Many leaders have found themselves in the situation of having to replace their people. For new managers, this can be especially hard. While this is an inevitable part of progress for many people as they find new opportunities that fit their goals more, or switch career paths, these amicable reasons for parting aren’t the only reason employees leave their positions. As leaders within organizations, we need to take a look inward, and ask ourselves some questions. Why did this person leave? Have I done all I could to make this work environment suitable for this employee? Did I listen to them when they were leaving, and can I learn from what I heard?
There are benefits to keeping the people you have, and it’s reflected in the bottom line. Maintaining the workforce you already have costs less in training, onboarding, interview time, and eliminates the loss in business from operating a person down. Keeping a team that works well together and knows their jobs inside and out has the capacity to increase your revenue and efficiency for sure. But more than the financial aspects, keeping a high performing team keeps morale and cohesion up. Because of the performance these people are capable of achieving together, they’re able to find success and develop team cohesion by using each other’s strengths. When cohesion is working, everyone’s happy—goals are being achieved, conflicts are being resolved, the work environment is positive, and people are happy to stay around.
However, there are certain things that are out of your control as a leader. Sometimes, the budget isn’t there to keep a talented individual, or they were given an offer they can’t refuse. That’s not on you! Celebrate these opportunities with your people and give them a reference. People need to support their lives and the people in them, and sometimes their departure has nothing to do with you or your organization, and everything to do with the benefits of a new opportunity. Especially with the rising cost of living (here in Canada, for sure) people are having to make hard choices and leave teams they love to afford their lives.
While this isn’t something you as a leader always have control over, there’re some things that entice employees to stay in a position.
- First and foremost, competitive compensation is essential. That’s the reality of business! Included in this part of the equation are things like health coverage, retirement plans, training and development opportunities, paid time off, etc. If your organization isn’t able to provide the highest bracket of a position’s salary, offering more vacation time or contribution to childcare can close the gap between you and another business offering more money, but fewer benefits.
- Meet with your people often and listen with genuine curiosity. These meetings allow your people to interact with you often and candidly, express their goals and where they feel they aren’t meeting their potential. Listening during these conversations can help you identify where your people are feeling a lack of support, who is struggling with their position and needs additional resources, and where you can improve to maintain a positive environment and overall morale.
- Create opportunities for learning and development. People want to feel and recognize their leaders are prioritizing their moves toward professional goals. Creating opportunities for further developing existing skills, learning totally new ones for a new position and responsibility, these are great ways to open doors for your people! This also helps your employees see that you’re invested in their development and support their journeys.
- We already talked about benefits, but what about some perks? Offer coffee or snacks in the office before dispatch for the day, work out a discount with your local cafe for lunch (or buy your team lunch every once in a while), the ideas are endless and don’t have to cost a ton of money. One of the most fun ideas my workplace implemented was themed days, like Tropical Tuesdays or Caturdays, where we would wear funky outfits on theme. Everyone had a blast seeing what we’d show up wearing the next day!
- Creating an environment that emphasizes teamwork and collaboration in personal and professional dynamics can be helpful. Encourage diverse teamwork on projects, identify individual strengths and how to play to them, but allow for flexibility within the team structures. People are at their best when given a little autonomy, room to stretch their wings. Your team can turn to you for support in the event something goes a little sideways but see what your people can accomplish when given the room! Plan team outings or meals together to allow people to get to know one another.
- One of the best things you can do for your team is keep communication open. Whether you’re discussing conflicts at work, personal issues, or the big game last night, being willing to listen to your people and interact with positivity and care is essential to their happiness at work. Be genuine! You’re all just humans looking to make the most of your time together. Laugh together, be serious, be supportive, be a leader and a listener. Your team will feel your support and offer theirs through their work in return.
- Ask questions, and listen to your employees. Perform exit interviews with people leaving your organization, and be willing to hear some tough truths! Discomfort is key to growth. Even if you’re not talking with someone leaving the company, sometimes there will be discussions surrounding points of issue for people working with you right now. Being willing to learn from these discussions and implement change to improve the situation is essential to keeping these people around.
One of the keys to employee happiness is a positive work culture. Creating a space that encourages laughter, self expression, diversity, and inclusion will allow your people to be the truest versions of themselves, and that’s what everyone is looking for! By promoting wellness and kindness, the work culture allows for support from team members and leaders, honest communication between team members, and an overall more positive place to work.
While it’s inevitable that team members will be leaving you and your organization, probably sooner than you like, you can at least make that decision a little harder. By making your workplace (and your leadership) as positive and inclusive as possible, you’re making your team the best place to work, even without a huge monetary aspect. People want to be valued, know their work has purpose, and allowed to be themselves. By leading in such a way that these aspects are not only allowed, but celebrated, you’re creating an environment that’s hard to leave and some may even come back to you!
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