Times are tough now; everyone knows that. Companies are closing up shop and laying off people. Consumer spending is cautious at best and businesses are scrambling to figure out ways to sell product. So in these tough times, what is a business’ greatest asset, besides a good product or service? Good employees! They are the public face and the backbone of any good business.
So what does it take to keep a good employee? What does it take to keep them dedicated, loyal and enthusiastic? Money? Benefits? Vacation? Casual Fridays? Tuition assistance? Better training opportunities and an achievable path toward advancement? If you want an employee to give the best they have to offer to your business on a daily basis, treat them in a way that shows them that you value their service and contributions. Here are some ideas.
1. Treat everyone in your employ with respect, especially in front of their peers. Everyone wants to be shown respect, and yes, respect is earned; show them respect anyway even if they have not yet earned it or have done something to cause you doubt. As a leader, everyone is watching you all the time so see how you react and conduct yourself. In the military we say that “Leadership is by example.” Behavior is emulated from the top down. If you are upset and berate a person with a loud acerbic tirade, you have just done several things. You lost your composure and bearing in front of your subordinates and peers. You were disrespectful and probably embarrassed that individual in front of everyone present. If this is “normal” behavior for you, then you will make yourself less approachable as time goes on. This will hinder and greatly reduce communication. On the other hand, if you keep your cool and deal with stressful events, difficult choices, or disappointing results in a calm, cool and collected manner, everyone sees that as well. Peers and subordinates will come to see you as respectful, reasonable, thoughtful, rational and composed. Everyone will be more likely to have difficult but necessary conversations with you. You will be more approachable on all matters, which is a great asset to any leader.
2. Pay employees a fair wage for their work. Employees are not living in a vacuüm, nor are they complete idiots. They know what their skill set and performance level are worth. Sure, it’s an “employer’s market”; be fair anyway. Employees understand that you are getting squeezed by the tough economy too. (Yes – really, they get that.) When you hire someone, pay them as close to what they are worth as you can. There are a lot of desperate people out there looking for work now. If they are desperate enough, they might take the lower pay you might offer because they have a mortgage, medical bills, car payments, and/or other worries weighing them down. If, as an employer you do this, where have you really profited? Sure the individual is glad to have a job, but over time they will come to resent the way you went about that and will eventually look to move on unless you …
3. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts and contributions. No one is saying that a boss should run around patting everyone on the head. People DO like to know that you HAVE noticed what they do and maybe how well they do it. Every now and then a kind word of acknowledgement does wonders! Believe it or not, this is a big deal.
4. Again, times are hard. If you can’t give deserving employees raises, offer other incentives. Can’t offer a raise or tuition assistance? Why not give comp time? Why not allow an hour or two of online training in job related tasks through any of the no cost training sites and Webinars available? (Grovo is a great example.)
5. If you can offer some form of health, dental and/or vision plan, do it! This is HUGE now. People appreciate it. Really.
6. Be firm, but fair. Handle personnel issues in private. Temper discipline with encouragement and be proportional. Hold everyone accountable for infractions: Do not play favorites. Discipline meted out can vary according to past performance of the person involved, but everyone must be accountable for their actions. Favoritism erodes trust and respect. Consistently rewarding deviant behavior erodes discipline. Never conduct discipline or discuss personal matters with an employee within earshot of their peers; never, ever! This especially includes performance reviews. To do otherwise indicates a complete lack of basic leadership, respect and tact on an employer’s part.
Following these simple and common sense rules will yield results. Employers will be happier and have less personnel issues to deal with, and their business will do better as well. Employees will feel appreciated and contribute better work and be more enthused about doing so.