How To Retain Your Best Team Members

It’s that time of year again. The New Year party is over, everyone is resolved to be in the gym seven days a week and inevitably members of your team have started looking for a job. At any one time it is estimated that 40% of the total workforce are going to start looking for a job in the next six months and nearly 70% say they are always passively looking. This number skyrockets in January and February to eye watering levels. The job-boards are filled with tantalising options and LinkedIn is a flurry of activity.

As a leader (at any level), these figures are scary. You spend so much time carefully recruiting and nurturing, developing your team, you do not want to lose them. Especially if they still have opportunities and growth potential in your team or organisation. When I first started working in recruitment (back when Apple released its second generation iPod), the expectation was you would stay in a job for at least 5+ years. Anything less than this was viewed with suspicion and sometimes derision.

But in 2020, for your team to make a long-term commitment to your organisation, you need to give them really good reasons to hang around. As a Manager (or Business Owner), you have to make incredibly proactive to foster strong relationships, which encourages commitment to you and your team. Retaining your key team members is essential to the health and prosperity of your team and business. When your team is firing on all cylinders, customer satisfaction and sales increase. A happy, cohesive team equals success and increases your ability to succession plan, retain knowledge and learning. It is a winning formula all-round.

As recruiters we have meaningful life conversations with people every week and they recount the reasons they want to move on. Overall, there are five fundamental areas of frustration and dissatisfaction. Earlier in my career, I was very lucky to work for an amazing mentor and manager who really kicked goals and created a team of exceptionally high-performing and dedicated individuals around her in an industry where retention is in the gutter. What was her secret sauce? Let me elaborate.

Number One: Trust is the glue of life.

I was told years ago by a manager that “trust is a dangerous game”. And if, like me, you avidly watched The X-Files on a weekly basis, you were menacingly told to “Trust No One”. But that was a by-product of a cynical age. Shake those shackles and ask yourself, as a leader, do you trust your team? Take a moment to think about it. Look at their faces. Do you really? If you don’t, then why did you hire them?

One of the biggest frustrations experienced at work is when true ability is curtailed and growth potential is hampered. Do you give your team members the opportunity to grow, or actively show an interest in their ability to develop new skills? It is incredibly important that you are offering continued education. I am not talking about paying for a $47,500 MBA (yikes). Is there an internal learning hub you can tap into? CA ANZ and the CPA offer online learning courses, check them out. Motivated people are much more likely to contribute to work outside the parameters of their job description. So take the time to learn about their existing skills, talents, past and current experience. Then, tap into it.

As a Manager, I am sure you get invitations to lots of events, why not invite someone along with you who would find it beneficial or useful? Encourage learning, show an interest. When you are hiring for your team, try and find someone from within and provide great promotions (when appropriate). If you don’t show them trust, you will have bigger problems.

Number Two: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (find out what it means to me).

Your team want to know (and feel) they have your respect and appreciation. It is a fundamental human need. I would say this is the key to retaining most people. You will quite often forget things that have been said, but you always remember how someone made you feel. Haven’t we all witnessed a colleague who has had their head ripped off by a stressed manager and what they said echoes for eternity. The damage in a fleeting instance can be irreparable and the after-effects can ripple throughout your team. We all have bad days. But your number one priority is to show consistent, outward respect for your team. Even if you’re not feeling it, making this a focus will lead to a robust and stable culture in your team. And if they do leave? You will be remembered with positive affection, rather than a blueprint on how not to do things.

Be open to two-way feedback; people want to feel connected in all aspects of life. A huge part of the dissatisfaction is a lack of feedback. How do they really know how they are getting on? Have periodic catch-ups. It does not need to be a super-formal slog. A simple coffee will suffice. Listening shows you value them.

