Worried About Employee Turnover? It Takes Motivation, Trust, Social Media and a Clear Vision to Keep Them From Looking

by Sharmi Duncan

As companies have had to reduce expenses through limiting employee development and incentive programs, and at the same time share more of the expenses associated with employee benefits, today's worker is smarter and more mobile than ever before. There’s a plethora of tools an employee can use to research new job opportunities. Nowadays, company websites often have an Employment Section which provides information about open positions. These sites make the application process easy and private.  With more than 500 million active users on Facebook, more than 100 million registered users spanning 200 countries on LinkedIn, and even Twitter with 10 million users, today’s personal networking arena is unparalleled in size.

In his book, "The Effective Executive," Peter Drucker stated that workers cannot be “supervised closely or in detail” - and in today’s world, the challenges have grown more acute for the employer. Today’s worker has invested in education and training and is responsible for working within complex supply chain systems making him more valuable in the job market.

During an IFDA educational session about social media in the workplace, one food service distributor veteran asked if he could monitor all web activity for his employees so he could see if they were visiting job sites. My last company used undisclosed resources to monitor employee job-seeking activity on sites like LinkedIn. One of my colleagues was actually “called to the principal’s office”  after updating her profile on LinkedIn, meaning she was called upstairs to the person in charge and confronted by the CEO regarding her activities on LinkedIn.  During the meeting she was not specifically told that Linked In activity was forbidden, but the message was clear enough-don’t let us catch you looking for another job. At that point she knew she had to be very careful in her job search activities, so she opted to use a staffing agency in order to protect her privacy.  This sort of spying is an inefficient use of company resources. Rather than create fear in your employees, focus on creating an environment that helps keep the staff motivated and focused – and less likely to look for other opportunities.

Professionals want to know where the company is going and how their efforts contribute to that journey.  They want to know the company’s vision and to understand their role in reaching the vision. Overly broad, feel-good statements don't get anyone excited, are meaningless, and don't allow for continuous evaluation to measure progress. A strong vision statement must be far-reaching, clear, concise and measurable. The company vision must be driven down to the individual level so that everyone knows what he or she will be measured against and how employees contribute to overall vision.

Any leader who wants to be followed must have a vision worth following. It is like coaching a team:  keep saying the same thing in different ways until the message is heard (Rule of 7’s). Never underestimate the power of meeting with employees one-on-one to explain the vision in a way that is sure to be understood. And leaders must continually refine goals to make them as clear and attainable as possible. Employees want to feel proud of their company and themselves. They want to share that pride with others, so when there’s success, managers and executives must share it both within the company and with outside vendors and customers. Enthusiasm is contagious so share it and encourage it!

Keeping employees engaged is a matter of keeping the corporate vision alive and in tune with the company.  Employees want to be involved and rewarded-this process begins with individual goal setting, which is related to the company mission. For some resources, it is harder to establish measurable goals, but it is critical that the work they do be evaluated against an established performance standard. This will ensure that they are committed to the overall success of the company.  Getting buy-in entails a lot of listening, and sometimes that means letting employees decide what their goals are and how they should be measured. This not only makes them feel like part of the process, it also guarantees that what is being measured and evaluated has meaning to them. Empowered employees are always more productive and loyal.

Employees take themselves seriously. Leaders should too. All employees want to know that their efforts count and they are therefore important. Formal performance and recognition programs are an essential part of all companies and have a motivating effect that surpasses giving a pay increase only. Utilizing both is the best approach, though.  Feedback on a regular basis is highly influential. A call, a handwritten note, a personal visit – all have highly motivational effects.

Food Service Distributor CEOs are generally uncomfortable with the time and energy involved in the understanding and use of social media. Many wish it would “just go away.”  For those willing to invest the time, using e-mail, Facebook, and LinkedIn to notify employees of interesting news is very successful and well received.  Digital communications isn’t a substitute for a note or phone call, but when used as a supplement to other means of communications, they all are sending the same message:  we appreciate what you do and want you to know that we do.  Employee use of social media for the benefit of the company should always be encouraged. It shows that the company is savvy and wants its employees to be excited and supportive of what it is doing. Of course, policies that protect both the employee and the company should be written and signed off on beforehand.

Trust is essential, and must go both ways. CEOs and managers must trust that employees want to help shape and be part of the vision and how to achieve it. Employees must trust that the CEO and managers not only believe in a shared vision but also depend on them to execute it. With a clear understanding of where they are going and what their roles are, employees are less inclined to start seeking new employment. For them, all of these internet tools are more of a distraction.

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