Want to know how to retain your best employees?

The number one reason people quit their jobs according the Pew Research Center is feeling disrespected followed closely by low pay and the lack of opportunity for advancement according to an article from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley.  Having taught How to Hire, Train, and Retain the Best Employees in various venues including major state CPA societies, I summarize key points from this article, and I offer additional insights expanding on the ideas from this article to promote collaboration and understanding.


Why are people quitting?


Everyone needs to be valued in terms of their worth. When norms are violated, and individuals do not feel respected this becomes toxic. Think about it. Can you recall how many times you have been appreciated, given encouragement, and been positively reinforced for the work that you do? Now can you recall a time when you were disrespected, felt despair, felt that you were treated unfairly, and that you were disrespected? Typically, you judge others by their last worst act. It is part of the human condition related to survival. You want to disassociate with those that make you feel poorly, blame you, and treat you inappropriately.

Civility matters. Positive reinforcement, acknowledge accomplishments, awards, merit pay, being congratulated for going above on beyond reinforce appreciation.

With employees being identified as essential and nonessential during covid this opened a lot of people’s eyes. With more workers deciding to work from home some or all of the time as we are coming out of COVID-19 workers are finding themselves in various camps of who goes into work in the office and how often. When not seeing each other in the office you miss those informal discussions, thumbs up to encourage one another, a friendly smile, and other informal reinforcements. On the other hand, you may not.

With COVID-19, unrest throughout the world, and increasing unstable climate and economic conditions these all add stress in employees’ lives. Often the workplace is one of the few stable areas. Yet with polarization of reds and blues, this may not be the case. So, with all this what do you do?


How do you promote respect?


How does someone else want to be valued and how often? We are all different. Some may prefer a text and fairly regularly. Others want honest feedback in ways that they feel valued on a less frequent basis. Try some alternatives, see what works and then apply it consistently. Consistent communication at the level wanted by the other person builds trust. By building positive, timely, quality communication, when you may make a mistake and provide potentially disrespectful commentary, you are more likely to be forgiven.

The authors (Kristie Rogers, Beth S. Schinoff, Nitya Chawla) of this article offer four tips. These are:

  1. Respect the value of what your coworkers do. Be sure and thank others for what they do and make sure they know they are appreciated. Reinforce with them why they are critical to your and the organization’s success. Share the big picture.
  2. Respect your coworkers’ individual job performance. The key is to respect the individual and note how their contribution matters. Peer recognition matters. Encourage others to appreciate peers. Peers often relate better to each other. Encourage others to relate to each other and thank each other. Ask them to be specific with respect to the behavior that is being appreciated.
  3. Respect your co-workers’ autonomy. Since you may not see each other as often, respect their time and when they are available. Understand their schedules and how they balance work and life. Develop trust. Trust that they are working hard and doing the right thing. Provide balance with personal time like picking up children and that they will make up the time in the evening.
  4. Respect your coworkers’ struggles. Everyone has struggles. Recognize that frustration and anxiety are normal. These are not normal times as much as we want them to be. Recognize feelings. Ask how others are doing. Make work a safe place and work on team building.

This quote sums things up nicely:

“The good news is that small changes to your own behavior toward your co-workers can make a big difference in how respected they feel.”


Personal observations


In my book, The Servant Manager, 208 tips from the best places to work in America, I offer the following commentary to help you.

  • Catch your employees doing something right at least once a week and thank them for something specific.
  • Get them the resources they need from their perspective and don’t micromanage.
  • Give employees a chance to shine in leadership and accomplishment.

I have found that these three simple statements have gone a long way for front line managers, middle managers, and executives to enhance relationships with their teams and peers. By taking the time to build good working, respectful, connected relationships, listening actively to understand what is happening with others in and outside of work, and educating them the way they want to be educated this goes a long way towards being collaborative.

It is not about me. It is all about we. It begins with me.

Focus on the other person and truly listen to them by paraphrasing, summarizing, asking open ended questions, and empathizing with them. Lead with compassion. That is calm the fire within you and remain confident and competent. By keeping your head when others may not be keeping theirs and focusing on the problems at hand you will gain respect and develop your own leadership skills.

Have fun and laugh too. Everyone needs to laugh. Laughter lightens your load mentally and physically changes your body. The Mayo Clinic states that you take in more air, and this boosts your productivity. My own newsletter always has a short video to give you a smile and help you laugh. Those videos are typically the most or one of the most viewed items. People need humor at work. See what you can do to lighten the load.

There it is. Hopefully, you can take away some ideas to help you retain the best people going forward. Let me know what you think.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]