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How Not to Lose Your Best Employee
Finding good help is hard. When you have a good employee, you want to keep them around.
People leave positions for many reasons. Leadership plays a major role in job satisfaction. Those who feel unrecognized for their efforts are likely to walk. Those who deal with office politics, or find their managers to be self-serving may look elsewhere for a job.
Many people begin their job search under the radar, and as they interview, they recognize how undervalued they’ve become. If their job isn’t offering them opportunities for development and adequate compensation, you can bet that they’ll search for another employer.
While some people may have terrible bosses, many leave because of poor communication and general job dissatisfaction. It’s possible to set up systems so that your employees have the experience they deserve.
The ball is in the manager’s court
Managers are in a perfect position to turn things around for employees. One of the best ways to do this is by considering Catalyst factors and Nourishment factors.
Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discuss Catalyst and Nourishment factors in their book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. These two factors help your employees remain engaged members of the team.
- Catalyst factors are events and structures that help people make progress at work. Setting clear goals and giving people resources and support to meet those goals are examples of catalysts.
- Nourishment factors tend to see employees as human beings. Getting to know them, showing respect, and offering emotional support are a few ways to offer nourishment.
Let’s take a look at a real life example of this.
Airbnb ranks number 6 out of 252 businesses evaluated for their employee experience.1 They have an excellent company culture, which directly affects their success as a business.
Their recipe for employee satisfaction isn’t rocket science. They consider employees needs in all aspects of their work environment. Company culture focuses on creating a welcoming environment, and their vision and mission are clear to everyone who works for them.
Airbnb recognizes that as they grow, their culture has to evolve so that everyone can stay connected.2 To ensure that employees are supported, they have a Global Head of Employee Experience tasked with making sure that everyone’s needs are met.
To be successful, employees need nourishment and catalysts. Employees in a supportive and engaging environment are more likely to stay with the company. They need the feeling of accomplishment that comes with making progress to give their work meaning and value.
Lead with catalysts: encourage progress
1. Set goals for projects
Setting clear goals gives everyone direction and holds them accountable for their progress.
If your team takes on a big project, have a meeting to set out short and long-term goals. Give employees a chance to speak up and ask questions. Every person can walk away knowing exactly what the end result of their efforts will be.
2. Build autonomy in the workplace
Give employees freedom to do their work in the way that makes best use of their talents. If you’ve set clear goals, it doesn’t matter how they reach the objective as long as they do. Micromanagement is guaranteed to stifle creativity and make people unhappy.
Some of the most talented and creative people don’t do well in extremely structured environments. Albert Einstein failed in school, and he was one of the most brilliant scientists of all time. That employee that never seems to do things the normal way but always produces excellent work is your Einstein.
3. Give people what they need
You wouldn’t try to bake a cake without having all the ingredients. You can’t ask employees to do great work if you don’t offer them the training and resources they need. Providing resources shows employee that the company cares about them and wants them to succeed.
Perhaps you notice that employees are having difficulty using the software at your company. Instead of getting upset, invest in training sessions to get everyone on the same page. They’ll see that you care, and they’ll be able to do the work.
4. Be conscious of your timeline
Giving employees an impossible deadline will discourage them and prevent them from being creative. Employees need deadlines, but they also need enough time to do their work.
When people feel the slight pressure of a deadline, they do their best creative work. According to Parkinson’s Law, tasks will take as much time as you give them.3 Your job is to find the middle ground between giving them too much time and not enough.
Imagine that you need a detailed report from your team. It’s a mountain of work. If you asked them to give you the report in a week, they might roll their eyes. The deadline is too ambitious. Instead, ask for a rough draft in two weeks and a final by the end of the month.
5. Roll up your sleeves
Employees don’t respect managers who spend their days hidden away in offices or vacationing on exotic islands. You don’t need to be in the trenches on the front line every day, but if you see that they need help, don’t be afraid to jump in.
Helping might mean mentoring a struggling employee, brainstorming with another colleague, or stepping in when you can see that a project is in trouble. Noticing when employees lack a resource and getting it to them is another way you can help.
The employee who is struggling is probably already nervous. They’ll be much more willing to learn if you offer to take them under your wing. That added support shows that you’re invested in their success.
6. Make it okay to fail
We’re taught to fear failure from an early age. Avoiding failure keeps us from taking risks and innovating. Make your work culture one where failure is a a valued part of learning. Employees will be more willing to step out of their comfort zone when you do this.
Pixar’s culture revolves around failing fast and often.4 Every employee is free to voice their opinions on creative matters, and when they make mistakes, they are actually making progress and trying to breakthrough.
7. Use your ears and give them a voice
Empowering employees to speak up allows ideas to flow freely. Encourage everyone to share their opinions. By hearing diverse perspectives and respecting constructive criticism, you can learn how to support your team and the company’s goals.
I worked for an organization that called together teams from across the region. One team traveled 6 hours to the meetings, while others traveled 3 hours or less. The team with the longest commute voiced their opinions to their manager, who moved the gatherings to a central location. All the teams felt that this was fair, and they believed that their voices were heard.
Nourish your team: respect and support
1. Show employees respect
You set the example for how others should be treated. When an employee comes to you with a concern, consider what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree with them, it’s important that they feel their concerns are heard.
Imagine a team member comes into your office with a problem that seems trivial to you. Hear them out. If the issue is affecting their experience, it may be affecting others as well. By giving them the space, you can make the environment better.
2. Give encouragement
Recognizing effort and accomplishment makes employees feel good, and it shows that you’re paying attention. Lack of appreciation is a major source of unhappiness in the workplace. Take the extra moment to offer a compliment or provide formal recognition, and you’ll create a sense of loyalty and pride.
You might notice that a team member puts in extra time to make sure that their work is high quality. Acknowledge that you’ve seen how hard they work. They’ll feel that they’re part of something bigger.
3. Offer emotional support
You aren’t a therapist, but you can listen. Everybody has a bad day or gets frustrated sometimes. Recognize the effect that the employee’s mood has on the workplace so that you can give them the support or space that they need to feel better.
Imagine that one of your employees experienced a death in their family. They try to come back to work the day after the funeral, but they’re clearly upset. You may be able to support them by letting them know that it’s okay for them to take a few days off to mourn. When they come back, they will be able to do their work, and they’ll know you see them as a human being.
4. Bond your team
Find ways to help coworkers trust and appreciate one another. As they solidify bonds, they’ll be able to have a more pleasant and fun working relationship.
Have a company picnic or celebrate birthdays. Organize an intramural sports team or plan a company trip. These are opportunities for people to socialize and build memories as a team. At Lifehack, we celebrate employees’ birthdays and have regular activities like hiking and video-gaming sessions to engage the team.
Make your best hires stay
You can make the best hires, but if you can’t keep them, your business will never grow. Consider Catalyst and Nourishment factors to improve work culture and help employees have a better experience.
Small actions can have major impacts on how your people view their job. Support them, and your superstar employees will stick around.
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