Six R’s and One C Spell Retention

The 2009 EDGE Report published by Robert Half International and CareerBuilder, offers a great overview of the job market today and what it looks like in the near future. The survey was conducted in the second quarter of 2009 and the results are based on the responses of 500 hiring managers and 500 workers age 18 or older.

The most striking finding is that while 90% of employees report being satisfied with their current work situation (compared to 80% in 2008), 55% of these employees plan to leave once the economic recovery is underway. It breaks down like this:

• 18% plan to change employers
• 14% plan to change careers
• 13% plan to change industries
• 10% plan to go back to school full time

This report makes it painfully clear that the past two years of cost cutting, downsizing and doing more with less have left most American workers more than ready for change. And, while we’re all more than ready for the economy to rebound, how many of us are ready, willing, or able to lose more than half our people when it does?

Best practices studies clearly show that companies with high retention rates have created work environments that consistently provide what’s dubbed the six R’s and one C of retention: recognition, rewards, respect, rules, responsibility, revelry and communication.

Taking employees for granted is the single worst mistake an employer can make. Some 25% of employees who change jobs do so because they feel unappreciated and unimportant. Because they feel disengaged, they literally disengage from their employers.

Don’t punish good performance.  Managers often expect employees who do their work well to do more of it or do it even better, leaving employees who work less well with less work to do.

Rewards go hand-in-hand with recognition, but are usually something tangible. Regardless of whether you reward your good performers with something as inexpensive as a note of thanks or a prize as lavish as an all expenses paid Caribbean cruise, you should identify the behaviors you want to encourage and reward the people who deliver.

For the past 60 years, studies have regularly shown that employees covet respect almost as much as money, sometimes rating respect higher than cash. Treat your people with at least the same respect and understanding you would show your customers. When you respect your employees, they’ll respect you, your customers and one another. Nothing you do will be valued more than giving employees your time and attention; it’s the most potent form of respect.

Too many rules stifle creativity, but no one can win if they don’t know the rules of the game. Clearly communicate what’s important and what people have to do in order to get a raise, promotion or the employee-of-the-month parking spot. Without some basic guidelines, your management decisions and recognition program will appear arbitrary and even unfair.

If you want your employees to perform responsibly and well, show and tell them what good performance looks like. Make sure they know the quality and quantity of the work you expect as well as what it will cost the company if the work isn’t done well. Take time to fully explain what you want and why you want it. Don’t micromanage though. Give employees some leeway in how they do their work.

Employees’ most important work relationships are with their immediate supervisors. If you want your employees to stay motivated and loyal, be sure that supervisors provide honest feedback and unstinting support. Without feedback on how well they’re doing, employees have no way of knowing what management desires and no tools to use for improving job performance.

Celebrate success. Do something unexpected. Have balloons delivered or throw an impromptu picnic lunch. There’s no reason work can’t be fun. A good part of Southwest Airlines’ success is because they found a way to make flying more fun. Wal-Mart has clowns in the aisles. McDonald’s doesn’t sell sack lunches, they sell Happy Meals. People flock to minimum wage jobs at Disneyland because they think it would be fun to work there. If your employees are having fun, your customers will too. Employers who create workplace fun won’t have any problem finding or keeping good people.

Last, but certainly not least, keep the lines of communication open—both ways. If employees don’t understand why something’s being done or asked of them, they’ll make up reasons why and those reasons probably won’t be favorable. And it’s just as important to listen. Sam Walton swore some of Wal-Mart’s best ideas came from their stock clerks.  An “open door” policy heads off problems before they occur and is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of your organization.

Finally, consider your employees as investors, for that’s exactly who they are. They’re investing their time, effort, energy and abilities to make your business succeed. If you’ve ever courted investors, take a moment to remember how you treated them and compare that to how you treat your employees. Any gap between the two is an opportunity to improve employee retention and profits.


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