We’re all aware of how hard it is to find great employees these days. IT gets a lot of press, but the truth is that unemployment is low and it’s hard for every company to find the talented people they need to succeed. And it doesn’t stop once you’ve hired someone. Keeping good employees is a challenge too. After all, if someone is skilled and experienced and doing a great job, they’re going to be sought after by other companies.

What can you do?

Well there are some obvious things that should be happening. Salary and benefits that are competitive with the market are important, of course! Company culture, working on interesting projects, and good teammates are also important. No company should ignore those when thinking about how to attract and retain great people.

How do you make someone feel appreciated and valued?

  1. Say thank you. And mean it. It seems simple but to do it right requires some effort. It can be easier and seem obvious that you should say thank you for something big, such as when a deadline dramatically changes and the team has to rearrange workloads and schedules to meet it. But saying thanks at the end of a regular week or after a meeting simply as a reminder that you appreciate their work can be powerful. Not every hit is a game winning home run and like baseball, much of our work is a series of solid singles that ultimately put runs on the board.
  2. Check in with your employees. Not just at formal opportunities like annual performance reviews but periodically. Meet with them on a regular basis for an informal conversation about how things are going. Quarterly, monthly, weekly – what works best for your particular situation. Studies have shown that managers who have frequent, even daily contact with their team have a happier, more productive team. A simple email or Slack message asking how things are going adds to the feeling of appreciation.
  3. Get to know them personally. We’re not suggesting that you get all into people’s personal business or pry. But knowing the name of someone’s partner or children, or whether they have a dog or a cat or what their hobbies and asking about them occasionally is not seen as prying by most people. People want managers and coworkers who care enough to get to know them. We all want people to know that we are more than just our “work self.” The more you know about someone the better able you will be able to support them so they can achieve the most at work. When someone has challenges at home, you’ll understand and know how to help in terms of schedule flexibility or a shift in workload. It’s the human thing to do but quite frankly, caring is also good business sense. Of course, it’s important to read the person and respect how much they want to share but generally getting to know each other is a good thing all around!
  4. Listen to them. Listen to what they have to say when you meet with them and especially if they come to you. Make time. Don’t jump in too quickly. Find out if there is a problem. Often people know there isn’t necessarily a solution – overtime may be required, a client may be difficult, raises may be frozen, and there is nothing you can do about it. But just venting, getting to share their frustrations or even anger can be cathartic and help. Not permanently, if it’s really a big problem you’ll need to address those eventually or you’ll lose people. But making time and listening to what they say shows you value them. And that can be just as important as making any changes. Giving someone your time and attention shows that you value and respect them.

In the current labor market, where talent is so difficult to find and an open position hurts your company’s productivity and bottom line, it’s more critical than ever to keep your people. Making sure they know you appreciate and value them should be an important part of any retention efforts. It works and it’s relatively cost efficient.

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