Part II: Solutions For Your Biggest Problem as a Small Business

Just to Recap:

In our last article we described some of the key workforce challenges you face as a small business owner:

  • Most of your workforce is not engaged
  • Turnover is costly
  • Hiring the right person is more difficult than ever
  • We defined engagement as the extent to which employees commit both rationally and emotionally to something or someone in your organization, and how hard they work and how long they stay is a result of that commitment
  • We emphasized that the front-line leader is the one most capable of winning the hearts and minds of your employees and is one key element in reducing turnover
  • Our approach is that a sound retention strategy can be your solution and provide you a competitive advantage
  • We provided you with your first engagement initiative of providing continuous informal feedback and committed to offer you additional ones

Let’s Talk About What’s Next

The purpose of today’s article is to three-fold:

  1. Recap and offer some useful tips for your Engagement Initiative Number One so that it works,
  2. Offer you Engagement Initiative Number Two,
  3. Introduce an overview of the components of our performance and retention improvement strategy.

Tips For Your First Engagement Initiative

It’s easy to just say, “Increase the frequency of informal feedback and it will improve both performance and retention,” but how many leaders have been trained or know how to do it consistently and effectively?

Ongoing feedback occurs on a regular or ad hoc basis; it can be delivered up (to your boss), down (to your employees), or across the organizational chart (to your peers). Why it is important:

A.   Builds employee relationships and emotional commitment.

B.   Gives an opportunity to recognize positive behavior and coach to improve non-productive behaviors.

C.  It is an on-the-spot real-time conversation regarding performance, no different than when coaching an athlete on the field (the key is to coach skill or behavior improvement, not berate). Please remember a “golden rule” of performance feedback. Confront the behavior or performance need when it happens or shortly thereafter. We all want to be held accountable and we cannot fix something if we don’t know about it. When addressing improvement needs, a leader’s feedback has to include specific suggestions on how to do it better so that it doesn’t jeopardize the level of engagement.

D. Stop, think and Choose your phrases carefully before giving the feedback. Authors Jon L. Pierce and John W. Newstrom point out in their leadership model, “that no matter what you do, your decisions, behavior, and actions directly affect your followers. Every action has a reaction. There will be consequences when you say something thoughtless or lash out at a team member, even if you don’t see them immediately. Those consequences might include diminished performance, reduced morale, increased absenteeism, and accelerated staff turnover.”

Regardless of whether it is Positive and/or Development feedback being given, state the behavior and its impact. Here are a few examples:

Positive Examples

“Thank you for stepping up and helping us figure out a better solution”

“Your understanding and patience when she became angry with you helped us maintain a valuable customer relationship”

“Your attention to detail and support to others has helped me to spend more time on the budget presentation”

Development Examples

“I would like to offer you some coaching on how to sell your ideas so that we can continue to make needed improvements with our inventory management”

“It’s really important to our credibility that our customers get error-free marketing materials, so let’s proofread, and run a spell and grammar check before we send anything out for distribution”

“I noticed you have been skipping step three in the process. In the future, please remember to execute it so that…”

Engagement Initiative #2: Retention and Performance Improvement

Clarifying performance expectations and the standards by which one is evaluated can improve an employee’s performance more than 30%.

Improve employee's performance by 30% by clarifying exceptions and standards by which they will be evaluated.

Seems obvious right?

As a reminder, we know that the front-line leader’s role has the most impact on driving employee commitment and desire to stay with a company. Leaders should make time to ensure the employee fully understands the expectation of meeting performance goals, which competencies and the associated types of behaviors are required of the work and what success looks like in the job.

Let’s use accountability as an example: “Holds self and others accountable for measurable high-quality, timely, and cost-effective results and demonstrates a willingness to take on challenges and do whatever it takes to get results.” This defines the competency and the behaviors and actions for successfully demonstrating it. Having a meaningful conversation on accountability is the best practice for leaders and their followers.

If you are interested in learning more about accountability, I recommend you read the New York Times Best Seller The Reality-based Rules of the Workplace by Cy Wakeman. She provides a treasure chest of suggestions to further your understanding and help you communicate this simple yet critical engagement initiative.

If you are in fact evaluating your workers, research tells us this is important to them.

Let’s Dig Deeper: Retention and Performance Improvement

Introducing The Six Steps to Success Strategy!

The Six Steps to Success Strategy is designed for your front-line leaders. Think of it as a ship’s navigation system that will keep you on course and above water in terms of retention and performance improvement. The process components are Root Cause Analysis, Selection and Hiring, Onboarding, Engagement, Building a High Performing Team, and Stay Interviews. Using these six focus areas effectively will increase your probability of success.

The six components of the Performance Improvement Retention and Strategy.

Your Work, Your Results

After years of research, we now have a full understanding of employee engagement and how to influence it. It really is about winning hearts and minds.

So, it takes a lot to win the hearts and minds of our teams, and we have now offered you two initiatives that research confirms will support retention and performance improvement. Better retention and performance means less turnover.

I’ll continue to share my learnings, experiences, and methods for tackling turnover and retention, but keep in mind the amount of work you put into this directly impacts your results. Next time we are going to discuss the foundation of engagement—trust.

If it all feels a little overwhelming, that’s because it is. If you need some extra guidance, I will go the extra mile for you. Fill out the form below to sign up for a free 15-minute phone call with me. There are limited time slots, so sign-up now.

I look forward to talking and connecting with you. Good luck!