Ensure you are creating an environment of inclusivity, where people’s diversity is applauded and more people will want to stay with you. Workplaces are constantly evolving and the monochromatic, poorly-lit offices are being phased out in favour of bright, light-filled collaborative spaces. Your team want to enjoy where they spend most of their week and, to remain competitive and appealing, more companies are assessing the office environment and trying to make it more inspiring to retain top talent. Not everyone has a budget for onsite gyms and zen rooms with endless Frappuccino’s. But basic gestures like free quality coffee, fresh fruit, somewhere to grab lunch, a lick of paint on the wall and some fresh art can work wonders. It does not have to be budget-crushing, but if you show you care, they care.

Number Three: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

I think I heard this about a million times during my childhood. Snore. If you are a smaller business owner, directly link your team’s compensation to business performance. I am sure you read about the 198 employees of St. John Properties who, just before Christmas, received surprise bonuses averaging $50,000. The company’s President, Lawrence Maykrantz, spoke openly about wanting to recognise the employees who had helped them reach their goal. This story went viral for a reason. Although an extreme example, it does highlight an important point. Share the wealth, everyone around you is contributing to your company’s growth. If you want to keep people in their seats, taking you to the next level in 2020, then consider aligning their interests with revenue or profit goals. If your business takes a dip, their fortune is linked with yours, but this could potentially make your business stronger and more nimble in the down cycles. If you are working for a larger business, you can still create retentive reward structures. Speak to your CFO or HR. What are your options? I am always surprised when a business wants to hire a “value-adding business partner”, but does not offer any incentives.

If you want to keep your team, you’re going to need to fight for them. If you don’t, someone more proactive will.

Number Four: Got Your Back.

Like any relationships in life, your team needs your investment. I am not talking about throwing around the dollars. But is there someone in your life who buys you socks or soap every Christmas? If there is, I hear you. But, honestly, how does that make you feel? Their lack of imagination screams a clear message – you are not worth thinking about for more than 30 seconds or they do not really know you. Either way, you’re not feeling the love. So why should this be any different with your team. Yes, as an employee, it is always lovely when your bank balance gets a hefty boost. But don’t your spirits lift when your Manager takes the time to fulfil your emotional needs? Who doesn’t love company-wide recognition, a 10-15 minute get-together to acknowledge someone’s birthday, lunch with the boss or a handwritten note. Sounds old-fashioned, but having an attitude of gratitude can pay dividends. The journal of Psychological Science recently published an article about the power of handwritten thank you letters. They concluded that although it only takes a couple of minutes, the benefits are larger than people expect. I am sure you have ideas of your own, but all of these gestures are an investment in your team’s culture, build morale and increase your chances of retention.

Number Five: Annnnnnd Relax.

There is more than one way to recognise your team. Everyone I meet, candidates and clients alike, talk about the notion of work-life balance. It is not just the preserve of the much-maligned millennial. When we hire for our team, we offer some kind of flexibility. So be as reasonable as you can with time off. Despite the needs of the business, you must place ample emphasis on family-time, new babies, pawternity leave etc. After all, we are not robots. Pacing your team’s output, accommodating their needs outside the confines of the office, is highly beneficial. You retain your team and create a solid culture of harmonious balance. Every Manager demands each team member give their best every day, striving for high-quality performance. When sustaining this level of contribution, it is unreasonable to think that people do not need to take some time out every now and then? Focus on the important things outside the office, whatever they may be. Allow your team the opportunity the chance to catch their breath from one quarter to the next. If you keep flogging them, guaranteed they will look elsewhere. Also think about team building opportunities and frequent breaks throughout the day. Do you pay any attention on a day-to-day basis? If someone in our office hasn’t got up or taken a walk, or grabbed some water in a while, we all ask why?

We all need to remember that like, any relationship, the employee-employer dynamic is a two-way street. Even the best leaders get it wrong sometimes and are prepared to admit their failures and learn from them. Although the “job hoppers” are still viewed with suspicion, if your goal is to retain your team and secure their commitment, if is essential you are giving them a number of reasons to stay. Don’t spend 2020 recruiting unless it’s for business growth – invest in your people and reap the rewards.

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