Why did you leave your last job? Was it for a new opportunity that you couldn’t pass up, or was it due to an issue at your old job? One of the most frequent reasons that people leave their jobs is due to feeling unappreciated or undervalued by their employer or managers.
Attrition in your employee force should be one of your primary concerns if you employ anyone, whether you are a team of two or a team of two hundred or more. An employee leaving your company is costly, both in terms of resources, money, and time, and can be disruptive for months to come as you search to find their replacement.
While it is impossible to remove all attrition in a work force, because even if an employee spends their entire career with you they will ultimately age out of the workforce or pass away, you can strategize steps to tackle the issue and to remove some of the factors that impact it.
Employees who feel valued, appreciated, and invested in are far less likely to leave your company than are those who do not. Investing in your talent will have returns that exceed your original investment, both in terms of lessening attrition rates but also in attracting employees.
Every manager, leader, and business owner needs to ask themselves, what do you do to appreciate and invest in your employees? It is far easier to write off employee appreciation and investment as simply thanking your employee for their contributions during an annual review or during bonus season. Those are certainly two ways that you can appreciate and invest in your employees, but they can’t be the only ways.
Good leaders understand that those they lead do so for their own interests. It is the leader’s job to create a system in which people want to follow them because they see those two sets of interests as overlapping. For instance, employees want to feel valued in the work that they do. As a leader, that should be a priority that you share, not one that conflicts with your own priority of wanting to feel valued by those you lead.
Building meaningful connections and open lines of communication is the foundation of a healthy, positive work environment where valued employees can flourish. One of the best ways to invest in your employees in ways that are meaningful and also will have a return on investment is to know what your employees want and need from you. Offering incentives and perks that no one wants or needs will be a waste in terms of your resources and time, but also may end up backfiring if employees see you as out of touch with their needs.
Talking to your employees about what they value and need is a good way to determine ways that you can be a part of their personal and professional development, rather than their next employer. A formalized way to approach this is through Individual Development Plans. These empower employees to think critically about where they are now, where and what they want to be in the future, and the steps that it will take for them to get to that place.
These plans can act as a roadmap for both parties to determine cost-effective and actionable ways to meet these goals. Continuing education, whether through formalized classes or through conferences, books, or training materials, is a great start. Subsidizing part, or all, of the costs of professional development opportunities has high returns in the long run and in the short term, particularly if your business is moving into new growth areas with rapidly changing technology, or if you are attempting to reach new segments of the market with your offerings and services.
A large part of investing in your employees is interpersonal. Cultivating a healthy and supportive working environment, both in terms of the relationships your employees form with each other and with leadership, is critical for the success of your business.
As a leader, make yourself available to hear from your employees, whether it is their questions, comments and suggestions, and yes, their complaints. Ask for feedback whenever appropriate and implement it. Utilize your employees’ creativity, and encourage them to have a stake in the success of your business. Having skin in the game is mutually beneficial for both parties. Employees who are invested in the success of your company beyond ensuring their next paycheck are far less likely to leave their job.
Showing appreciation to your employees should be a continuing part of your relationship with them. Many people prefer to be thanked or shown appreciation in “real time” rather than after the fact. While consistent real time congratulations can be distracting from work, a simple thank you or letting them know that you appreciate their hard work on a project or for putting in long hours can go a long way. Official or semi-official gatherings where successes and milestones are shared annually or quarterly are somewhat of a corporate tradition, but be aware of the fact that some may feel uncomfortable being singled out for their accomplishments in front of a group. For those individuals, a personal congratulations or thanks in private may be more appropriate.
Combating attrition in your workforce takes a considerable level of awareness about your relationship with your subordinates, your personal leadership qualities and actions, as well as the relationships your coworkers have with each other. Investing in your employees and offering them meaningful opportunities to engage with your business and to grow professionally, as well as showing your appreciation for the work that you do, is a key way to combat employee loss.