What would you give to boast of a 4% turnover rate? It's a rare organizational feat, especially at a time when most businesses would be happy with several times that percentage. Somehow, Patagonia has managed to buck the trend with its corporate team. But what is the company's secret in achieving such low turnover?

Call it unrelenting engagement. Employees at Patagonia feel so connected that leaving becomes nearly unthinkable. Exit interviews are more like family goodbyes than awkward slips out the backdoor. This is the pinnacle of employer-employee loyalty in action, and it's buoyed by a deep-seated connection that corporations should strive to emulate.

Building a Thriving Tribe

Patagonia has held tight to its core messaging for decades. Your business might have a less lengthy legacy, but that's actually OK. You can still create an environment where employees don't just come to work but rather want to work at the highest levels.

This type of employee self-motivation can have far-reaching effects on all operations. Team members want to shine on behalf of the company, proudly representing the brand 24/7. When a bunch of highly confident, go-getter employees come together, they can kick productivity into high gear. Gallup research shows engaged teams are 21% more profitable than non-engaged ones.

Of course, this engagement doesn't happen overnight. It happens when businesses treat employees like people and not as cogs. Salesforce research indicates that individuals who feel like they are heard are 4.6 times more likely to do their best work because they know they're respected.

Unless you are satisfied with status-quo levels of sales, efficiency, absenteeism, and profitability, plan to put some of the following measures in place. Each focuses on creating stronger ties between your brand and its human talent.

1. Display your humanity.

The last thing you want to do is hold a reputation as a nameless, faceless corporation that eats employees for lunch and dishes out negativity. Instead, become the company that cares. Becoming human-centric rather than profit-centric may involve a shift in thinking and priorities. However, it can transform the way employees and job candidates feel about working for you.

If you believe that humanity involves having a yoga room or providing healthy snacks, guess again. You'll have to dig deeper. Consider taking teams on research trips for shared experiences and team-building collaboration, encouraging more cross-pollination between traditionally siloed departments, or simply making it easier for employees to be their "weekend selves" at work.

2. Be present with and available for your team.

Your employees evaluate everything you say. They're looking for authenticity, someone who shares, instead of a figurehead who doesn't seem to trust them. Simply conducting more face-to-face meetings as opposed to relying on email or Slack can transform you from a remote executive to someone they want to work beside. For remote workers, make the effort to Google Hangout or FaceTime more regularly.

Your openness will begin to rub off on employees, empowering them to innovate. That's what happened for Encore Live's client Mattress Firm when the experiential agency turned the company's annual conference into a living, breathing roadshow. Like a rock band, the corporation's top-level executives were bused around the country, facilitating one-on-one interactions with salespeople. The result of this unconventional venture? Enhanced sales performance at every store the team visited.

3. Make project ownership possible.

It's easy to give an employee a project and see what happens. It's much harder to make sure the employee feels a sense of ownership about the assignment. Before handing out duties, sit down with employees and talk about the variables. Ask them what resources they require for success and how they plan to tackle any problems. Follow up with a post-project powwow to discuss stumbling blocks and accomplishments in an objective, non-judgmental way. Treat these meetings not as times to fault-find but to learn and reflect together. Ideally, you want to get to a point where employees come to you for feedback but retain ownership over their decisions.

At 1-800 CONTACTS, workers are expected to make good choices on their own. The company doesn't quibble at the cost of providing exceptional service. Employees behave like proud owners when they do something special for a customer, acting on creative solutions without begging for a manager's approval first. This type of autonomous behavior leads to customer satisfaction and employee confidence.

4. Become a side-hustle cheerleader.

The general philosophy among many leaders is they don't care whether their employees pursue outside interests as long as those pursuits don't affect their work performance. This hands-off, minimal acceptance--in contrast to whole-hearted encouragement--can create distance between the employer and employee. It can also lead a team member to become secretive if his or her side hustle starts to get bigger.

The more your people can talk about their true passions, whether it's playing in a band or launching an Etsy shop, the more you can help them pursue their goals. You might even discover that the skills they bring to their side gigs have relevance for your business. Take a Seth Meyers approach by offering to introduce employees to people who can help them fully explore their dreams. Don't worry that you might lose them--your fretting about their extracurricular interest will only drive them out the door faster.

No need to be envious of Patagonia and its tenaciously devoted teams. Take that paragon of engagement as your inspiration, and get your employees excited about doing the best work of their careers. Who knows? You might just catch the self-improvement bug yourself.

Published on: Apr 24, 2019
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