As 2016 draws to a close, it's a good time to reflect on the previous year. What went right? What went wrong? Contemplating both can make you and your team better.

But this is also a pivotal time to reconnect with your people.

"Many of us reflect on our careers at this time of year--what we've accomplished thus far and what we still want to do," said Andy Decker, regional president at Robert Half, in a recent interview. "This is prime time for setting 2017 goals...and for your top performers, changing jobs may be at the top of that list. Don't let your best people get tempted to look outside the organization for a brighter career path and fresh challenge."

So, how do you make sure your people are happy?

Here are seven reasons your best people might be developing a wandering eye, and how you can add some spark to the workplace relationship:

1. Lack of communication.

All healthy relationships begin with good communication.

But it's easy to lose your way over time. Have you lost touch with your team due to the end-of-the-year sprint? Have you been negligent in responding to calls or messages? Are you completely uninterested in your employees' lives outside of work?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, you've likely been building an unhealthy measure of emotional distance between you and your team.

Action: If you've gotten out of this practice, apologize--and outline how you plan to make it better in the following year.

2. Feeling under-appreciated.

Think about it: When was the last time you praised your people--sincerely and specifically--for a job well done?

We all crave that feeling of appreciation. If your people don't get it from you, they'll seek it from another source.

Action: Set aside a day or two to meet with everyone you can. If possible, go directly to each person's office or workplace. Tell them exactly what you appreciate about them as individuals, and about their work.

Then, continue to look for similar opportunities in the next months.

3. Missing flexibility.

From the opportunity to work remotely to having more choice over tools and perks, workplace flexibility is no longer a bonus--it's a requirement.

Action: Make sure your people have the flexibility they need. If not, figure out a way to give it to them.

4. Lack of transparency.

Every company says they value transparency and authenticity, but what do your actions show? There's nothing worse than the feeling that leaders don't care about keeping you in the loop, or even worse, that they're keeping secrets.

Action: Make sure your vision, intentions, and methods are clear to everyone on your team--and that they have access to the information they need to do their best work.

5. Same old, same old.

It's all too easy to keep giving your best people the exact same thing to do, day in and day out.

But that's also how you're going to push those people away.

Great employees want to be challenged. They desire new experiences that allow them to learn, and most importantly, to grow.

Action: Look for opportunities that allow individuals to use their skills in different ways, or to stretch out of their comfort zone. You may find this counterintuitive, but trust me: It works.

If you're unsure where to start, ask them which types of projects or assignments they'd find interesting. Then, listen carefully.

6. No freedom.

To truly thrive at work, your employees need freedom to explore new ideas and experiment with new methods. They may make mistakes, but they'll gain invaluable experience in the process.

Action: Show your team how you'll be giving them more autonomy in the following year. Express interest in their work, and make yourself available for questions or as a sounding board.

With this approach, they'll see you as a true leader, instead of a micromanager.

7. Stagnation.

If you're truly interested in your people, you'll find a way to help them grow. Just as they need praise, they also need negative feedback--but they need it delivered in an emotionally intelligent manner.

In addition, it's important to recognize that not everyone wants to follow the same career path. While a management position may be a dream job for one, it's a dead end to another.

Action: Find out your employees' goals, their hopes, their desires. Then, do whatever is in your power to help.

Of course, your employees may themselves be unsure of what they want, and their ideas can always change. That's why it's important to keep the lines of communication open.

Above all, invest in your people by showing personal interest.

Because when they feel that you're looking out for them, they'll keep coming back.

Published on: Dec 21, 2016
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