One thing is certain about the workplace in the 21st century--it's not like your father's. Unemployment is the lowest in decades, and employees at all levels have options open to them that they never had before. Executives are confronted with the need to make business decisions in a time of change and uncertainty. Paramount among them is how to keep valued employees. Many CIOs may be surprised to learn that it isn't money or fringe benefits that keep those people loyal--it is people management.
While those who are skipping from job to job may seem to outsiders to be moving only for the money, the reasons turn out to be rather different. A 25-year-long Gallup poll of employees reveals there are several factors that keep an employee in one company, and the top ones aren't financial. The poll discloses that employees stay where they feel appreciated, where they feel their own work is contributing to the overall mission of the company, where they have good friends and, most important, where they have a manager who truly manages them.
When employees leave, they leave managers, not companies.
And there's the rub. In the new world of startups, led by young and talented visionaries, those same people who are so good generating ideas often turn out to be the worst managers. Just because someone starts and develops a company to a point where there are real employees does not necessarily mean he is the best person to manage those employees. Unfortunately, that same energy and passion that brought the company so far may actually create anxiety among employees who go crazy trying to figure out where to go with the boss's ideas. As a corporate trainer and executive coach, I have seen the wrong type of manager almost ruin a company, and I have seen companies with a shaky business plan prosper under great managers.
Employers who have lost valuable people--in whom they have invested time, training and nurturing--may need to reexamine their workplace culture, or they will continue to lose them. Good employees make the manager look good, so it is in everyone's interest to keep good people.
What is the secret to keeping valued employees? What convinces some people to stay at a job for years, while others keep moving on? In strong economic times, when there are many options open to employees, it is more important than ever that companies keep valued employees. And because it is up to the manager to keep talented employees, he must develop a pattern of managing so that each employee feels a commitment to the company.
Through my interviews with employees, I discovered several things that make a great place to work: knowing what is expected of you, having the right materials and equipment to do the job, having the opportunity to do what you do best every day, knowing that someone at work cares about you and feeling that your opinions count. A good manager is one who makes employees feel that they are seen, heard and recognized for their successes. A good manager is a coach who finds a way to help employees make a contribution, and who develops his people on a consistent basis. A good manager knows how to motivate and inspire.
A good manager is a casting director--he does not set his people up for failure by putting them in the wrong position or one that will not hold their interest.
A good manager challenges employees.
This is not to say that a decent salary and good benefits are not important--of course they are. What is more important is whether people feel they make a difference to the company and whether they are motivated by real growth opportunities.
If you have good employees they will probably get offers to work elsewhere. If you value them they will feel important enough to you to think twice before leaving. The companies that keep their people have managers who achieve a dynamic work environment that benefits the employees and allows the business to prosper. When a manager appreciates his employees, actually listens to their ideas, and encourages collaboration, they will want to stay. And retaining good employees is the key to productivity and profitability.
So perhaps it is about the money after all.
Mark Rittenberg is founder of Corporate Scenes, a consultancy in Berkeley, Calif., that specializes in training managers and leaders.
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