“Appreciation should scale with the level of effort required, and when it doesn’t, I come back to that existential question of ‘Why am I even doing this in the first place? Why am I putting in this extra effort?'”
This quote from a real-life employee reflects every manager’s age-old dilemma: Why can’t we retain our best talent? We call this the “Paradox of Good Employees.” The idea that when an employee produces good work, they are met with even more work, and little opportunity for actual growth, until they finally burn out and leave the company. No bueno. Recent research from Deloitte gives this strength: a whopping two-thirds of Millennials plan to leave their current organization by 2020. Even less bueno. As a manager, here are a few tips to avoid this cleverly named, but terrible, paradox.
Managers often underestimate the power of high-level and personal conversations with their team members. Most check-ins revolve around very surface discussions like “how is work going?” or “what are your goals for the next few months?” It’s your job as a people manager to delve deeper and encourage your employee to feel safe opening up to you. Find out what projects they’ve enjoyed and which ones they haven’t. Discuss how they’re feeling about their personal progress and sense of fulfillment. Social Media Today illustrated that 2/3 of employees feel “overwhelmed” at work, so plan to specifically ask about their work load, and don’t assume you already know just because you’re their boss. Sometimes it’s unavoidable that team members – especially your most talented – get overworked. But when you take the time to thoroughly communicate, your employee becomes more aware that you’re making an effort to keep them happy and will feel less resentful.
2/3 of employees feel “overwhelmed” at work
Once you’ve identified your employee’s goals and expectations – make them happen! Don’t create empty promises but instead, nurture those employees by introducing opportunities for incremental work that they will be challenged and motivated by. The same Deloitte study shared that of the Millennials looking to bail, more than six in 10 (63 percent) tie their decision to their “leadership skills are not being fully developed”. Introduce them to important senior leaders at your company, and consider mentor-matching programs. Regularly check in to make sure they’re progressing in a positive way. While this may seem like a lot of effort, it will save you the time and effort of having to constantly replace top talent and will create a stronger team in the end. Let’s take Google’s infamous “20 percent time” initiative. Ever heard of Google News, Gmail, AdSense or the Google Bay Area shuttle buses? These innovations were all a result of the aforementioned concept, which is used to encourage its employees to spend 20 percent of their time on what they think will most benefit Google. Clearly, allowing people the creativity and freedom to pursue projects that excite them has led to spectacular results.
These days, managers often shy away from the idea of recognizing individuals out of fear of hurting other people’s feelings or making them feel less important. While it’s necessary to show gratitude to your whole team (see more on our recent “Thank You” post), it’s equally important to reward the very best employees so they know the stellar work they’re producing is appreciated by top management. This also alerts the rest of the team to who is being recognized, so that they in turn can strive for excellence. One suggestion – give the gift of an experience, like those we offer at Blueboard. In addition to being more noticeable and unique than the standard bonus, you’re guaranteed to notice a sudden spike in productivity when the rest of your team sees that Jim was rewarded with a day of skydiving, martinis and Aston Martins (like our friends at Generation Y Not in the video above). Just make sure when you’re rewarding top employees to always be specific as to why this person is being recognized so everyone knows what type of actions and qualities are desirable. Best practice is to tie their efforts back to company values, or specific KPIs that their efforts positively impacted.
#Recognition Best Practice: Tie back good efforts to company values
“The Paradox of Good Employees” shouldn’t be the reason why you lose your best people. A genuine conversation, a bit of effort and an unforgettable reward can make the difference between retaining a hardworking employee versus having to train a new hire for the fifth time this year. The choice is yours.