By Katy Tynan
Times were tough – they still are. So you cut back on your training budget and you backed off your employee development programs because, let’s face it, it was that or layoffs. Your employees understood – they all nodded their heads in the company meeting when your CEO said it was time for everyone to tighten their belts and work through this difficult year. No one resigned. No one even asked any questions.
But now they’re sitting in their cubes reading the news and seeing the glimmers of recovery. They’re starting to get calls from recruiters again. The grass is getting greener – and not just because it’s spring.
Back in August, Forbes.com published an article on preparing for the upturn, but so far there has been little evidence that companies are making the changes they need to retain their high performers. So in case you’ve decided to take a wait-and-see attitude with respect to making sure your best workers aren’t eyeballing the exit, consider this quote from Richard Martin in The State of HR: From Recession to Recovery:
“Pressure is building, and there are indicators throughout the survey findings that 2010 may see a huge release in pent-up discontent and a surge in employees looking to move on.”
The recession has fostered a “hunker down” mentality which, while it has nominally resulted in less turnover, doesn’t translate into engaged employees who feel strongly connected and committed to their jobs and their employers. Most managers have accepted a drop in enthusiasm and engagement as a sign of the times, but without a proactive plan to re-engage your people, attitudes and engagement won’t rebound on their own. How can you drill down into the mindset of your team members and find out what makes them feel engaged and enthusiastic about their roles? The answer is simply to take the bull by the horns and have an open conversation. Schedule a meeting with each member of your team and ask them these three questions:
- How happy are you with your job right now?
- Are there tools or training resources you think would help you do your job more effectively and/or would lower your stress level?
- Are you satisfied with your compensation?
I can see you rolling your eyes. Most companies and managers don’t ask these questions because they don’t want to hear that their employees are unhappy – and because they don’t have resources to offer training or compensation increases. Why ask the question if you can’t do anything about it? Here’s why:
- Asking these questions shows your employees their happiness matters to you. Knowing management cares has a big impact on an individual’s job satisfaction.
- How many times have you seen or been through the fire drill that occurs when a high performer gives their notice? Options that didn’t exist yesterday suddenly materialize. More money, flexibility, role changes, etc. This happens because managers and HR departments know it costs money to replace employees – turnover is pricey. So why wait for the offer to let your best people know they matter?
- You might be surprised by how little it takes to make people happy. Sometimes it’s about a $500 training class or a little flexibility – a day a week working from home. While you might not be able to meet every request, at least you’ll have the details and maybe you can work them into the budget over time. People are far more willing to be patient if they know what they want is on the schedule, even if it’s not here yet.
The most powerful tool in your arsenal as you approach the task of boosting the engagement of your high performers is your ability to listen. So whether you’re sitting in the boardroom or just the nicest cube in your row, if you manage people, now is the time to find out whether they’re comfortable where they sit or if they’re perched on the edge of their seats.
Take the time to develop and communicate an employee engagement strategy that focuses on retaining your high performers. Make a concerted effort to reinvest in the people that make your team great.
Katy Tynan is a Management Coach with Personal Focus Coaching and the author of Survive Your Promotion! The 90 Day Success Plan for New Managers. For more information, go to: www.personalfocuscoaching.com