We've all heard the horror stories-huge companies where every person is solely looking out for their own promotion or where managers don't care about the growth of their employees and even take credit for their ideas. Employees at these companies can begin to feel undervalued and underpaid, and they quickly burn out.
Post-pandemic, more and more Americans are calling it quits on miserable workplaces, so much so that we are facing an era dubbed "The Great Resignation." There is greater fluidity in the workforce, and it is easier than ever for employees to leave one company for another, more enticing offer. Companies that don't give their employees a reason to stay will be left high and dry, begging them not to jump ship.
So, how can companies hold on to their employees?
If you want to create a workplace with a loyal, driven, and passionate team, read on for the four steps you need to take to help your employees thrive.
1. Show them you care
The first and most fundamental step in building a healthy company is to show everyone in the workplace that you truly care about them. If employees feel disregarded and replaceable, no amount of paid time off or vacation days will make up for their unhappiness. Take the time to listen to their needs and do your best to accommodate them whenever possible.
It's not enough to only care about how your employees can improve your company. You need to look at each of them holistically, remembering that they are filled with their own unique dreams, challenges, and talents.
Show your employees you are invested in their lives, careers, and long-term successes. Ask them about their future goals and help them align those goals with what they are doing now through mentorship and thoughtful project assignment. And, of course, one of the best ways to show your employees that you care is to pay them a rate commensurate with the market.
The good news is that this goes both ways. If you believe in, support, and care for your employees, they will believe in, support, and care for your company.
2. Provide space for communication
In the same vein, you need to create time for regular check-ins with your employees. Set up a system so that every employee has the opportunity to meet with their manager, someone in HR, or senior management at a regular interval. What is right for your company might vary, but we have each employee meet with their manager weekly for a quick check-in, they meet with someone from HR once a month to discuss overall career trajectory, and we do quarterly performance or MBO (management by objectives) reviews as part of an annual review process that senior management gets involved with. Again, the participants and frequency of these meetings can vary dramatically based on the needs of your company. What is important is that each employee feels like they have both a voice and an advocate for their needs.
At a previous internet marketing company, I implemented a practice called "Starbucks Stopovers," where I'd invite new hires to coffee to connect and discuss their aspirations for the future. While I can't take folks in a remote working environment out face to face, I am always available to meet with every employee. As we've grown, I've had to switch from monthly meetings to quarterly or annual one-on-ones. We discuss both their short-term goals at the company and their long-term goals (wherever they might take them). If, 12 months from now, they'd like to be making more money or be placed in a different position, we go over what they need to do in order to accomplish that goal. And because I can't meet with everyone one-on-one as much as I'd like, we have a short company meeting weekly so I can chat with everyone on Zoom.
These check-ins also create a space for honesty and transparency about the company. Include your employees in the growth of the organization by asking them questions about what's working and what isn't: "What's one thing you like about the company?" and "What's one thing you would change?" By giving employees a space where their opinions are heard and valued, you strengthen their attachment to and investment in the company.
3. Prepare them for the future
Understand that your employees may not work for you forever and try to send them off in a better position than they were in when they arrived at your company. Consider how you can nurture their personal and career growth during project assignments and wrap elements of their goals into their current work experience.
Our first intern started at our company straight out of college, unsure of where exactly she was headed in her career. Over the three to four years she worked for us, she tried many different roles and eventually decided she wanted to become a programmer. We gave her experience, but we didn't have the exact role she needed at the time. So, we supported her transition with training and referrals into a position at another company where she could learn and grow. Years later, she has become an experienced mobile developer at a well-known internet streaming organization, and we are considering reaching out to her about working for us again.
By preparing your employees for the future, you are not only doing yourself a service by creating a well-trained staff but also setting yourself up for success down the line. As a leader, you never know when you might run into or need an old employee. Investing in your employees makes them more valuable to you, whether that payoff comes now or later.
4. Trust your employees
Create a rewarding environment where employees' contributions are appreciated and where a measured amount of autonomy is encouraged. During check-ins or meetings, give your employees explicit goals with a timeline attached. Assign them a manager who will be there to assess their progress and be ready to jump in to help if needed.
Many thought leaders today say that we have to give people a safe place in which to fail, but I don't want to put anyone in a situation where they might fail on a large scale. When assigning employees new responsibilities, match the level of freedom provided with their level of experience. You cannot let people make decisions they are not prepared to handle. Start employees off with reasonable goals where a small degree of failure is an acceptable cost for the growth they will acquire.
We are preparing to promote a long-term employee to vice president of operations. With this promotion, I want her to succeed and the company along with her. However, there are areas of the job in which she is not yet experienced. To help her transition, we have regular conversations about how she can thrive and which tasks she is ready to take on as she grows into the position.
Employees want to be trusted and given growth opportunities, but it is also on you as a leader to be proactive and guide them along the way. Your company cannot thrive if your employees don't.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. It will take time to build trust, care, and communication into the ethos of your company, and my tactics are not foolproof. You may still see some employees leave even after you have gone through these four steps. However, I don't recommend any of this without my own experience to back it up-our company hasn't had a single person quit in the last five years (yes, really).
By serving the needs of your employees, you serve the company. A healthy company is built when people are working with those who respect them, doing work that is rewarding, receiving compensation that matches their experience, and improving their future career prospects.
Investing in your employees is not just the right thing to do as a human being. It's also the best way to create a strong company culture with loyal employees who want the best for the future of your company.