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Leadership speaker and consultant, Founder of Turning Managers Into Leaders

Depending on your industry or market sector, employee turnover may be a fact of life, but have you noticed that when employees leave, it’s never the lousy ones that jump ship? The unfortunate reality is that the ones who are most likely to leave are the ones who are in greatest demand elsewhere. And of course, those are usually your best and your brightest.

So what are you doing to ensure that your top employees want to stay in your organization? What are you doing to engage them so that your company is their employer of choice? If the answer is “nothing,” then you’re putting yourself at a serious competitive disadvantage. Because you can bet that those who are departing are going to organizations that have taken concrete steps to entice and engage them.

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And just in case you’re wondering, the answer to employee engagement is not “money.” Let’s be clear though: Fair pay is a baseline expectation. If you’re paying less than the going rate, then your best people will become disillusioned. But if you’re paying fairly (and your employees view it as so), then giving them more money isn’t going to engage them. It is other, more intrinsic factors that will make your people feel like they have interesting and fulfilling work, and that will give them a sense of achievement. While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are five proven ideas to stop your finest from fleeing to what they see as greener pastures.

Empower your people to act

Top employees want to be valued for their knowledge and expertise. They want to be able to take an assignment, run with it, make decisions and act. That is impossible if you are a micromanager! Good leaders know that there is a balance between providing direction and dictating every minor detail. A reasonable approach is to offer some guidance at the beginning, such as required length or size, deadline or other specifics and then checking in with employees along the way to see how things are progressing. And, only if the employee is stuck, should you then provide pointers.

Praise more often

The reality is that most leaders don’t praise enough. Not because they don’t intend to, but only because they never seem to get around to it. Recognition has been proven to be a powerful intrinsic motivator, and praise is the easiest and least expensive form of recognition there is. Keep in mind that as long as praise is specific and sincere, it can never be overdone. In particular, specificity makes praise more meaningful and effective. So, praise more often.

Foster two-way communication

Open, responsive, two-way communication is vital to employee retention. If you look at the companies that are known to have high employee engagement and low turnover, you will note that they put considerable effort into communicating with their employees through a variety of vehicles including employee surveys, regularly scheduled meetings, formal postings and newsletters, and one-on-one discussions. They also give their people opportunities to speak their minds, without any negative repercussions.

Reduce perceived bureaucracy

As much as you are able, eliminate red tape. Even if you work in a large organization that is mired in bureaucracy, don’t underestimate what you can do. True, you may not be able to get rid of seemingly endless policies and procedures, but you can buffer your people from them. Look for opportunities to be flexible in the application of rules. Take on paperwork and bureaucratic activities yourself and don’t pass them on to your staff.

Provide opportunities to learn and grow

When you invest resources into training your employees, it is a visible and powerful indicator of the worth you place in your people. When you give your employees opportunities to learn new skills, it keeps them interested and excited. Training and professional development initiatives lead to better career prospects, which encourages your people to see a future with your organization. Employees who are given opportunities to learn and grow, both through formal and informal means, are inspired to make longer-term commitments to their workplaces.

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