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How to Hold On To Your Workforce

April 30, 2018
"As a manager you really do have a hand in almost every aspect of how your employees perceive their job—from how meaningful the work is to how stressed out they are to how supported and appreciated they feel," James Manktelow explains.

The general consensus is that employees don’t leave the company, they leave their boss.

With this in mind, James Manktelow and Julian Birkenshaw authored Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss.

"In a tight job market, you must do everything possible to create a company where employees want to stay,” explains Manktelow.

“And you as a manager really do have a hand in almost every aspect of how your employees perceive their job—from how meaningful the work is to how stressed out they are to how supported and appreciated they feel," he added.

Here are a few tips from the authors on how to create the kind of workplace culture that will attract the best and brightest—and just as important, keep them from leaving.

Learn to listen carefully and intensely to employees.

In their survey, the authors found that 66% of managers think careful listening is one of the most important methods you can use to understand and motivate people. It helps you understand what upsets the people who work for you so you can help clear these things away. It also helps you appreciate what excites and energizes them so you can help them shape their work in this direction.

Active listening—where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying but to understand the complete message being sent—helps make employees feel heard.

"Being a good listener to your employees doesn't just happen," says Birkinshaw. "You have to structure opportunities for this into the day."

Give effective praise and recognition.

The authors discovered that 55% of survey responders see giving praise as one of the most important ways of getting the best from their people. They also point out that Gallup has identified significant increases in helpfulness, cooperation, punctuality, attendance, and length of service associated with receiving regular praise. Be specific about what you're praising and do it in an appropriate way—some people love public praise while others are embarrassed by it. And be sure that praise is honest and proportionate. Insincere praise will weaken trust.

Handle poor performance right away. Don't let it fester.

When you don't deal with poor performers, it puts a lot of pressure on other team members. This can cause high performers to leave. No wonder the authors' survey found that 58% of managers see dealing with poor performance effectively as a highly important management skill. Poor performance has two basic sources: low motivation and low ability. There are many ways to deal with the former, including smart job structuring, support, feedback, and coaching.

Learn how to give good feedback.

In the authors' survey, they found that 67% of respondents believe giving high-quality feedback is the most important thing you can do to develop good people. Yet it's very easy to give feedback badly. If you do, it can backfire and damage your relationship with the people you are managing. The authors say you need to give feedback often—vastly preferable to saving it all for the dreaded "annual review meeting"—and give more positive feedback than negative. With negative feedback, stick to hard facts and don't generalize. Otherwise, you end up trying to justify your subjective views, which the other person may well challenge, leaving them feeling aggrieved and angry.

Help people develop self-confidence.

People want to feel good about themselves and their abilities, and they want to be successful at work. When you build your employees' self-confidence, you'll help them achieve both goals. One good strategy is to create "mastery experiences" for them. You set small goals for them that allow them to demonstrate to you and themselves that they have mastered a skill—then you can move on to set progressively harder challenges.

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