In the professional services world, it’s all about your people. Your clients pay for their knowledge, experience and wisdom. Your people are definitely not a commodity. They are the defining forces of your brand, and each individual adds to the collective image of your firm. To keep your team engaged means having a thriving culture that supports who they are and allows them to grow and succeed. Yet, even if the culture is considered “great” people still leave. In this article we’ll explore why that is and what can be done about it.
What the Best Companies Do
Every year, INC. produces their Best Workplaces list. In 2018, here’s what they had to say: “More than 1,800 companies (and 81,365 employees) vied for honors in our third annual Best Workplaces survey. Many of your employees will say they like what they do. But do they love your company? We discovered that satisfying workplace philosophies are even more important than generous policies.”
One of the stats that really got my attention was the unlimited time off. Nearly half the companies on the INC “Best” list offered unlimited paid time off for their employees. But only 3 out of the 285 offer on-site childcare. As a benefit and inducement for employment, both of these are over the top. And when these types of amenities are added to the standard benefit package that most companies provide, it changes the playing field for attracting and keeping quality talent. It’s also important to remember that even if a benefit is something you may not use, like childcare, it still becomes a draw because many can see needing this down the road.
I Must Be Going
Sometimes even great cultures lose people. In this month’s Harvard Business Review, in an article entitled "Why Great Employees Leave ‘Great Cultures,’" Melissa Daimler, who has led Global Learning & Organizational Development at Adobe, Twitter, and WeWork, begins with this commentary: “We have a great culture.” We have all heard it. We have all said it. But what does that mean? Ping-Pong tables, free meals, and beer on tap? No. Yoga, CrossFit classes, and massage chairs? I so need that, but no. The promise of being part of a hip, equity-incentivized, fast growing team? Closer, but still no. She goes on to say:
"Culture is often referred to as “the way things are done around here.” But to be useful, we need to get more specific than that. I’ve been working in HR for over twenty years, and the best companies I’ve worked with have recognized that there are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices, all guided by an overarching set of values. A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organization’s espoused values."
The word “values” remains a constant in all of the discussions and research when it comes to employee retention and recruitment. People like to work in places where they believe their values are important. But values have to be visible and, in a perfect world, come from the top. For example, if respect is a key value and people continue to arrive late for meetings, it could mean that something is out of alignment and people are not being respectful of another’s time.
Keep it Going
In his article entitled "7 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees," Entrepreneur Magazine writer Troy Stoneking starts with this: “The single most expensive part of any organization is your employees. Salaries and benefits such as healthcare, 401K matches and vacations cost companies more than any other category. People are expensive. Just bringing in a new employee can cost thousands of dollars." He offers these guidelines:
- Promote Appropriately: When your best people are doing the kind of work that makes a difference, recognize it. One great way is to give them a well-deserved promotion.
- Pay above-standard rates: To hire and keep the best, you need to pay them the best. Change their pay to anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent over market rate.
- Get employees' input, then apply it: Who knows what it takes to do a job right? The people who are doing it best. If you want to keep people, then involve them in the decision-making process.
- Encourage creative innovation: Give your best people the time and resources to test out fresh new ideas. This will keep them engaged and may just bring in another revenue stream.
- Clean out the dead weight: Great people need to work with other great people. Do the hard work of removing those who slow everyone else down.
- Use friendly competition: People in competition with one another tend to increase their production. Put together teams in your organization working on solving similar problems or projects with a simultaneous timeline.
- Get off their backs: Great employees know what they are supposed to be doing and when it needs to be done. Constant reminders and micromanaging will drive them right out the door.
If you make these suggested changes, you have a good chance of increasing engagement among and retention of your best people. Keeping them happy will help your bottom line.
Culture is a Practice, Not an Event
Once again from Melissa Daimler: “Great organizations and leaders know that the culture stuff is the hard stuff. Culture takes time to define. It takes work to execute. Yet, if the time is spent (1) really understanding the behaviors expected throughout the organization; (2) identifying the systems and processes that will continue to help those behaviors be expressed and sustained; and (3) shaping practices that help employees and the organization become better, then you can close your culture gaps, and stop your best people from saying, “I know it’s a great culture, but I am leaving.”
There is one thing I’d like to add to this discussion. Benefits and good pay and all of the amenities are helpful, and they can create a positive vibe that your company can use to be more competitive and successful. And if right now your firm can’t afford it, start with something simple like listening. All people love to be heard.