The word is out about the lack of retention, and it’s scary: Talented workers expect to stay with their employers fewer than two years.
It takes time, skills, effort, and money to attract top talent, but these statistics tell us that the best and brightest workers are moving on almost before they go through their first boxes of business cards. While larger organizations court employees by offering hot benefits and perks, higher salaries, and other advantages, small- to mid-sized companies have advantages, too, such as fewer bureaucratic hurdles and more growth potential. In other words, this problem of retention is an internal one.
Quite simply, employees aren’t “feeling it.” They’re not growing professionally, engaging in their company's cultures, or getting what they need to keep them intellectually — and creatively — stimulated. And unless you want your company to be just another pit stop on an employee's journey to success, it’s time to start revisiting your practices to ensure your team members feel valued and productive during their (hopefully long) tenures.
Prioritizing Positivity in the Office
We work in a fast-paced, virtual world that makes it tough to maintain connections. While retaining talent might've been an issue for businesses since the first entrepreneur set up shop, this cultural feature makes today's talent more restless than previous generations.
Usually, this restlessness is the result of treatment by leaders who devalue the experience of work, which can snowball into low morale and unhappiness. But leaders who cultivate and drive workplace positivity can bolster retention by making top talent not only satisfied, but also productive.
1. Acknowledge Your Team — Even When the 'Stress Meter' Spikes
If team members are no more than “inventory” that gets moved off and on shelves, then they're likely to seek employment at a place that offers a more human element. And
employees who receive no gratitude or recognition — not even a simple “thank you” — are apt to become frustrated and unsatisfied. Simple acknowledgement goes a long way.
As president of my company, for instance, I can reach out to anyone via Slack and feel like we’ve communicated face-to-face. But that's not the same as being face-to-face, which is why, no matter how busy I am, I make it a goal to walk the floor every day, see my team members, look them in the eyes, and show them I’m there for them.
Beyond personal outreach, if a department (or several) puts in significant overtime, do something to recognize the teams’ hard work or ask them how you can make their jobs easier. In our case, we buy them dinner or send them extra "You Earned It" points as a way to track peer recognition.
2. Treat Mistakes as Growth Opportunities
An environment that treats every mistake as a crisis situation quickly becomes an untenable challenge to people's loyalty. As Ed Catmull, the author of Creativity, Inc., asserts: “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.”
Catmull is right, of course. Recognizing how individuals contribute to an organization's core values, even if they make mistakes, can hold teams accountable for their performance and boost morale by transforming errors into learning opportunities.
My company relies on a dedication to our core values — happiness, honesty, empathy, loyalty, and passion — to function as a team. Not only do we use "You Earned It" to virtually highlight team members who exhibit core values and supplement teachable moments, but we also verbally call out employees who display them.
3. Ask Your Team to Evaluate You
While so much of retention focuses on employees, leaders who constantly ask their teams "How am I doing?" and learn to thrive on this feedback illustrate that a big part of organizational loyalty is their own capacity to listen and grow.
By offering your people opportunities to give you feedback, either anonymously through online surveys or during one-on-one sessions, you can become a better leader and a better person. This willingness to evolve and display of commitment to your role and your teams will trickle down in the workplace. Moreover, by making sure that everyone understands you can take constructive criticism with confidence, people won't worry about retaliation, which will encourage a culture of openness.
Creating a company that is so valued employees beg to work for you and barely ever leave may seem like trying to remove the Excalibur, but it doesn't have to be. By foregrounding a culture of positivity through acknowledgement, growth, and openness, your employees will stay long past the two years today's statistics portend. And your company will be all the better for it.
About the author: Michael Manning, president at Rocksauce Studios, joined the team to bring her considerable marketing, analytical, and relationship skills to the team. As president she leads the charge on invigorating the company's loyalty, happiness, and customer engagement from within.