By Bruce Tulgan
The question is: In today’s talent wars where employees have more negotiating power in the job market, how DO you gain control of turnover and create a winning culture that attracts and retains the best employees?
Step one to gaining control of turnover is cultivating what we call the prestige factor. In order to retain the best today, you need to send two messages: “Not everyone gets to work here,” and “It is a privilege and an honor to work here.”
The one thing that organizations with prestigious culture all have in common is a reputation for shining a “bright light of scrutiny” on the organization and every single one of its employees. That is, their managers spell out expectations and evaluate employee performance against those expectations, on a continuous and ongoing basis.
Managers are critical when it comes to building prestige factor, even if an organization’s brand isn’t prestigious on its own. When managers shine a bright light on themselves and every one they are responsible for managing, they are setting a higher standard and holding people to it at the same time. Having managers who provide their direct reports with guidance, direction, and support is one surefire way to boost prestige.
Remember, part of sending the message that “it’s a privilege and an honor to work here” is sending the message that “not everyone gets to work here!” The hard truth is that the best talent doesn’t like working with low performers, especially if those low performers are still collecting a paycheck. If you want the best to stay, you have to figure out how to get turnover to increase among low performers.
Remember that stubborn low performers hate being held accountable for concrete actions and deliverables, and usually will find a way to escape a manager’s bright light of scrutiny. It’s not uncommon for low performers to “fire themselves” after just days or weeks of sustained scrutiny.
The vast group of employees are neither superstars nor low performers – they fall somewhere in the middle. Don’t forget them! Use that bright light of scrutiny to help mid-level talent identify their performance blind spots, and then to support them in addressing those blind spots. By paying attention to employees and their work, you tell them they are important and their work is important. Plus, you’re providing natural development opportunities that are an investment for both the employer and the employee.
When great or good employees start to lose interest in a job, or develop negative feelings for an organization, too often it is because they’ve begun struggling with their work. This could be for any number of reasons, whether they are having difficulty mastering a new skill or lacking proper direction and guidance from their superiors. When talent starts struggling with the work, the number one thing to do is recommit to highly-engaged management. Use the bright light of scrutiny even more rigorously, to help the manager and the employee identify what’s going wrong and how to make things go better. Get every leader in the organization to be more disciplined about meeting regularly with their direct reports, one-on-one, to improve employee performance together.
People feel much better about a job when they feel they are winning as opposed to losing. The problem is that you cannot make them feel that they are winning just by telling them they are. You actually have to do the hard work of helping them start winning. That is how you shift the momentum and can start improving performance for everyone on an ongoing basis.