My grandparents made sure that everyone in our family understood that having the opportunity to work for someone was an absolute privilege and to not take it for granted. During the Great Depression, my grandfather and many other Americans lost their jobs and struggled to find work to provide for their families. It had a profound impact on that generation, and it instilled an uncompromising work ethic and commitment to stay employed. Today, however, is a much different story. Unlike years ago when you would start and end your career at the same company, many workers now frequently change jobs. According to the most recent data in 2012 from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median employee tenure for workers age 25 to 34 was 3.2 years. There are many factors that contribute to this amazingly low tenure rate. In fact, some industry experts have attributed the low tenure rate to the lack of work ethic and commitment younger generations of employees have toward employment. Whatever the reasons are, the low tenure rate illustrates the challenges that lie ahead for businesses that want to retain employees. Companies need to be more proactive in their efforts to retain quality help.
As managers, it all starts with us. We need to create a positive and fulfilling work environment to deter employees from leaving the organization. Remember, employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. We need to take charge, because it is ultimately our responsibility to motivate and develop our employees. It is critical to hold all employees to a higher standard and not settle for mediocrity. If you do settle, it can be extremely detrimental to your organization’s productivity and may persuade your best employees to leave the company. One way to keep employees engaged is by challenging them to take on additional responsibilities. Cross-train to foster an environment of shared responsibilities amongst the team. This will break up any monotony that may have settled in.
We also need to ensure that our employees feel valued and that they have some control over their future with the company. One way to accomplish this is by requiring that each employee develop a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP) annually. Creating a PIP provides an opportunity for the employee and manager to work together to focus on SMART goals for the coming year. This ensures that the employee is directly involved and has control over their professional career. The employee will be much more motivated to reach their goals because they helped define them.
Keep in mind that each individual employee’s actions, or lack of, have either a positive or negative impact on the team and the business. As we know, one disgruntled employee can disrupt the synergy and productivity of an entire team. As managers it is up to us to take immediate action to rectify the problem, otherwise you run the risk of losing great employees to bad ones. It is critical that the rest of the team know that you will not tolerate negative behavior and you are there to support and protect them. Don’t take for granted that the employees know what is expected of them. Consistently reinforce with them what is expected. For instance, they need to greet every customer with a smile and a handshake. Every individual brings certain strengths and weaknesses to the team. Some individuals are great at sales and others are experienced in procedural tasks. As managers, we need to work closely with the individual team members to ensure we are not asking them to do something they are not comfortable with. The last thing we want is an employee to leave the company because they were made to feel distressed and overwhelmed.
Managers also need to demonstrate through their actions that they have the employees’ best interests at heart. “I am here to help you, because your success is my success.” When you show interest in an employee and they genuinely feel like you are there to help them, you will earn their trust and respect. To quote the great football coach Vince Lombardi, "once you win their hearts they will follow you anywhere." Always ensure you approach each team member’s concern or issues objectively and treat everyone the same. If you don’t, some employees will feel less valued than their peers. Nothing kills employee morale more than the perception that some employees are receiving preferential treatment from the manager. Successful managers are fair, consistent, and most importantly lead by example. Hopefully, if our employees enjoy working with us, they will stay with us.