There are companies hiring and they will take your best and brightest (If you don’t work to stop it).
So the economic conditions have had many people working at the same company longer than in the past (Average length of employment in the US is 4 years and getting longer). For many this is because the “bird in the hand is better than the 2 in the bush” as my grandfather used to say. Many people just didn’t want to take a chance on something that was even the least bit risky. But with the economy appearing to be thawing or maybe just companies deciding to get off the sideline and go back to expanding there are more and more opportunities out there for people. These companies aren’t looking to add average people though; they are looking for the best and brightest in a field for a given position. They are mining direct referrals, networking sites, and recruiters. They are finding new ways to list these positions so they connect with people better (Simon Sinek’s Why). So if you are lucky enough to employee those kinds of people (And which ones of us don’t think we have them) what do you do to ensure they don’t leave for those “greener” pastures? I see three things that every employee “needs” to not only come to work and do a job, but to truly be invested in the mission of a company and therefore be willing to stay with you for the long haul even in the bad times. It is my take on Maslow’s hierarchy of need in which everyone needs Compensation, Recognition, and Meaning in the right balance for them.
Compensation is the easiest of the three to understand. This is the pay and benefits we provide for the work done. This for many is controlled by the market in which supply and demand wins. If you have nothing else to offer you will trade more to get someone to do the job. If there aren’t many of the people to do the job and you need them badly enough you will trade more to get them. But in the end there has to be enough pay to allow an employee to be able to concentrate on the work and not be distracted. If you pay too little people will always be looking for a better opportunity. It has also been shown that paying too much for a position doesn’t mean you will get a better product. So know what you need done and what the job is worth. So many times people will say in an exit interview that they are leaving for more money (which may be the truth) but that isn’t the real reason they were looking in the first place. It could be one of the next two items that started them down that path.
Recognition is a harder nut to crack because here you have moved into the individual side of employment and employees. But when done right it can be very powerful. Recognition comes in many forms but to me it all boils down into two types: person to person and person to group. Person to person is when you directly connect with someone else as you show gratitude to them for what they have done. This can be as simple as the “Atta Boy” as you pass in the hall or sending someone out to dinner with their significant other to their favor restaurant with a note explaining how important the person is to you and your organization. Both provide the person receiving the recognition with validation of their worth to someone else. Person to Group is the act of putting someone on display in front of a group whether physical or virtual. The employees of the quarter/year and company/department wide emails fall into this group. For recognition to truly work you have to understand “how” each person likes to be recognized. Some people hate being put on display and when they are they may not appreciate the gesture as much or worse resent it. Others may not connect as well in a one on one situation or want to be “shown up” to someone in their personal life. This is why I am just a big proponent of personal assessments and the study of how to work with different types of people. On a personal level showing gratitude to others is important if you want to break through the “just another co-worker/boss” level.
Meaning could be for many the hardest item to truly give to an employee. This is because as a leader (And leader doesn’t mean direct manager in some cases) you have to understand yourself, your organization and the employee very well. If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek’s Why talk on TED check out the link at the top of this post. In short meaning is “why” you do something and “why” it has value to you and others. It is an emotional thing in which you connect. To me it is why someone is willing to sacrifice something for the greater good. If you started the company your personal why and business why should be one and the same (I would argue if they aren’t you may not really understand yourself well enough yet). Once you understand those two you can begin the effort to understanding an employee’s why and how it can align with the company’s. To do all of this may take a significant investment of time listening to others and asking open ended question. And I can tell you that everyone is different in their “why” but everyone has one they may just never have articulated it. If you can’t seem to reach someone on a level where you can get answers to those questions as a leader it could be that you have an issue at the compensation or recognition level.
Now at the beginning I said people need Compensation, Recognition and Meaning in the right balance. What I meant by that is that not everyone is motivated the same. We all know people that are teachers making much less than they could in other fields who will tell you it was a calling for them in which they feel they are helping the next generation of inventors or leaders. Those people are willing to take less Compensation for what they feel is a great level of Meaning to their work. You could argue that some people going into the military not for the Compensation but for the Recognition that comes from their service (It could also be the Meaning). Then there are those that get into something “Because of the money” but are either not along for the work or not very fun to be around. But the point is with each person they trade differing levels of each to achieve a balance that is right for them. It is your job to understand what that balance is and help them see how they are achieving it with your company. Because if you don’t you will always lose the most motivated and best people to more money, more challenge or just a better fit for them. And many times it will be because the other company has just done a better job of understand Compensation, Recognition and Meaning and how to communicate it.
So what is your balance? Do you feel connected to what you do and if not what are you doing to find it? Please connect with me so I know I am bringing value to you in these posts because my “Why” has always been about serving the people I connect with.