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July 2019

Retaining Your Best People

Tips for creating a sticky workplace culture.

Written by Paul Thallner | 0 comment

It’s not getting any easier to attract and retain great employees. In particular, the availability of bright, talented 35- to 45-year-olds is on the decline for all employers, not just the ski industry, according to research by the Association of Training and Development. And if you consider data from Gallup and others, showing that 75 percent of employees in typical organizations are at least passively searching for new jobs, we have the makings of a serious crisis.

Fear not—there are solutions. This is about controlling what you can control. You can’t control national hiring trends or the number of available prospective employees. What you can control, though, is your focus on retaining talented employees who have institutional knowledge, a track record of delivering, and familiarity with the strategic direction of your company.
Redirecting your efforts—and those of HR leaders, hiring managers, and others responsible for staffing—toward retaining your best talent is key.

How to Retain Your Employees
There are myriad strategies, methods, and actions that will help keep your best people happy, engaged—and sticking around.

First, change your mindset. People choose to stay with an organization for many more reasons than money. Multiple HR studies show compensation is not the only driver of strong retention, and rarely do people leave or stay solely because of money. It comes down to workplace culture. Great employees need caring, competent, and trustworthy leaders to guide them. So, your company needs to ensure that its leaders are not only highly qualified, but also capable of fostering talent effectively. According to a 2015 study by two Duke researchers, 91 percent of executives said culture is important at their firm, and 78 percent view culture as one of the top five factors that affect their firm’s value.

Understand what it’s like to work for you. Ranstaad research found that 86 percent of employees felt their happiness on the job depended on employers letting them know that they were valued. Do you know what your employees say about their experience working at your company? A professional organizational analysis—such as facilitated focus groups or an organizational 360—can provide profound insights, and also give employees a way to be heard and valued. Wouldn’t you want to know if people feel connected to your company specifically vs. connected to the lifestyle that comes with working in the industry?

Commit to equitable pay to stay competitive in the marketplace. Today more than ever, gender pay equity is an issue that workers are very passionate about. Employers can send a strong signal about values to current and future workers by committing to and communicating about equitable pay practices. This will not only deepen employee engagement, but it enables your organization to effectively fight for and win top talent in an environment with very low unemployment rates and high levels of job-switching. Review your pay practices for gender pay equity and develop a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining loyal employees.

The pay gap is real. Consider this data from a multi-year (2011-2016) salary survey conducted by payroll company ADP:
• Women, on average, earn a 17 percent lower salary than men.
• Women ages 20 to 30 with a low starting salary had near equal base salary to men; however, the gap worsened for females after six years.

Fair pay practices are becoming more than an important “corporate value”—they are becoming an expectation. There are many moving parts to consider when addressing pay equity, and it is easy to slide backwards. But leaders can take a number of steps to create equitable compensation outcomes:
• Take a close look at employee total compensation, including both base and incentive pay, to identify gender pay gaps.
• Utilize industry benchmarks as a point of comparison to determine how best to address any issues.
• Examine recruiting practices and guidelines given to those in hiring positions to negotiate salary and incentives for new hires.
• Properly train managers who are responsible for performance reviews and associated pay increases on equitable pay practices.
• Update HR technology to better monitor and analyze total compensation and track against organizational goals for gender pay equity.
• Communicate company policies on equitable pay practices to managers and employees to ensure transparency.

Encourage ideas and contributions. Outdoor industry companies are very good at soliciting ideas from employees. However, employees still feel a desire to make a meaningful contribution at work. Where’s the disconnect? From my experience analyzing dozens of companies, the disconnect comes from managers who treat employees more like machines than people. If a leader appreciates an employee’s idea more than the person giving it, that employee will quickly stop contributing. Leaders who show genuine concern for others have far more successful and productive teams.

Thank people frequently. According to O.C. Tanner, a company that specializes in employee recognition, recognizing employees has benefits far beyond boosting engagement or motivation. Citing neuro research, it says that expressing sincere thanks not only increases employee productivity, but also creates a positive culture. Gratitude becomes viral, which in turn leads people to deliver more discretionary effort and achieve greater satisfaction.

Continuously develop your leaders and potential leaders. Unfortunately, the outdoor industry is notoriously challenged in its ability to develop its people. Too many leaders find themselves in positions at which they are not fully prepared to succeed. Leaders try anyway—sometimes heroically—to make it work. However, as stress mounts, we see more “bad boss” behavior come out. It’s no wonder the number one reason people give for quitting their jobs is “my boss.”

People in management positions are like professional athletes; they need continuous training and development to perform at a high level over a long period. Executive coaching and leadership team off-sites (or a combination of both) can result in personal and team development plans along with accountability systems to keep everyone on track.

Deliver clarity. People need to know what’s expected of them. When an employee at any level is given vague direction and no clear standards for success, the employee begins to wonder if he or she is being set up for failure. Such employees could be among the 75 percent of people looking for another job.

Providing clarity is a major responsibility of anyone supervising employees. If a leader can’t provide it to his or her team, then that leader might not be getting it from his or her boss. If you lead a team and don’t have clarity from your boss, your team likely lacks clarity as well. Insist on clarity—you owe it to yourself and your team.

Make strong connections. Research shows that emotional connection is our strongest motivator—not money or power. If you create a corporate culture that emphasizes connection, you will retain and attract talent, and have more fulfilled teams.

But be thoughtful about it: treating employees to lunch shows you care, but the conversation at the lunch will determine if your company will develop a sticky workplace culture.