The People Pro

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Location: Small town, Northern Wisconsin

Barbara is an author, speaker and psychotherapist in private practice. She provides keynote presentations and is a Certified Professional Speaker, a designation held by fewer than 8% of the speakers in the world. She has appeared on FOX, CNN, and CBS and is considered an expert in relationships.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Your Best Employees

While we are near full employment and quality staff is difficult to find, some employers seem to go out of their way to lose the best employees they have. Indeed, when there is a problem in the workplace, it is always the best employees who leave first

as they have the most options. The employer is left with the least talented, least creative employees, the folks reluctant to take risks.

How do employers accomplish this exodus?

  • Hire your friends and family—This makes it clear to all employees that there is not an even playing field. Get close to the boss…and advancement is yours. It creates a climate of favoritism and brown nosing, which results in management being told what they want to hear.
    HINT: Any family or friends that are employed should not have a direct reporting relationship. They should compete like anyone else for the job and advancement.
  • Don’t allow any flexibility—In employee surveys, flexibility in schedules and time off is identified as more important than wages. Caught between raising children and caring for elderly parents, today’s employees are sandwiched between conflicting demands.
    HINT: Make flexibility a priority. Focus on supporting the employee rather than policing the policies.
  • Don’t replace employees that leave…simply spread the work among remaining staff—A remnant from the “mean and lean” philosophy of the 80’s and 90’s, immediate cost savings are realized while staff becomes demoralized. People want to feel successful at work, not set up for failure.
    HINT: It takes years to undo a negative perception as an employer. Do not sacrifice employee retention for short-term gain.
  • Compare Staff Members—Whether publicly or privately, comparison means someone always comes up short. Comparisons tend to demoralize and discourage and promote competition rather than cooperation. Cooperation is essential to build teams and create a learning organization.
    HINT: Never compliment one person at the expense of another. Don’t engage in workplace gossip.
  • Use praise instead of encouragement—What’s the difference? PLENTY. Praise is given for a job completed. A job well done. Encouragement is given for effort or improvement. The problem with praise is it is often given only to those who need it the least. While there can be rewards for stellar performance, in a learning organization, more attention should be given to efforts across the organization.
    HINT: Establish systems that reward efforts and new ideas with a focus on improvement.
  • Micro-manage all staff activities—Few things disempower staff like a boss who hovers over their shoulder questioning every move and managing each decision. The message is clear—“I have no confidence in your abilities.” Staff feels discourages and lose creativity. It is important to remember that there is more than one right way to do things.
    HINT: Hire good people, and then get out of their way.
  • Leave job descriptions vague and uncertain—Similar to embarking on a major journey without a map, expecting great performance by “winging it” doesn’t work. People tend to live up to the expectations given to them.
    HINT: Make job descriptions detailed and specific. Regularly meet with staff to discuss progress and encourage improvement.
  • Give feedback only when there is a problem—The employee learns quickly that there is little recognition of what they do “right.” The boss will be viewed as nit picking and critical when they hear only the negatives.
    HINT: Meet with employees regularly to give positive feedback and encourage improvement.

To keep the best employees in today’s job market, the employee must be treated as a key customer. Make employee retention and development a top priority. Good internal customer service translates into great external customer service. Great customer service does not happen where employees are unhappy in their jobs. Evaluate carefully the needs of your work force. Build in flexibility and mentoring to insure long-term stability of staff.