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Hold on to your best employees

The crisis on the financial markets seems to have come to an end. Yet, many companies are still daily confronted with the consequences of the financial crisis. How can you keep your best people these days? How can you avoid that they leave your company when they receive an interesting proposal from another employer? Now, I am especially talking about these people who really can make the difference, those competent people who make a significant difference in the bottom-line of your company.
  1. Give them chances to develop themselves. Although there might not always be budget for trainings, you can insert people in other parts of the organization, allowing them to learn new skills and to be challenged again. Moreover, this is an excellent way to avoid the notorious creation of silos in organizations. Exchanges between different departments allow your employees to see what is happening in other parts of the organization. In addition, it can often be useful to offer individual coaching, performed by someone with whom your employees don’t have any hierarchical relationship. This extended repertoire of different behaviors will allow the coachees to operate as role models, in order to introduce changes.
  2. Focus on ambition. People would like to be proud of the organization they are working for. They would love to work in an ambitious team, one allowing them to make progress. Make sure this ambition is formulated and communicated and that it is not restricted to lip-service. This will create an environment in which people are challenged to give the best of themselves. 'Bore-out' could be a trendy word, but in practice, I have often seen that people react to a lack of stimuli in the same way as they do to a surplus of stimuli. The management is responsible for a sound balance of stimuli. This is quite a challenge, but it is necessary in order to avoid that people get burned out.
  3. Don’t hesitate to say ‘thank you’! We don’t do that enough. We have a Protestant-Christian and Roman Catholic background, which makes it so difficult for us to say ‘thank you’ to our employees and to give them compliments. It is free, but has an incredibly big impact on people. Use it, but only if you are sincere! Thank your people when they have done something well. Give them feedback allowing them to grow. Tell them explicitly that they are important to the company. In public if possible. During the years I have been working as the General Manager of an American company, I have so often experienced that compliments have a powerful impact. Always stick to the rule that you shouldn’t criticize someone in public. It is well-known that people prefer to work for an attractive brand at the beginning of their career, but that they often leave the company because of their direct supervisor. They might have gained experience, but they have been robbed of an illusion!
  4. Be careful with rises! Rises and increasing other fringe benefits are known as ways to hold on to your people. But financial stimuli have only a short-term effect. Earning a higher salary is one of the things people get quickly used to. Moreover, 52% of it is taken away by the state (in the Netherlands at least). As a consequence, these rises are first taken up in taxes and the rest of it goes to a savings account or is being consumed. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself as a senior manager if you really want those people who only work for you because of the extra money they earn. Fundamentally, their motivation has not changed at all.
  5. Let them participate in the decision-making process. It has been proved that you have to imply your people in the decision-making process, in order to hold on to them. By giving them (a) more (direct) impact on the organization’s decisions, they will become more loyal to the organization. Apart from this, it has also been proved that it is an effective way to bring new ideas into the organization more quickly.
The best leaders know that their financial performances depend on the people working for them. In the course of time, they have learnt to be very critical about the management of their key performance indicators. ‘What is our growth compared to last year and to our budget’? ‘What is our working capital and our cash position?’ ‘What is our margin per customer?’ Their financial dashboard displays a crucial part of the information about the company’s situation. But they also know that holding on to their most important employees and offering them chances to grow and to develop themselves, are also important for the future of the organization.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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