I had dinner a few nights ago with a friend who works for a Fortune 500 company. He’s been looking for another job for nearly two years now, and he told me that he’s been so unhappy—so mentally checked out—that he’s been doing the least amount of work he possibly can while still going unnoticed. He’s basically dead weight, and he knows it. As I listened to his long list of valid complaints about his company, I realized that there’s a pattern behind employee dissatisfaction: It’s those penny wise, pound foolish things employers do without realizing that they’re driving their talented staff away.
How can you keep your talented staff on staff and happy, and not drive them away? Scan the list below to see if you’re guilty of any of the following. (And if the answer is yes, it may be time to reconsider your ways.)
1. Requiring 24/7 access. You—as the business founder and owner—may choose to eat, sleep and breathe your business, but you’re crazy to think that your staff wants to live that way. Requiring that your staff be on call and available around the clock will inevitably produce resentful employees. Give your employees time to recharge and enjoy their private lives.
2. Requiring your staff to do work they’re not good at. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made was failing to assign the right duties to my employees. If you take the time to match your staff with responsibilities they’re good at, everyone will be happier. The quality of work your staff produces will be higher, and they’ll feel more competent. Pushing employees in the name of “stretching their talents” isn’t necessarily in your best interests as an employer.
3. Referring to your staff as “human resources.” I kid you not, I just observed a meeting in which a manager lamented the fact that his company was “low on human inventory.” Nothing makes your staff feel unappreciated more than realizing that you think of them as a resource rather than as a human being. Your staff is composed of people, not raw materials. Treat them like human beings. Learn their names, and please, don’t ever refer to them as “inventory.”
4. Expecting your staff to make the company part of their social life (and their social media). There should be something like the separation between church and state in the lives of your employees. Don’t overstep the boundaries of your business by expecting to see Facebook updates revolving around your company on your staff’s personal pages. Not only do they have a right to their private lives, but you also don’t want the hassles of inappropriate posts that involve your business.
5. Blaming the rules. If you’re using the rules to cover for your inflexibility in work situations, then you’re missing out on one of the chief benefits of being the boss. You get to make—and change—the rules! If you’re favoring the employee manual over the employee, then you need to reexamine your priorities. Evaluate the situation and make good decisions rather than blindly following rules that may not be in your company’s best interest.
6. Asking for input, then ignoring it. If you’re going to solicit or require input from your staff, then you owe it to them to consider that input. While you may not implement all of their suggestions, it’s important to let your staff know that you value their insight and perspective.
7. Focusing on money as the primary motivator. Money is the least effective and most expensive motivator when it comes to employee retention. If you’re simply shoving money at your staff, you’re missing an opportunity. Focus on finding challenges that yield fulfillment and a sense of purpose. You’ll find that these abstract factors are actually more important in retaining employees than you thought.
8. Putting your company ahead of your staff. If you’re focused on the bottom line rather than the people who help you bring in revenue, then you’re likely to watch those people walk out the door. Support your staff. Protect them, and they’ll reward you with long-term loyalty. You’ll eventually realize that protecting your staff is also taking care of your bottom line.
Attracting and retaining great employees is perhaps the single most important challenge you face in building a healthy business, and your decisions have a huge impact on your profitability. Quibbling over the cost of a ream of paper is small potatoes compared to the impact that a dissatisfied employee can have on your client relations. You want your customers to trust you with their business, and one of the best ways to demonstrate your trustworthiness is by creating a climate in which your staff knows their value to you and feels like a part of a team.
Disgruntled employees can hurt your business, whether they’re actively sabotaging your company or merely presenting a lousy attitude in their dealings with clients and fellow staff members. Investing in your staff and their satisfaction is one of the most profitable decisions you can make.
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