Retention continues to be a major challenge for many organizations. The old saying “people don’t quit jobs … people quit leaders,” still holds true in today’s world. This blog will give you three secrets how you can retain your best employees.
I stumbled upon these 3 secrets while I was still in the Air Force. I was fortunate enough to get two flights on an F-15 fighter jet—and for a career maintenance guy, that is an extreme privilege! If you don’t know what an F-15 is, it’s one of the most renown fighter aircraft in the world. Getting a flight in an F-15 was a dream-come-true for me! Looking back at the two flights however, my greatest take-away was what I learned about the impact a leader has on retaining his/her people.
The first flight was amazing—even better than I had dreamed about. However, the second flight turned out to be a terrible memory. The difference between the two flights came down to the two pilots—specifically their actions and behaviors. The first pilot went out of his way to make the day extra special for me; the second pilot was quite the opposite.
From these two flights, here are three secrets I learned that every leader can apply to increase the chances of keeping their very best employees:
1. Treat Your People Like Heroes
Great leaders have a knack for bringing out the best in their people. Your people’s overall efforts and output will ultimately be what you are evaluated against. That makes your people the true heroes of your story, and you need to continuously ensure they know it. Simply put, you need to let them know how much you appreciate them—every day! The more they know it, the more respect and commitment they will gain for you as their leader, which ultimately bodes well for the organization in the long run.
From my two flights, the first pilot treated me like a hero from the start—he walked me through everything that was happening that day to make me feel like I was essential; he basically served me that entire day while putting his needs to the side. The second pilot treated me like dirt—he made it clear from the start that I meant nothing and he only cared about himself. The first pilot gained my total respect and commitment—I would’ve done anything for him … the second pilot, well…not so much.
2. Hit the "Affective" Domain
Everyone is going through good times and bad times… as a leader, your people will be inspired by your actions and behaviors if you show them you care about their personal successes and struggles. The “affective domain” refers to one of the three primary learning domains—the domain that covers emotions and feelings. This domain is of utmost importance for retention, because your people are continuously learning from their leaders. When leaders hit the affective domain, people will value what they learn. When we value information we learn, we retain it because it’s important to us.
A leaders’ actions and behaviors have a direct impact on whether people gain (or lose) commitment. Show them you care about them; show them you believe in the organization and what it is about; show them you are committed to them and the organization! If you hit the affective domain, your people will likely follow your lead.
From my F-15 flights, the first pilot took the time to get to know me and ask about my job and my family; his actions and behaviors showed me (and everyone we ran into) that he really cared about “my day.” The second pilot’s actions and behaviors showed me that he could care less about me. I was fully committed to the first pilot; I still make it a point to tell people how great he was… the second pilot—I don’t even remember his name.
3. Job Enrichment
Job enrichment in simplest terms is giving your people more responsibility. The greater the responsibility your people have, the greater chance they will be dedicated to you and the job. Give them greater say in what they do and how they do it. Give them the opportunity to see for themselves how they make a difference in the everyday operations of the organization. Ask them where and how they want to contribute, and do your best to get them involved in areas that capitalize on their strengths. Finally, set them up in a leadership development program so they see firsthand that you are committed to their future career… get them a leadership coach or mentor!
From my two flights, the first pilot included me in the pre- and post-flight meetings, and with everything he did throughout the flight, even asking me questions to keep me involved. The second pilot totally excluded me, basically pretending I wasn’t there. I was dedicated to learning as much as possible from the first pilot—I could’ve worked around him forever … the second pilot, I had zero dedication to be around him one second longer than I had to.
Run to your Challenge! Don’t continue to sit back and watch your best employees walk out the door…run to your retention challenges! Show your people how much you appreciate them by treating them like heroes; show them you care about them in your actions and behaviors so they value what they learn from you; and invest in them by giving them greater responsibility while developing their leadership skills. When you apply these 3 Secrets, your employees will know you appreciate their efforts and will gain respect and commitment towards you and the organization. Don’t fear your retention challenges… Run to them…fight for your people!
Note: These secrets may not work on all employees—some employees have decided your organization is a stepping stone even before you hire them. However, by creating an environment they enjoy and know their appreciated and can make a difference, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors, and you will continuously attract rising stars.