Employee retention is an ongoing challenge for leaders in any workplace. However, I feel that leaders actually have it pretty easy in some respects.
If all you aim to do is retain people, then you don’t need to do much. After all, changing jobs is a stressful part of life, which means many people will choose to stay even when they aren’t happy, to avoid the extra stress.
This is unfortunate, because what we are left with is a team full of unmotivated people, who aren’t unhappy enough to leave!
Strengthening the Employee Immune System
When people are feeling run down, lacking sleep or stressed, their immune system can be compromised. This means if they are exposed to a virus, they may fall ill when normally they would be fine.
I think of employee retention in the same way. Unhappy employees have a reduced ability to fend off attacking viruses. The difference is in this case, the viruses are recruiters and personal networks attacking your employees with job opportunities.
In this weakened state, team members may see new job opportunities and consider them as a viable option, when they normally wouldn’t.
The best defence is to make sure our people have strong job satisfaction and motivation, to reduce the chances that they’ll feel like looking elsewhere.
Avoiding The Motivation Dead Zone
If people in my team are dissatisfied and I’m unable to help them improve the situation, I would rather they find better opportunities elsewhere than see them sit in my team lacking enthusiasm.
With this sort of employee retention, you run the risk of leading a low-performing team. Your people aren’t dissatisfied enough to leave, but aren’t enthusiastic enough to put in any discretionary effort to improve the situation.
They will be stuck in what I call the Motivation Dead Zone. We not only need to push people away from the Quitting Zone. We also need to get them through the Motivation Dead Zone and into the Satisfaction Zone.
Hygiene Factors in Employee Retention
For improved employee retention and to get your people away from the Quitting Zone, you need to make sure that your “hygiene factors” are in place. Hygiene factors are explained in Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory and include aspects like a reasonable salary, good benefits and a safe and positive working environment.
These factors won’t motivate people to work harder or give them job satisfaction. Instead, they simply prevent people from feeling dissatisfied with their working conditions.
Hygiene factors are very important. To use an example, you will find it very hard to motivate someone who feels underpaid compared to others in similar situations. They will continue to feel dissatisfied until they achieve what they consider to be fair pay for their work.
Moving People Into the Satisfaction Zone
Unfortunately, if you only have the hygiene factors in place, your people will only move as far as the Motivation Dead Zone. You’ll have employee retention, but you will see poor performance as your team members don’t feel motivated.
So now it is time to introduce positive motivators to help your team move into the Satisfaction Zone.
Positive motivators encourage people to spend extra discretionary effort to do good work.
This means they strive harder to achieve results through their own choice, not because they feel forced to do so.
Positive motivators include reward and recognition, development opportunities and ensuring that your team members are learning new skills and gaining experience that they value.
The key to introducing positive motivators is to understand what your team members want. Don’t forget that their real aspirations may lie outside of work, as not everyone cares only about their careers.
Having a conversation with your team members about where they want to be and what they want to do in the future is the critical starting point to understanding their goals and aspirations.
Hygiene Factors as Positive Motivators
In some cases, I find that people consider hygiene factors to be extremely motivating, especially if their real goals lie outside of work.
For example, your team member is a contact centre worker, answering phone calls. In their spare time, they are training to become a professional football player. They sometimes need to work irregular hours because they need to train at certain times.
Normally, you might consider flexible working hours to be only a hygiene factor. However, in this example, allowing this team member to work flexibly and change their hours to suit their training requirements can be highly motivating, because you’re helping them to achieve their goals.
How to Enable Your Team Members to Pursue Their Aspirations
For leaders, the first step to enabling your team members is to understand what they want. This is relatively easy by having a simple conversation.
However, I’ve found that it’s very common for people not to have a clear answer straight away.
In fact, some team members in the past have even said to me “Nobody has ever asked me that before”. Hence, they hadn’t really thought much about it either.
Don’t be surprised if your team members need some time to think about their future. They may not be able to tell you straight away.
Once you have an answer, however, you need to help them move closer to their goals to get them into the Satisfaction Zone.
Allocate Time to Work Towards Team Member Goals
Sometimes your team member’s day job won’t help them to achieve their goals, because it doesn’t help them learn new skills or gain experience they need. This means that you need to be able to provide them other ways to get there.
I like to do this by trying to have people working at roughly 80% capacity. The remaining 20% of time is devoted to working on side projects, learning new skills or contributing to improving the team.
This provides your team members with great variety and means they can focus on tasks outside of their day job. The remaining 20% is the effort that needs to be spent moving towards their career goals.
Communicate Your Team Member Goals
If your team members are trying to improve their careers, it doesn’t make sense to keep this a secret. Sometimes communicating this aspiration with other colleagues will raise awareness and allow others to contribute to the development of your team member too.
Development opportunities don’t need to just come from within your team. Let others help push your people into the Satisfaction Zone too!
What do you think? How do you help your people move into the Satisfaction Zone? Leave a comment below and let me know!