Full disclosure—I’m a bad manager. As the CEO of an executive search firm, I tend to overlook important management responsibilities and mainly focus on recruiting, sales, marketing, schmoozing and other creative activities. It’s like a good baseball player that segues into a terrible coach. The skills in one area don’t necessarily smoothly transfer over.
Since I recognize that this is not good for my business, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve. Fortunately, in my line of work, I have a front-row seat to closely observe what techniques smart managers use to keep top talent and the actions in which they drive people out the door.
Since you worked so hard to attract talent, it is nonsensical to do things that drive them away. Here are three things that drive great employees into the arms of your competitors—and how you can avoid this from happening.
1. Not paying people fairly. Compensation is a big reason why people come to me searching for a new job. Interestingly, most job seekers are not mercenaries when it comes to compensation. They just want to be paid a little more—what’s fair. Of course, more money is always better, but people tend to view jobs holistically. What good is the money if you are mistreated, lack growth opportunities and feel trapped? Experienced job seekers understand that there may be limits as to how much the company can pay.
If an employee feels financially taken advantage of, they will become disenchanted, their work will suffer and they’ll eventually leave. This ends up costing more money in the long run, as the manager will now have to take the time and effort to recruit a replacement, pay a fee to someone like myself, train the new employee and you’ll most likely have to offer a premium to entice the person to leave their current job and join your company. The most practical and advantageous approach is to pay people well enough so that they feel appreciated. If the company is in a situation in which the budgets are legitimately tight, it’s best to be honest. A reasonable person will appreciate being told the truth as to why their compensation can’t be increased at a certain period of time. The manager should follow through by letting their employee know that she believes that they are worth it and will try her best to reward them in the near future.
2. In addition to the monetary awards, employees want to be appreciated. If someone does a good job, they should be recognized. If they go above and beyond their efforts, it must be acknowledged and applauded. It’s even nicer when an employee is given accolades in a meeting with senior-level executives or in front of their peers. Even if someone tries and fails at a task, the manager should be empathetic and congratulate them on their efforts. If all their hard work is ignored or taken for granted, it saps the motivation of people. Employees begin to feel that it’s not worth it to try hard since nobody seems to notice or care. The unmotivated person will lack passion and drive and will sleepwalk through the day. They’ll make many mistakes, leave early, take long breaks, come into the office late, gossip with co-workers and develop a negative attitude. Ultimately, they’ll become so frustrated at the lack of attention that they’ll leave. Once again, you have created a situation in which a once former star performer becomes dead weight, does the least amount of work possible, has probably poisoned the minds of others and now you have to spend the time to find someone new.
It’s not too hard to avoid this situation. All you have to do is show some common courtesy and basic humanity: celebrate a birthday, ask about their children, remember the names of their spouses and inquire as to how that are doing, take the team out for lunch, order in pizza when something good happens, give some high fives, fist bumps and smiles to cheer on little victories, spend some one-on-one time to make sure that your team is happy and engaged, have an open-door policy and listen to those who have valid constructive criticism.
3. A person needs to visualize a future with the company.Things could be difficult at work, but if everything looks like they are heading in the the right direction, an employee will be engaged. When they are given insight into where their job will go next or how they can get a promotion and raise, they’ll be highly motivated. The employee will recognize that if she hits certain benchmarks and exceeds expectations that she will advance within the company. In the absence of any forward career guidance, employees will believe that they are spinning their wheels and that there is no future. The first chance that they get from another company who offers a clear career track will get the person to jump ship.
It’s important to share your vision of where the company and the division is headed. Then, you must outline how your staff can achieve their goals and get to the next level. While you may not be able to offer guarantees, at least you can map out what a person can do to excel, thrive and advance. Once an employee feels vested in the overall corporate mission, sees the light at the end of the tunnel and is armed with the knowledge that if they work hard they’ll succeed, there will be no reason for them to leave.
Your most valuable assets go down the elevator and out the door every day. To keep employees from leaving and not coming back, pay them well, express your gratitude and appreciation and offer a future filled with opportunities to grow and experience exciting new challenges.