I make a living finding people who are longing for the next step in their career and I am very good at it. Not so good however, that I can talk someone into making a career move. People come to that decision themselves and once they do, they make the move.
You can’t prevent people from having career aspirations. However, as an employer, there are things you can control that keep your key employees engaged thereby, retaining them.
From my own personal experience and from many of experts who share their wisdom on my weekly radio show, BizTalk, I’ve identified five core elements that will keep your employees engaged. I’ve listed them in order of priority because they build on one another. My advice is to address each one in order and one at a time. If you skip one of these steps, you are building employee engagement on a faulty foundation that will not be sustainable.
- Vision: Have a clear vision of where the company is going. One of the Proverbs in the Bible states without vision people perish. If you want people to stay, you have to create and share your vision of the future with them often.
- Clarity of Purpose and Success Criteria: We help our clients gain clarity on roles inside their company. I am always amazed, no matter how large or small the company, when I ask, “Why does this role exist and what value does it provide the company?” that question leads to a four hour discussion. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to answer. Especially, when you try to add objective, quantifiable measurements of the value the role brings versus subjective ones. My point is this: If you cannot answer this in three to four sentences you are confused about that role and any employee who occupies the role will be doubly confused. Get clarity around this so your employees know what is expected in their roles. I contend this lack of clarity around this role in your company is the number one reason your efforts in finding “A” players to fill the role is anemic.
- Communicate: Whatever you are doing in this area, you are not doing enough… you just believe you are. Communicate the why, what, and how in everything your employees do. Ask for their input, express gratitude, and provide feedback.
- Provide Learning Opportunities: Training is dead. Most people don’t want to be trained and the truth be known, how we train has not really been very effective in the past. High performing employees are interested in learning; especially learning that helps them be better at what they do. Training is an event typically filled with so much technique and data that one cannot comprehend the material or realistically execute effectively on what they were just trained on. Learning happens over time. Spaced repetition over time is how adults learn best.
- Reward and Recognition: Most people want to be told they are doing a good job and all of us are “positive stroke” deprived. Personally and publicly, tell people what they are doing right. Double your efforts in this area and you are off to a good start. Remind yourself that the people around you are there to help you. Express your gratitude for that frequently.
Make it a priority and be creative in how you do each of these things. If you don’t, one of these days, your best people will respond to an inquiry by a recruiter who is offering exactly what they are seeking.