Magnetic Managers: Retaining Your Top Employees

How do you feel when a valued employee gives notice? Are you shocked? Disappointed? Do you feel like you've been jilted? Do you have the uncomfortable feeling it was somehow your fault? If so, you are probably right.

The #1 reason really good people leave is because they are dissatisfied with their relationship with their immediate supervisor or manager. You may have heard the old saying, "People join companies, but they leave their managers."

While that great employee probably told you the reason was "for more money," a study of more than 19,000 employee exit interviews by the Saratoga Institute found that only 12 percent of employees left their jobs in pursuit of higher-paying positions. On the other side of the equation, nearly 90 percent of employers think the #1 reason workers leave is for higher salaries, but only because that's what they're most often told. (No one with any sense is going to jeopardize their work record and references by saying something like: "I'm fed up to here with your management style and I'm not going to take it any more." "They offered me more money" is a white lie that saves face for both parties.)

At a recent seminar, I asked more than 300 attendees how many of them had a great boss. Just over 25 percent raised their hands. I then asked that group if they would consider leaving that great manager and taking a new job if someone offered them a 5 percent raise. No hands went up. "How about 10 percent?" Still no hands. "15 percent?" About 20 hands went up. At 20 percent, almost all the rest of the hands went up. Bottom line: It takes a lot to pry great people away from what I like to call "Magnetic Managers."

While not everybody can be a great leader, anyone can become a Magnetic Manager by simply incorporating the following six key behaviors into their management practices.

  1. Hire right. Red Auerbach, the legendary NBA coach, said it best: "If you hire the wrong people, all the fancy management techniques in the world won't bail you out." The bad news is most business owners and managers put more thought and care into writing big-ticket purchase orders than they do into hiring new employees. How much research do you do and how much justifying documentation do you write before buying an expensive piece of new equipment? Do you spend half as much time and effort deciding who to hire? It's a choice that will ultimately cost more money, as well as have a more dramatic effect on the bottom line.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Good communication is basic to successful management. In spite of all the literature dealing with the theory and practice of this subject, Peter Drucker, in his foreword to a book on communication, states quite bluntly that poor communication is a direct result of our ignorance. He contends that we do not know what to say, when to say it, how to say it, or whom to say it to. Briefly, your goal is to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page; no hidden agendas or information withheld. The skills you'll need are speaking and listening, reading and writing, and observation (gestures and body language).
  3. The Platinum Rule. Manage people the way they prefer to be managed, not the way you prefer to manage them. With the exception of the respect you treat every employee with, a "one size fits all" management style is a recipe for disaster. Some prefer lots of coaching and collaboration; others do their best work independently with minimal feedback. Some employees will want to interact with you on a daily basis; some will prefer to see you only once a week (or less). Some prefer to learn by doing; others would rather study the manual, then give it a try. Productivity increases and employee turnover decreases when you suit your style to theirs.
  4. Accountability. The ancient Romans had a tradition that whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch. Meet this kind of a standard by holding yourself and each of your team members accountable for accomplishing specific goals and tasks. Stand under the arch.
  5. Recognition. Inside every person on your team there is a three-year-old standing on the diving board, yelling: "Mom! Dad! Look at me!" Every single one of us needs acknowledgment, appreciation, and validation. Look for things that are going right and give sincere, specific recognition. Recognition can range from simply saying "Good job" to a certificate or gold star to a healthy bonus check.
  6. Positive mental attitude. Attitudes are contagious. Would anyone want to catch yours? They would if you put a lid on "The Four C's:" complaining, criticism, comparison, and condemnation. Focus instead on optimism, accomplishments, and opportunities. Shake things up and make work fun through friendly competitions, celebrations, traditions, team t-shirts, joke of the day, a bell to ring when something great happens. Put on your thinking cap. No one leaves the when they're having fun.

Mel Kleiman is a speaker, consultant, and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. He is one of only 650 speakers worldwide to have earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation and is president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems and for recruiting, selection, and retention. He has written five books, including The 5 Firsts: A Simple System To Onboard and Engage Top Talent, and he publishes a regular blog. Find him at 713-771-4401 or at mkleiman@humetrics.com, www.Humetrics.com, and www.KleimanHR.com.

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