In a tight talent market the last thing any company wants is to lose employees who find a better gig somewhere else. Not only is employee turnover expensive, it's demoralizing and time consuming when it means finding and training people to fill abandoned positions. Yet there are ways to keep employees--even younger Millennials--content to remain in their jobs. That's according to David Stafford, executive VP of human resources at Michelin, a company with about 22,000 North American employees, many of whom he says have worked for the company for decades. Here are the things he says any company can do to retain talent.
1. Give employees avenues to express purpose.
People want to do work that matters and this is particularly true when it comes to anyone under the age of 35. Compared with Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials have no qualms about leaving a company to go somewhere they can do meaningful work. To help with this Michelin recently offered employees the opportunity to support the company's value of environmental sustainability. About 1,400 employees threw their hats into a lottery which sent 10 people to Yellowstone National Park where they replaced the asphalt walkways around Old Faithful with a porous kind of a rubber mat asphalt made from tires which lets water drain into the aquifer.
2. Challenge them to grow.
One way Michelin does this is by giving employees opportunities to rotate between functions within the company. "It keeps it new and exciting and they're challenged," he says. "And when people are challenged we know they perform better, both individually and as a team."
3. Set collective goals and reward teams for meeting them.
While Michelin recognizes individual accomplishments, the company is focusing more on rewarding collective contributions. For example, in 2015 the company set a revenue growth goal and then communicated monthly progress, focusing on the message that once the goal is met everyone will receive a payout. "The amazing thing is when I visit sites today and talk with employees and ask what the growth was in a certain month almost all of them can repeat it immediately," he says. "A year ago-- before we had this--almost no one would have been able to say that."
4. Instill a culture of innovation.
Who doesn't want to be involved in doing cutting-edge work? Plus, any company seeking to stay ahead of the competition must incessantly innovate. And while you may not think of tires as a high-tech product, how the rubber and road interact is actually a fairly complicated process. To foster a companywide mindset of innovation Michelin sponsors cross-functional hackathons and internal incubators in which employees are encouraged to take risks and generate good ideas.
5. Model servant leadership.
Think of the best boss you've ever had. Was this person humble and approachable? Stafford says Michelin does not have a C-suite of offices regular employees cannot access and that executives are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of employees. As proof, he points to family health clinics the company provides at four of its larger sites so employees can receive care right at work. "Our goal is to make sure all of our employees retire healthy and prepared for retirement financially," he says.
6. Make them believe you're committed to them for the long haul.
During the financial crisis of 2008 Michelin didn't lay people off, but reduced work hours while continuing to give employees full benefits. Then, when the markets turned around the company gave employees who were impacted bonus checks to thank them for sticking with the company during hard times. "We bought a lot of respect with our employees," he says. "They really trust us and know that we'll be there when things get tough."