According to a recent article on Monster.com, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in October that the number of employees voluntarily quitting their jobs had eclipsed the number terminated through layoffs and other types of discharges. As we come out of a long recession, the job market is changing–which is, of course, a good thing–and more opportunities are opening up for worthy candidates. That means that there may be more choices for job-seekers but also a greater need for employers to inspire, engage and retain quality talent. Whereas a couple of years ago in the midst of the Great Recession, we could say to our staffers, “Well, really we should all just feel lucky to have a job,” nowadays that rationale no longer works. Across the board, people are being asked to do more with less and, now that the market is improving, we need to make those folks feel valued and recognized for their hard work.
According to a recent study by HR consultancy Right Management, four out of every five workers are planning to, or at least contemplating, leaving their current employer. Hiring and training employees is time- and money-intensive so it’s vital to focus on retaining quality people so they don’t leave for other opportunities.
In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we focus on teaching anyone how to stand out in a positive way in the workplace to get noticed, hired and rewarded. But, as managers, we know that it’s also our job to nurture and recognize good people so they’ll stick around. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Tell people how they’re doing: Many companies have done away with annual performance reviews over the past couple of years (when there were layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes taking place and appraisals with no reward just seemed like a slap in the face) or have never instituted them at all. Even if you can’t dole out raises or promotions now–although they seem to be coming back as business improves–it’s important for people to get feedback from their bosses, both positive and constructive, so they know how to move forward and move up in their jobs. A good way to do this is through a “praise sandwich” technique: Start with their assets so they don’t only hear the negative, provide information on what needs improvement, and then end with a recap of where they excel.
Ask people how you’re doing: At the same time, you need to be asking your direct reports for feedback on how you’re coming across as a manager. Instead of just talking about their performance, make it your mission to find out what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are. The fact is that most people quit their jobs because of a bad boss. But if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you can’t fix it. And often employees will just get frustrated and start looking elsewhere rather than confront their supervisors over issues, be it communication, accessibility, attitude or workload.
Offer perks and rewards: Often, employees aren’t necessarily looking for a bigger salary but for a work environment that is fun, pleasant, congenial and flexible. It doesn’t take a lot to create one. Jessica’s department has quarterly goals contests where the winners get prizes like gift certificates to Starbucks or a free lunch. They also do “Fun Fridays,” where they open a bottle of wine at 5pm and celebrate a week of hard work. Meryl’s team had a coveted “Golden Paddle” award that is given to the person with the best media hit of that week.
Be flexible: If someone needs to work from home once in a while, let him. If a staffer had to work an event till midnight, tell her to come in late the following day. While these gestures are small, they go a long way in creating a fun and warm atmosphere where people feel appreciated.
Don’t take it personally: Finally, understand that, even if you do all these things, your employees may still leave for a host of other reasons. You can’t take it as a personal affront. Sometimes people simply get a better job offer or don’t feel their current position was the right fit. It’s always disappointing to lose good people, but think of it as an opportunity to shift around responsibilities and projects for those who have stayed loyal and/or attract someone who brings new thinking and qualities to your team. Remain positive for the rest of your staff so morale doesn’t take a dip while you’re trying to hire a replacement.