Unemployment rates are low, and your employees have options. What’s more is that employees are more likely to quit because of you, their manager, than anything else in the workplace. So if you want to avoid the high financial and productivity costs of turnover, guess what: You play a key role in keeping them from jumping ship.
In fact, you have a hand in every aspect of their work—and how much satisfaction it brings them—say Julian Birkinshaw and James Manktelow, authors of Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss.
The authors admit that there’s no quick fix to becoming a great boss. In fact, you have to master a wide range of skills—the authors lay out 100 of them in the book—to become a truly exceptional leader. That said, even making small changes, starting today, can help.
Here are a few of the authors’ tips for what you can do to create the kind of workplace culture that boosts retention:
Work effectively with people from different generations
While you shouldn’t overemphasize the differences between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y, it’s not a good idea to ignore them either. For instance, if you are a Baby Boomer managing a group of Gen Y employees (a.k.a. Millennials), don’t resist their preference for working virtually or through microblogging sites (they think email is very old school), and be more proactive in giving recognition and praise.
Learn to listen carefully and intensely to employees
Listening is one of the most important methods you can use to understand and motivate people. It helps you understand what upsets the people who work for you so you can help clear these things away. It also helps you appreciate what excites and energizes them so you can help them shape their work in this direction. Active listening—where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying but to understand the complete message being sent—helps make employees feel heard.
Give effective praise and recognition
Walk around looking for opportunities to give praise. Be specific about what you’re praising and do it in an appropriate way—some people love public praise while others are embarrassed by it. And be sure that praise is honest and proportionate. Insincere praise will weaken trust.
Help people develop self-confidence
People want to feel good about themselves and their abilities, and they want to be successful at work. When you build your employees’ self-confidence, you’ll help them achieve both goals. One good strategy is to create “mastery experiences” for them. You set small goals for them that allow them to demonstrate to you and themselves that they have mastered a skill—then you can move on to set progressively harder challenges.
Learn how to give good feedback
It is very easy to offer feedback badly. If you do, it can backfire and damage your relationship with the people you are managing. The authors say you need to give feedback often—vastly preferable to saving it all for the dreaded “annual review meeting”—and give more positive feedback than negative. With negative feedback, stick to hard facts and don’t generalize. Otherwise you end up trying to justify your subjective views, which the other person may well challenge, leaving them feeling aggrieved and angry.
Know how to motivate on an individual and a team level
“We focus heavily on one classic approach, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory, because it offers immediate, practical advice,” says Birkinshaw. “Herzberg observed the things that make people dissatisfied with their jobs (‘hygiene factors’) are not the same things that make them happy with them (‘motivators’). You first need to find out exactly what is making people unhappy and then you can work on positive motivators like how work is done and how jobs are designed.”
“Because so much work is done in teams, it also makes sense to address motivation at that level,” he adds. “If you can get a handle on the common motivators for people on your team, you can structure the way they interact with each other, which in turn will help them get the best out of their work.”
Handle poor performance right away
When you don’t deal with poor performers, it puts a lot of pressure on other team members. That can cause high performers to leave. Poor performance has two basic sources: low motivation and low ability. There are many ways to deal with the former, including smart job structuring, support, feedback and coaching. For ability issues the authors recommend the Five Rs of Performance Improvement (Resupply, Retrain, Refit, Reassign, Release) from David Whetten and Kim Cameron’s book, Developing Management Skills.
“The same skills that collectively make a person a great boss also create a deeply engaging culture that nurtures and excites employees,” says Manktelow. “You might even call it an unquittable culture.”
About the Authors:
James Manktelow is founder and CEO of MindTools.com. He has written, edited, and contributed to more than 1,000 articles, more than sixty workbooks, and seven books and e-books on management and leadership.
Julian Birkinshaw is professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, deputy dean for programs, and academic director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School. He is the author of fourteen books..
About the Book:
Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss presents 100 skills organized into four major domains: Know and Manage Yourself, Manage Tasks and Get Things Done, Work With and Manage Other People, and General Commercial Awareness. Inside the domains, the skills are further broken down into 18 core areas of management (each of which becomes a chapter). The authors provide practical advice for each of the 100 skills and, where appropriate, direct you to MindTools.com for a deeper dive into specific skill-building articles, worksheets, videos and more.