Employees leave a company for a variety of reasons. Most of them can be avoided.
While you may already be working on improving retention, it isn’t always clear which initiatives will have the biggest impact. Your solutions’ effectiveness depends on whether they are aligned with problems, and the sad truth is that many of those engineers are flying blind.
Turnover of employees is costly, and it affects all types of organizations. Every time an employee leaves, they take with them a significant amount of knowledge and expertise. The loss will never be completely recovered, but you can take steps to compensate for it.
It’s like trying to repair a leaky boat with a drinking glass when you hire new, untrained employees to replace more experienced ones. It makes a difference, but not enough to make a difference. Your biggest employee retention problems need to be solved at their source.
The First Step
It is one of the most important steps you can take to improve retention, but it is often overlooked. Choosing a solution without knowing the problem isn’t always effective, but it’s a common occurrence.
Identify where your retention problems are and determine how you will measure the impact of your solutions. It can be difficult to take an objective look at your organization, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. It’s time to get started after determining your problem areas. Retention issues are often interrelated, and solving one may lead to solving others.
You can prevent employees from leaving your organization by setting up effective organizational cultures that don’t suffer from these reasons.
Problem: Lack of Recognition
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to improve retention is to recognize employee contributions. Bersin and Associates, however, found that only 58 percent of employees were aware that their company had a recognition program.
Even well paid employees who aren’t acknowledged for their hard work are less likely to stick around than those who are.
Solution: Build a Genuine Culture of Recognition
While tenure-based recognition programs are common, they aren’t as effective as others. With tenure-based systems, employees are recognized for the length of time they’ve worked for the company, rather than what they’ve actually accomplished. Despite the fact that tenure-based systems do not accurately recognize employee contributions, approximately 87 percent of recognition systems are tenure-based.
What can you do to improve the tenure-based model? You can maximize the impact of employee recognition by following a few simple guidelines.
Recognition for employee contributions should be frequent, specific, visible to others, and tied to the goals and culture of the company.
Contributions are recognized in the moment, when there is the greatest potential for positive impact, when they are frequent and timely. As time passes, the opportunity for recognition to be as impactful as possible closes.
Another key element of effective recognition is specificity. Let an employee know exactly what they did that was good, and why it was good, instead of simply saying they did a good job. By sharing this example, other staff are able to emulate it when it is made visible.
Employees should also be shown how their contributions align with the company’s goals and culture. By doing so, the whole team sees the greater purpose behind the work they’re doing, and how each contribution, no matter how small, contributes to the success of the company.
Problem: Lack of Mutual Trust
Did you ever work for a manager or executive who refused to share information unless it was absolutely necessary? Operating that way displays a lack of trust in staff.
Mutual trust underpins every working relationship. A lopsided trust balance is a major contributor to employee turnover. 45% of employees quit because of a lack of trust, according to a Tolero study.
Employees are trusted to do the job to the best of their abilities by their employers. Employers can trust their employees to operate under fair, stable, and ethical conditions and to provide the tools they need to do their job well.
Employees can benefit greatly from the information. To make good decisions about the work they do, employees need the appropriate information. Doing your work based solely on need-to-know is not only demoralizing, but it is inefficient. To do their best work, employees need access to information. Why not give it to them before they get tired of it?
Solution: Embrace Transparency
Transparency is the natural cure for a lack of mutual trust. An organization can improve in this area in countless ways.
Changing your perspective is the first, and perhaps easiest step. Transparency should be the default policy. Rather than asking “Is it absolutely necessary to share this with the team,” ask “Is it absolutely necessary to keep this from them.” It’s that simple.
It is amazing how many things are being kept under wraps for little or no reason, how mutual trust improves, and how many great ideas and initiatives spring from newly available information.
Problem: Lack of Confidence in Leadership
Have you ever had a boss who promised something and then didn’t deliver it? This isn’t inspiring. It becomes a visceral reminder that deep down, you made a poor career choice if it happens over and over again.
A lack of confidence in leadership can be overcome; it just requires some thoughtful action.
Solution: Don’t Over-promise, and Take Swift, Meaningful Action.
It really couldn’t be simpler. Don’t make promises to your staff that you aren’t sure you can keep. “We’ll get to work on that,” is only useful if there is a feasible solution in sight that you intend to implement in the near future.
You should also let your employees know what actions you are taking, and transparency can be invaluable at this point.
Your company is growing rapidly, for instance. There is a resounding sentiment among your team that the office is too crowded. If you haven’t moved into your new office yet, don’t promise you will soon have a larger one. Consider alternative solutions that will provide you with immediate, meaningful results.
Some employees might be able to work from home if it’s feasible for them. Some employees prefer to work from home, and others are more productive at their offices, but nearly all value autonomy in making these decisions.
Measure the success of the program. Ask your team if they are satisfied with your handling of the situation. It could be a home run, or it could require some more creative thinking, but the important thing is knowing objectively which one it is.
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Micromanagement isn’t liked by anyone. While everyone knows this, leaders continue to look over their crew’s shoulders. Christina Bielaszka explains this tendency in her Harvard Business Review article “Micromanage at Your Peril.”
In most business circles, the term “micro-manager” is derogatory. A leader does not make the conscious decision to become one – most aren’t thinking “I’m going to waste my own time, and that of my staff, by digging into the minutiae of a task I’m paying an expert to do.” It just happens sometimes.
Recognizing it and doing something about it is the challenge. Overcoming the stigma attached to micromanagement is the biggest obstacle to recognizing it. The stigma is so strong that most leaders think “Well, I’m not a micromanager.”. It’s not me.” I’m going to tell you the truth: you might be a micromanager, even if you don’t think so.
It may not be as blatant as the classic ‘standing over someone’s shoulder’ move. It could be an innocent series of comments, intended as well-meaning feedback or a collaborative gesture, but received by employees as micromanagement.
A collaborative environment is a beautiful thing to have, but it’s imperative to understand the difference between collaboration and micromanaging. A key indicator is the frequency and directionality of the collaboration you’re participating in.
Examine your workplace objectively, and look for any telltale signs of micromanagement. If so, think about how you can alter that approach to favor autonomy.
Solution: Embrace Autonomy
The easiest way to combat micromanagement is to give employees the freedom to do their best work by giving them autonomy. There are many ways to increase autonomy. There is no need to eliminate management positions or flatten your organizational hierarchy.
A sense of ownership inspires a greater sense of purpose, and a shift in the perception of an employee’s responsibilities occurs. Accepting accountability is much more satisfying than being held accountable.
The benefits of encouraging and supporting employee autonomy are numerous, and getting started is easy. Once again, it’s mostly a matter of perspective. Employees need the freedom, the room, and the leverage they need to do their best work.
As simple as office hours can allow outdoors enthusiasts to arrive at work early, hike in the afternoon to recharge, or allow parents to pick up their children from daycare. In many industries, from service and hospitality to software engineering, employee autonomy and ownership can be adapted, but there are a few examples that may not apply to your situation.
Many factors can lead to employee retention problems – some of which are not mentioned here – but the logic still applies. Accurate assessments, active steps toward improvement, and measuring success are the most important factors in solving these problems.