71 percent of employees are searching for a new job, and with there being more job openings than people out of work, your employees (especially the top performers) have their pick of jobs.
Holding on to them should be a top priority for you. However, the key to retaining them may not be what you think. While perks and pay raises don’t hurt, Kerry Alison Wekelo, a human resources expert and author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture, says the key to keeping your best people on staff is to show them empathy, especially when employees are going through challenges in their personal lives.
Study after study supports that theory. An empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance, motivating workers and increasing productivity and boosting retention. It’s vital that company leaders show they care about their employees, especially when a life event, such as a family tragedy or a personal challenge, happens to a worker, Wekelo says. “We often don’t know what another person might be going through. Unfortunately, part of life is crisis, challenge, and the loss of loved ones. With a focus on people first and practicing empathy, it means so much to employees both in the immediate and in the long-term. They’ll want to work there because they feel truly cared about,” she adds.
Wekelo offers four ways you can show your employees you care:
- Cover for them. When employees have a crisis and need time away, Wekelo says, quickly and nicely assure them that they are covered and can focus on their personal situation. “This alleviates the stress of having to worry about work,” Wekelo says. “And don’t make them feel like they have to hurry back.”
- Reach out consistently and with sincerity. Consistent communication with the employees while they’re away shows them you truly care. “During the life event, regularly send employees notes or texts that you are thinking of them,” Wekelo says. “Send a personalized card, too, but the proactive, frequent communication makes all the difference. And it should continue after they return to work, which may be when they struggle most.”
- Spend one-on-one time with them. Even when things are normal in the employees’ life, sit down with them and take interest in their life outside of work. “Ask your team members how they are doing personally so they know you care more than just about their work product,” Wekelo says. “Connecting with specific examples of areas of interest aid in ensuring they know you care.”
- Listen to them about work issues – and give them a voice. “As a leader,” Wekelo says, “you send an important message by having an open-door policy. Make certain your employees know they can come to talk at anytime.” That way, she says, issues will be identified and resolved, rather than building a culture that allows them to fester.”
“Empathetic behavior shows people they are being heard and therefore appreciated,” Wekelo says, “which in turn can boost morale and productivity.”
Kerry Alison Wekelo is managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting. She also is author of Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture. Among her other accomplishments, Wekelo is a yoga teacher, life coach, award-winning author of children’s books, and the founder of Zendoway, a company that encourages holistic wellness.