When you sell talent, your inventory goes down in the elevator every night. If your business depends on your employees coming up with great ideas, maintaining strong client relationships or possessing the sort of odd knowledge that not just anyone would have a handle on, then now’s the time to cement those bonds between your people and your company.
Sure, you get calls and emails every day from people looking for jobs. But they might not be the right people. And even if they were, you’d have to train them, give them time to settle into your company culture, help your clients feel comfortable with new names and faces. It’s much better business to keep the team you have. I realize that at the moment they’re all unbelievably grateful for their jobs. However, when the economy turns around, which it eventually will, you don’t want to lose them because some other offer comes their way. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of the grass is greener scenario:
1. What’s good for the employees is good for the company. Whether you’re talking faster computers or better coffee or good music or letting people bring their dogs to work, whatever you can do to help your employees enjoy their time at the office will repay you in morale, productivity and loyalty.
2. Let everybody be the boss of something. Teamwork is great, but we all like a chance to be in charge. Give people their own projects to run, and then back off and let them do it. Your number two person can probably run a sizable piece of business without your interference. Your admin can make reasonable decisions on what restaurant to choose when ordering lunch to be delivered for a client meeting. Even the intern can handle something without being second guessed by you. What the heck, let him order whichever brand of copier paper he thinks best.
3. Give them the flexibility to deal with what’s going on in their lives. The people in your employ are human beings, which means that although they may be professional and dedicated workers, they also have kids who break their arms, aging parents who begin to lose their minds, dogs that need surgery and water heaters that burst. Assume that all your employees will need time out of the office to deal with this kind of stuff, and let them know it’s okay. They’ll make up in gratitude what you lose in a few hours of their productivity.
4. Help them with their career goals. Every employee wants to know they have a future with the company, and it means a great deal if they know the boss has given some thought to his or her career path. Talk with your people about what they see themselves doing down the road and how they think they could contribute to the company’s growth. One caveat here: I always stress with employees, particularly the young, entitled ones, that my company is not a school with an obligation to provide them with an education in whatever area they wish. The onus is on them to figure out what they can contribute that happens to be something the company actually needs.
5. Offer ways to help them stay healthy. This could be as large as offering to spring for gym memberships or as small as keeping fresh fruit in the break room, but anything you can do to help your people improve their wellness is a good investment in your relationship. Encourage the ladies in accounting to form a walking group at lunch, or sponsor the marathoners in the group who are running to raise money for leukemia, but make wellness a priority in your culture.