Got great employees? Here’s some help keeping them on the bus

Now that you have the right people on your team, or as the saying goes, “the right people on the bus and in the right seats,” how do you keep them on the bus and going in the right direction? I’m talking about more than just riding along until the next opportunity comes down the road. According to Gallup, the number one reason people leave their jobs is a bad boss or supervisor. So what can leaders do to retain and develop employees?

Entire sections of bookstores are devoted to this topic, and the information online is almost endless. I googled “retention” and “development of employees” and got 7,600,000 hits. As you dive into the research and advice about how to retain your employees and keep them productive, I recommend you keep a few things in mind.

Appreciation and praise of employees are often automatically accepted as keys to employee retention and productivity—but are they really? In his book, “Management of the Absurd,” Richard Farson says, “Praise may, in fact, be perceived as threatening.”

Have you ever been given a “job well done” comment or note by someone you neither like nor respect? What was your reaction? Praise can be seen as a form of evaluation and judging. It can also be seen as a purposeful manipulation to get you to perform in a certain way, particularly if given by someone you do not respect or trust.

What most employees really want is to be genuinely valued and appreciated. Praise given for real accomplishments—without any strings attached—can be a very important part of building a positive relationship with a supervisee. As I often say in coaching sessions; “When an employee knows your interest in them is truly about them, they are much more likely to be interested in what you have to say.”

Empowerment, another word that in many ways has become a management cliché, is something most employees do crave. For many, this craving is left unsatisfied. Part of the issue involved in empowering employees is related to underemployment, but even in those situations there are things supervisors can do to enrich their employees’ jobs.

One of the most important is to delegate more than just menial tasks. Keeping the position in mind, give your employees something challenging and meaningful to do, and give them the tools to do it. I have found most employees are up for the challenge and the intrinsic reward they get from completing the job can be incredibly motivating. Supervisors often create barriers to delegating. Some just will not delegate anything meaningful and have excuses like: “It’s just easier if I do it myself,” or “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” These same supervisors complain they have too much to do, too much stress and undedicated employees. In some cases, they just like playing the martyr. Yes, delegating comes with some risks—mistakes will likely be made, but what you get in the end…involved, motivated, creative employees is well worth it.

You are much more likely to get truly engaged employees if they feel genuinely appreciated and the work delegated to them is meaningful. To further create a work culture in which employees feel a connection or relationship, take the time to know the kinds of appreciation each of your employees likes and the kind of work each finds meaningful—it will be different for each employee.

How can you do this without micro-managing? I will cover that topic in my next post.


About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute, Regional Counseling Services, and Financial Resource Center programs. He also provides consulting services that include strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting.

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