10 ways to stop great employees from leaving

You’ve recently read how to hurry and harass superior workers out the door. Now hear how to keep them coming back for more, from an apostle of positivity.

Many Ragan readers have probably already read “The Top 10 Ways to Ensure Your Best People Will Quit” by recruitment professional Mel Kleiman. It’s a great to-the-point read, providing tips on what not to do.

But here’s the problem: The article says what we shouldn’t do. It provokes negative thoughts, which often lead to a reaction in opposition. By opposition, I mean action that leads to the very outcome one sought to avoid.

I am an advocate of positive thinking. As naive as it sounds, I believe our positive or negative thoughts have enormous effect on the result.

I loved Kleiman’s piece, but I thought it needed follow-up tips on what to do to ensure your great people will stay:

1. Give more praise and recognition. It’s not always about money or tangible extrinsic rewards. Why? Many people quit because of lack of appreciation. Extroverts or introverts, your employees still get a kick out of public or private praise. People like to be recognized for their wins.

2. Set clear objectives and goals. It’s difficult for employees to give their best if the task’s goal changes more often than they change their socks. Communicate your expectations clearly and set precise goals. Results are only as strong as the objectives you set. Try the management Google and LinkedIn practice—OKR—Objectives and Key Results.

3. Be future-driven. Analyzing the past is important to projecting the future. But focusing solely on employees’ progress isn’t enough in a fast-paced workplace. You also need to study the future, as impossible as it might sound. Using a management technique like PPP— Progress, Plans, Problems—helps you be aware of your teams’ plans.

4. Seek input and ideas. More often than we think, decisions are made without seeking input. This strategy might save you few minutes or hours, but it doesn’t guarantee success. Sometimes it’s okay not to be the smartest person in the room. Ask input from people around you. Your team has brilliant ideas; just learn to ask.

5. Give continual feedback. As tasks grow more complex and interdependent, people need more feedback. Employees need to feel that they are heard by their managers and they need it more often than twice a year. There is a correlation between employee engagement and periodic feedback.

6. Measure satisfaction. All of these tips mean nothing, if you fail to measure their success. Although it would be wonderful if it were true that one could assert that 2 pieces of feedback a week increased employee satisfaction by X percent, it is just not the case. Guidelines are only guiding lines. You are responsible for figuring out the exact actions. You can manage only what you measure.

7. Save time in meetings. One of the biggest employee motivation killers is wasting their time. Holding a poorly prepared status update meeting that lasts for hours wastes everyone’s time, including your own. Prepare for meetings; replace unnecessary meetings with online real-time tools.

8. Ask about emotions and attitudes. Don’t mix giving praise and providing feedback with asking about attitudes and emotions. The two are not the same. The first two relate to the result, the other two relate to the journey to the outcome. You’ll be surprised what you learn about your team when you ask emotional questions.

9. Don’t be too negative. Constructive feedback is necessary, even if it’s negative, but regular criticism will take down even the strongest. People have much greater recall of unpleasant memories than positive ones. To keep your people happy and motivated, be positive and lead by example.

10. Communicate openly. Open internal communication plays a big role in successful teamwork. Share your weekly plans and thoughts; it will encourage an open atmosphere. Only after mastering the skill of sharing openly can you expect the same from everyone else.

Külli Koort is a fierce proponent of achieving more with less frenetic effort. That’s why she works at Weekdone, a start-up that builds status report software for managers who wish to gain more insights to their teams. You can connect with her on Twitter.


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