Do You Have What it Takes to Engage and Retain Your Best Employees?

by Chris Dardis

I recently attended a local panel discussion addressing the topic of “Retaining & Attracting Talent.” The panelists were very good, and gave the audience interesting topics to think about and implement within our own companies. I started thinking about what it truly takes to create an environment that makes your best people want to stick around.

Companies are generally good at identifying their competitive advantages over their competitors regarding the products they sell or the service they offer. But, just as important, do companies look internally and think about employment brand, company culture, and employee engagement as competitive advantages? I’ve heard business leaders make the claim, “Our #1 asset is our people.”  Well, if companies truly believe their employees are their #1 asset, then creating strong retention of your #1 asset should be one of the best competitive advantages available.

So, as you are attracting and retaining talent, do you have a competitive advantage? What can you offer that others cannot? Better pay? Work life blend? Clearly defined career paths? A fun company culture? Or, maybe a true sense of purpose?

I consistently hear from candidates and employees that the reason they are looking to leave their role is because they want to be in an organization or a role that would offer one of the following:

A more defined career path
This doesn’t mean that you need to bring org charts to each one-on-one meeting, but it does mean that you should have open and honest conversations with your people about what is next for them within their career path. Talk to them about their passions and where that could be applied throughout your organization. Don’t limit your thinking to only your department. Use their skills to improve the entire ecosystem of your company, not just one silo/department they currently reside within.  It will be a refreshing conversation, and the employee will start to see a future with your company. The bottom line is this – help them feel like they have choices.

More meaning to the bigger picture
This could mean that the employee simply wants to understand how their role affects the company’s performance, or the employee wants to make more of an impact on the world at large. I’ll start by addressing the first topic. In conversations with your employee, if you are giving feedback on a project or a daily task, praise them by letting them know how what they did, systematically helped others downstream and how it ultimately helped to achieve a strategic business goal.

Now, onto the second topic. If your company doesn’t have a lot of involvement with opportunities to “give back” (volunteering) and the employee is passionate about these things…delegate! Ask your employee to head up the event. This will help engage them, and make them feel like you trust in what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be a big production; you just have to have the courage to start the conversation.

Better culture and flexibility
The one word that can change a work culture overnight is TRUST. If you let your employees know that you trust them to do their jobs, and trust them to make the right decisions, this can have a tremendous effect on engagement and retention. It’s not that hard to do, and it starts with saying the words, “I trust you can get this done.” It can be displayed in giving your employees more work-life freedom to attend conferences or little league games, and acknowledging that their work will still get done. Build a culture of trust and you will retain your best assets.

None of this is rocket science, but often times, managers lack the courage to have an honest conversation about topics like these. Try it out.  You’ll be amazed at how good both of you feel when coming out of a conversation that establishes more trust!

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