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Keeping and Motivating the Best Employees

Keeping and Motivating the Best Employees

In “You Win With People” we talked about the need to hire the very best people to build your team. Now that you’ve done that the question becomes, how do you keep them, and how do you keep them motivated.

Much has been written about Employee Retention and about Motivation. But most of what has been written has been written in terms of the average employee. In fact, if you are measured at all by your company in this area, it’s almost always a measurement of employee retention. But all turnover is not bad turnover, so a retention measurement is actually a false measurement of how you’re hiring and firing practice helped the company.

So back to the question. How do you keep and motivate the best employees that you’ve hired? All human beings have basic needs that must be met, starting with food and shelter. So it’s obvious that you must pay a fair wage and provide adequate benefits or people won’t be able to stay with you. But once the basic needs are met, does it require more money or more elaborate benefits packages to keep the best employees?

In reality, neither are truly required.

Pay and benefits only go so far, and the best employees, the intelligent, self motivated, team oriented, results oriented employees are not out to squeeze the last dollar from their employers. The best employees have other needs that must be met and the good news is that you, their manager can meet these needs yourself.

Recent studies of highly motivated employees show that once their basic needs are met that other factors keep them motivated and interested in their jobs. Here are the 12 questions that the best employees want to be answered:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

  9. Are my coworkers committed to doing quality work?

  10. Do I have a best friend at work?

  11. In the last 6 months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

It’s important to note that of these 12 questions, 11 of them (all except number 8) are controlled locally by the employee, the manager, or the supervisor. This means that the first and second line managers have enormous control over their ability to motivate and retain the talented employees that they’ve hired. You can even argue that you directly impact number 8 based on how you represent the company.

Look back at your own career and think about the people you’ve worked for and which one’s you were most willing to follow. Were these the needs that that leader met for you?

Goals and Objectives

Picture this scenario and see if it seems familiar to you.

“Dave, I need you to give me the goals and objectives for your group for the new year”.

“Sure boss. What would you like them to look like?”

“You know. The usual. Increase productivity by 10%. Reduce your headcount by 15%. Implement some new controls. Oh, and I need them in two days.”

Frankly, I’ve had this discussion about 25 times in my career and it always made me just a little bit crazy. Without any real look at what is going to happen this year, or any idea what the top executives are shooting for, I’m going to lay out my department’s goals for the next year. Then I’m going to drive my people to meet these goals so that I get a good review and an increase in salary.

Not only does this scenario ignore the direction that should be set by the top executives, but it also misses the single most important reason you are in business….. The customer. So, while you’re out doing the victory dance for meeting your objectives, your customer is sticking sharp pins into a voodoo doll that bears a remarkable resemblance to you.

Let’s cut right to the chase here. When you create your departmental objectives based on the above conversation, the only thing you are really thinking about is getting the task complete so that you can check it off your list. You’re not thinking about customer satisfaction, or how you are going to improve quality, or even major initiatives that you know (or don’t know) are coming your way. You’re thinking about getting the boss off your back.

And why not? The exercise above is just that, an exercise.

So, how should objectives really be set?

From the top down. The very top. The CEO of your company should be sitting down with his top executives and laying out the 2 or 3 top priorities for the company for next year. Those priorities represent the vision for the company. Each executive takes those 2 or 3 priorities and determines what they can do to support the vision. Working together the executives assure that the goals that they are passing down to the next level of management are consistent with each other and with the overall company goals.

Nothing can do more damage to a company and its customers’ then major functional areas with conflicting or unrelated goals and objectives.

After the buy in has been received at that level, those visions and goals are passed down to the next level of management, where more specific goals and objectives are designed and shared with their customers. It’s critical that everyone in the company see and understand the vision from the top, and that everyone understands what they are doing to support the vision. By developing a company vision at the top and then developing goals and objectives that explicitly support those goals you can then be sure that you are supporting the companies true goals. Then when you look at what you have accomplished for the year you and your customers will be looking at the same results.

So, how should you act on this?

Start now. And start by asking your boss for the goals and objectives of your senior executives so that you can stay in synch. Plant the seed that you would like to see them to make sure you are marching down the right path and then share what you have developed with your customers. If nothing else it will highlight where you and your customers are going.

Remember, developing goals and objectives for your team that are fundamentally aligned with the companies strategic objectives is a fundamental part of good management.

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