Five steps to encourage loyal employees

Joel Svensson

A recent study suggests that employees leave their managers, not their companies. Support, the study showed, was more important to employees than feedback.

At a time when the average person switches jobs every five years anyway, how do you make sure you’re not pushing away valuable human resources?

Here are five ways you can turn your company into the best party on the block.

Give support

Employees need to feel that their manager has their back; a lack of perceived support is closely correlated with high turnover. For this reason, it’s important to have some mechanisms in place for flagging potential issues. Remember, it’s your job to make sure your people are well looked after – and how will you know how they’re going unless you ask?

Encourage people to speak up if they’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t punish them for it. If you have staff in management roles, speak to them about initiating these kinds of conversations too.

Introducing weekly meetings to catch up on where everyone is at will help reinforce that the work is a team effort. The last thing you want is an employee struggling on in silence.

Recognise hard work

Employees whose contributions go unremarked won’t feel any obligation to go the extra mile. If all they can eke from their work is an hourly rate, why should they put in more than the required effort? Money might motivate people to work, but unless their salary is truly outrageous, it’s unlikely to inspire loyalty or investment.

Take note of the little victories, and acknowledge hard work as well as success. Fairness and recognition go a long way to making an attractive workplace.

Delegate

Micromanagement is a serious morale-killer.  Running a company with an iron grip will tend to weed out any worker who is even the least bit assertive or motivated.

On the other hand, granting your employees a certain level of autonomy shows that you have faith in them, and makes them feel valued. The more an employee feels valued, the less likely they are to seek employment elsewhere, where they might not be afforded the same level of treatment.

Provide training

People tend to move on if they feel they’re no longer learning. This isn’t necessarily a selfish compulsion; employees who aren’t upskilled tend to feel guilty about not pulling their weight. They can often feel left behind and not as much a part of “the crew” as they could be.

Yes, having a training program is a risk. There’s always the chance you’ll invest time and resources into someone, only to see them take their newly honed skills and jump ship all the same. But studies show that training employees actually increases retention. Trained employees not only feel more valued by their employers, they also feel an obligation to return that investment in the form of greater commitment.

Think about culture

Company culture is a critical part of how people relate to their workplaces. It influences how people treat each other, how they see themselves, and most importantly, their commitment to their position. Few people will want to leave a positive and collaborative work environment to take their chances in the wild.

Communication and tradition are the cornerstones of a strong culture. But it needs to go even deeper than that; employees will know if the espoused culture is only window dressing. It needs to come from the very top – and that means you.

As managing owner, your actions will set the tone of the culture, far more than casual Fridays or a brightly furnished break-room. The way you handle decision-making and the way you handle people will trickle down to inform the behaviour of your subordinates. Company culture will form – whether or not you intentionally influence it – to reflect your own actions.

Make sure it’s a culture that people will want to be part of.

Joel Svensson

Joel Svensson is a Melbourne-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.

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