BY JAMES BLAIN
With the return of travel, most of your immediate attention has likely been devoted to hiring to accommodate demand; however, making sure you have a plan to keep those new employees long-term is just as important. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. Having high turnover can also affect the rest of the team: left unchecked, runaway turnover will eventually lead to a revolving door mentality that will erode your company’s culture.
When an employee quits a job, very often (but not always) the job itself isn’t the problem. They are leaving management that they feel doesn’t care about them and/or getting out of environments they feel are holding them back. COVID and the following “Great Resignation” has changed the relationship that employees have with their jobs, and a lot of managers (or owners) haven’t caught up to that reality. The good news, though, is that you have control over the environment your employees work in.
Employee retention isn’t a one-time checklist item: it’s a mindset and an ongoing process. At its core, it is about creating a healthy workplace and keeping your employees engaged. By being proactive, you can avoid common pitfalls and create the kind of workplace and management styles that employees look for in long-term roles.
1. Share Your Larger Purpose
It is no secret that people go to work for a paycheck, but beyond just getting paid, we all want to feel that the work we do matters, that we are striving toward something better, and that we have a purpose. Employees who are working for just a paycheck are more likely to do the bare minimum and eventually leave for another job.
However, employees who feel the work they do counts toward a larger goal are more likely to stay with a company long-term, even if they get a job offer that pays more. If you want your employees to feel that the work they do matters, then you need to help them understand the larger purpose behind what you do. Share with them:
• Your company’s mission and vision
• Why the company was founded
• How your company changes people’s lives for the better
• Most importantly, how their role and the work they do fits into the big picture of your company
2. Provide the Training and Set Your Expectations
Just like anything else, retention is built on a solid foundation of training and expectations. Imagine how frustrated you would be to have the training to do the job, but not know what you’re expected to do—or vice versa.
These scenarios are common in our industry. This often happens when owners and managers rush to get chauffeurs on the road, CSRs on the phone, and dispatchers managing schedules without a proper orientation that includes goals, benchmarks, and instruction. Also, there is generally an “I’ll teach them the basics and come back and do more training later” mentality, but if we’re honest, we know that rarely happens.
Although you may be tempted to skip or rush, the time you spend training and setting expectations correctly upfront will pay dividends in the long run. It will also ensure that your employees join your team with all the resources and tools they need to be successful. A competent training program should be:
1. Comprehensive: It should prepare employees for what they can expect in their day-to-day work.
2. Available: There should be easy access to materials during and after training, never just one-and-done.
3. Specific: You should cover things as they apply to your operation not just broad general terms.
4. Accurate: Outdated materials or procedures should be removed and should reflect in your training as well.
5. Consistent: Each person who goes through training should have a consistent experience.
6. Timely: Training only helps if you have taken it. Completing it after they need it doesn’t help you or them.
Expectations do more than just let your employees know what their job role is, they also give them a way to measure what they are doing. Clear expectations should include a job description, their responsibilities, what IS and IS NOT acceptable, their place in your culture, and how their performance will be measured.
3. Help Them Belong
There are few things as emotionally powerful as a feeling of belonging and knowing your place within a team; however, the opposite is also true. Employees who don’t have that team mentality more likely to be unmotivated and look for another job. Helping new staff find that inclusivity in your company starts when they get hired and is a crucial part of welcoming them into your culture.
Company culture: You should strive for a company culture where everyone feels they have a seat at the table, can offer their unique perspective and contributions, and values diversity with a common goal.
Mentors: Having a mentor is something that can be beneficial for every member of your team, providing guidance, support, and advice when it comes to both professional and personal development. A mentor could be a manager, peer, or even just another employee with more experience in that area who can offer support.
Ongoing learning: Learning can lead to both personal and professional growth. It can also take many forms. Ongoing training can help professional growth while allowing them to develop new skills. Cross-training can provide personal confidence and make employees more valuable to the company.
4. Focus on the People NOT the Work
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “To get what you want, help others get what they want,” but we all know it can be very easy to get caught up in meeting client and workload demands. It can also be easy to forget that every trip depends on the driver, office staff, and other people who make it happen.
Yes, the work is important, but if you want to keep your employee’s long-term focus on more than just the tasks they do, get to know them as individuals. Learn about their goals and aspirations, what’s important to them, and what you can do to help them get what they want out of working at your company. The stronger your relationships with your employees, the better equipped you will be to help them grow in their role and keep them engaged long-term.
The reality is that when you focus on the people and not just the work, your company will be more successful. Simply: happy employees lead to happy clients, and this leads to a more productive business.
5. Keep Them Excited About Work
Both you and your employees should be excited about coming to work each day. Like all relationships, the one that we have with work is fluid, and must be worked on and nurtured. As an owner or manager, it will be up to you to keep your employees excited about work on both the sunny and rainy days.
The best way to do that is to give them the chance to take on new challenges and responsibilities that also help grow the company (but also be aware of work overload, which is a different but related problem). Periodically you will need to help bring their larger purpose back into focus. You will also need to learn what it is about the role that gets them excited, and then it is up to you to rally them and keep their morale high.
6. Celebrate Their Wins and Give Them Recognition
My dad would often say to me that, it only takes one ‘oh-no’ to ruin a thousand ’atta boys. This saying has a two-sided meaning: As a manager, your trust in even the most reliable employee can be strained with just one mistake. But, the same is true from the employee’s side: Just one line crossed by a manager can ruin all the good dealings. This can be especially true when you only provide feedback when something goes wrong, which can cause employees to shut down, stop communicating, and avoid management out of fear.
It is important to take the time to celebrate your employee’s successes—regardless of how big or small. This could be as simple as sending a quick message letting them know you received positive feedback from a client or simply that you appreciate what they do for the company. By acknowledging their wins, you are showing your team that you appreciate their hard work, while motivating them to keep it up. Make sure it’s genuine.
7. Be a Leader, Not Just a Boss
When it comes to motivating people, it is better to think of yourself as a coach rather than a boss. By embracing this role, you will find that your employees are more engaged. They will also be more likely to look to you for guidance and direction, which can help prevent problems before they start. And, when problems do arise, you will be in a much better position to help solve them quickly and efficiently.
This role change will also help you avoid falling into the “boss trap” and forgetting that part of your role is the development of your team and their skills. This can be particularly tough when you have a lot of new or inexperienced employees, especially when you feel that they aren’t living up to their potential; however, it’s important to remember that you are the team coach. Their success is your success, and their struggle is your opportunity to raise them up.
The Cycle of Retention
We all have different ambitions, goals, and areas in which we excel, and nobody likes to feel like they are out there on their own. At the very core of employee retention is building relationships with your team as well as a healthy working environment that they want to be a part of. It is an ongoing cycle, and you will need to constantly be training, coaching, and recognizing your employees. If done right, it will empower your team and cultivate success. [CD0622]
James Blain is president of PAX Training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.