Guest post from Hilary Grosskopf:
Managing a team can sometimes feels more like managing a revolving door. When retention is poor, leaders spend valuable time interviewing and training rather than making progress. For organizations, attrition is an expensive issue that takes money away from impactful progress, innovation, employee benefits, and enjoyable team activities. Intelligent hiring decisions and satisfying paychecks are not enough to retain your best team members.
As a leader, it’s essential to be proactive about your approach to engagement in order to build your team and retain your best team members. Once your team is in place, team members must feel a sense of clarity, healthy challenge, and connection every day. When team members lose interest and motivation, they soon start to look for a new opportunity that fills this void.
Three practices that will help you retain your best team members and make more impactful progress:
1. Give Clear Direction
Leaders often give direction about responsibilities to individual team members when they join the team. Over time, meetings to review objectives, responsibilities, and progress move down on the priority list for busy leaders. However, it’s essential to give frequent, clear direction in team meetings as well as in one-on-one meetings with team members. Without clarity about objectives and priorities from the central perspective of the leader, team members work in different directions and people do redundant work. Misalignment around priorities and delegation breeds animosity amongst the team. When team members are not clear about their responsibilities and objectives, they become frustrated and lose motivation. Team members need clarity and connection to the purpose of their individual and the collective efforts. Spend time in team meetings reviewing team objectives and facilitating two-way dialogue about priorities and progress. Use a white board to write down objectives, talk through timelines, and delegate tasks together. Spend time in weekly one-on-one meetings reviewing individual objectives, responsibilities, and progress.
2. Give Positive Acknowledgement
So many leaders overlook the simple yet powerful practice of acknowledgement. When days feel busy and getting the work done becomes a challenge in itself, leaders forget that acknowledgement is what keeps team members motivated and connected. Positive acknowledgement is a form of energy for team members. To fuel productivity and provide motivation, give acknowledgement for small and large accomplishments. A “thank you” in person or via e-mail goes a long way in making a team member feel valued and appreciated for his or her work. During team meetings or one-on-one meetings with team members, spend time acknowledging wins and milestones. Lead by example in giving positive acknowledgement and team members will start to give positive acknowledgement to each other as well.
3. Give Opportunities for Development
Leaders often assume that opportunities for development and career growth only come with a promotion. However, the best team members are always looking for opportunities to learn, develop skills, and gain new experience. It’s up to the leader to support team members in continuously growing, even between promotions. The most engaging form of learning and development happens through special projects. A special project is a project that adds new value to the team while also allowing the team member to develop new skills. Is there a project you have been putting on the back burner for a while? Is there a task or project you could hand off to a team member? Spend time mentoring by transferring skills, giving knowledge, and providing feedback during and after the project. Ideally, a special project will help a team member prepare for the next level in his or her career by building new skills and knowledge in alignment with his or her interests. Other opportunities for development include team shadowing sessions where team members can share skills and ideas, educational field trips where team members can immerse in company context, and courses where team members can build relevant skills and knowledge.
Though retention is challenging in a fast-paced and competitive business environment, leaders have the power to retain team members with authentic offerings that money can’t buy. The best leaders provide clear direction, positive acknowledgement, and opportunities for development. These practices give team members peace of mind, healthy challenge, and genuine connection.