This sign was on President Truman’s White House office desk and he popularized the now-familiar phrase. Every culture has its way of saying do not pass the buck! In Chinese it goes like this, 责无旁贷 , and it translates to, “No shirking of responsibility.”
When we ask supervisors and managers how to keep good people, many immediately respond, “With money.” Research suggests that a majority of managers truly believe it’s largely about the money. These managers place the responsibility for keeping key people squarely in the hands of senior management. They blame organizational policies or pay scales for the loss of talent. Or they point the finger at the competition or the location. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Well, the truth is, you matter most. If you are a manager at any level, a frontline supervisor, or a project leader, you actually have more power than anyone else to keep your best employees. Why? Because the factors that drive employee satisfaction, engagement, and commitment are largely within your control. And the factors that satisfy and engage employees are the ones that keep them on your team. Those factors haven’t changed much over the past 25 years. Many researchers who have studied retention agree on what engages or satisfies people and therefore influences them to stay: meaningful and challenging work, a chance to learn and grow, fair and competitive compensation, great coworkers, recognition, respect, and a good boss. Don’t you want those things?
It’s Up to You
A good boss who cares about keeping good employees will help them find what they want from their workplace. We’re not saying you carry this responsibility alone. Senior management and your organization’s policies, systems, and culture have an impact on your ability to keep talented people. You may have human resource professionals who can help support your efforts. Even your employees have a role. (See our book Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work.)
Yet, because of what research tells us about why people leave their jobs and organizations, you still have the greatest power (and responsibility) for keeping your talented employees. Try this:
- Start with a conversation – a “stay interview.” Learn about your talented employees’ goals and what they love (or don’t love) about their work. Don’t stop with one chat. Talk (and listen!) daily, weekly, monthly. Develop a true relationship with every single person you hope to keep on your team.
- Hold “Alas Clinics” – opportunities to talk with others about talented people who have left your team lately. Why did they go? What role (if any) did you play in their leaving? How can you prevent more unwanted turnover?
- Think about who might be “loose in the saddle” (about ready to leave you); talk with them SOON and collaborate with them to get more of what they want and need from you, from the team, from their jobs.
- Go big picture. Ask yourself, “What kind of work environment do I want to create?” Then figure out what you need to do in order to make that vision come alive. Then – go do it.
The retention buck really does stop with you. You have great power to influence your talented employees’ decisions about staying. Conduct “stay interviews” with every employee you hope to engage and keep on your team. Find out what they want and help them get it! Show that you care about them and their needs. Remember them. Notice them. Listen to them. Thank them. Love them or lose them.
Beverly Kaye is the Founder of Career Systems International. Sharon Jordan-Evans is the President of the Jordan Evans Group. This blog is based on concepts from Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. This bestselling book provides twenty-six strategies to keep talented employees happy and productive. In addition to updating and revising all information for the fifth edition, the authors have included more international stories and statistics. Available January 2014 on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere!