult employees (From wrike.com’s infographic with a Padraig spin):

1. Get to the root cause (the key person)

This can be tough but often when an issue surfaces in the organization, the person who initiated it isn’t necessarily the person that is vocal about it or creating the turbulence.

Ask some team members who you are usually open and forthcoming with, to shed some light and figure where the discussion/issue/problem starts.

2. Maintain your distance

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama or to even contribute to the negativity. Do your best to stay objective and solutions focused. You have an opportunity to lead by example and keep your cool. You’ll earn respect AND have a better chance of truly solving the issue.

3. Be a fly on the wall

It can be tempting to jump in and referee a situation but sometimes you can learn a lot by sitting back and observing what is actually unfolding. How are frustrations being expressed? Is there any resolution happening on its own? Write down your observations and brainstorm solutions for each area of drama.

4. Get to the root cause (the key issue)

Now that you know who is involved and have made some observations about how they act out – see if you can figure out exactly what it is that is bothering them. How are they seeing the world? What is it that’s bothering them that perhaps isn’t an obvious problem to you or others?

5. Solicit input

Of course, you don’t want to contribute to gossip or speculation but if you’re able to subtly get a sense of the issue from other perspectives – mentors, peers, other members of the team, it can be helpful. Do your best to see the issue from as many angles as possible.

6. Decide if you need to take action

Sometimes the difficulty is circumstantial or fleeting and there are instances where issues unravel on their own. Perhaps even the disruptor is helping in the long term?  If you decide you do need to take action – double check that you’re the right person to address the issue and then think through how you want to start this essential conversation.

7. Talk to the difficult person

I called this step “talk to the difficult person,” but this step is ALLLL about listening. Without making assumptions, talk to the person and really hear their perspective. Check out this article on how important silence is in conversations.

8. Collaborate

There is an opportunity to work together to resolve the issue. If the other person understands your concerns, brainstorm solutions together and get their buy-in to solve the issue. Remember to show your willingness to work together.

9. Check in regularly

Change may not happen overnight and it may take multiple check-ins to encourage a change in behavior. Continue to show your support and to take the steps you agreed to take on your end.

Coach’s Questions:

Which “problem employee” are you tiptoeing around, or hoping they’ll change their ways? Given the suggestions above, what can you do this week, to start to improve the situation? How can you avoid escalation of issues with difficult team members?