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September 2, 2008

What Are You Doing To Keep Your Best Assets?

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I don’t care if you’re Google, Facebook, Nike, Apple or another one of those brands kids can identify by the age of 5. I don’t care how cool your tool is, how unique your service is, or how hot you are in the industry. Without your employees, you’re nothing. They’re the ones giving you life, making you interesting and keeping you relevant. So what are you doing to keep them happy, interested and on board?

I think I’m getting contemplative in my old blogging age. So much so that I spent some time this weekend going over past blog entries and came across this one entitled Your Employees Are Just Not That Into You. Doing so I realized two things. First, good heavens I was a snarky little punk back then, [Just back then? –Susan] and second, I think this topic is important enough that it needs to be revisited.

Oddly enough, this post also ties into the earlier post about the power of letting your employees create personal brands and how important is to hold on to them once they have created a brand that’s getting people’s attention. The truth is, all your employees are important and you don’t want to lose any of them.

It’s common for businesses to get caught up in the money and production side of things. It’s about making the sale, making the client happy, growing the company and becoming bigger and better suited to tackle the competition. The trouble is that in that process no one is paying attention to the employees and their well-being. Like I said back in August 2006, sometimes you need to check in and make sure the 30 lbs your programmer has lost is because they just joined a great new gym and not because the chains you’re using to keep them to their desk don’t quite reach all the way to the lunch room. You want to check in every once in awhile to make sure you’re not killing your employees or taking them for granted.

This may be my na├»ve side coming out, but I think most employees are inherently loyal. They don’t want to leave a boss or a job that has treated them well or helped them succeed. But they will if they feel like it’s their only way out. In order for you to keep your talent in your organization and away from your competitors, there’s a few common sense things you need to do as a savvy business owner:

Respect Their Talent: ZOMG, stop doubting your own staff! Stop thinking they’re not smart enough, that they’re going to lose your biggest clients, or that they’re trying to sabotage you. They’re not. Trust that you’ve hired the right person for the job and then get the heck out of the way. Your micromanaging and needing to be involved in every decision is only going to ruin the process and make your best talent start eyeing the letter opener and your face. If you want happy employees, give them the freedom to experiment, to get things done without you and to lead their own projects. If you’ve hired the right people they won’t take advantage, instead, they’ll exceed every expectation you had and be overjoyed doing it. The more control you try to exert, the more stifled your staff is going to be. It’s okay to fail; it’s not okay to hinder the process.

Challenge Them: The number one reason I would leave a job is because I was bored. Intelligent people (and sometimes even non-intelligent people like myself) need to be challenged and given the opportunity to learn new tasks and try new things. If you don’t provide them with that, they’re going to find another way to do it. Maybe your SEO thinks it’d be handy to sit with the Design people and see how that works. Maybe your writers should be getting their hands dirty and learning how to really implement SEO in order to become more well-rounded writers. Maybe your SEO Analysts should sit with the Sales people and learn how that process works. Maybe your star needs a new project that they can really dive into. Don’t be afraid to let employees switch things up or do it for them. People like learning need skills. They need to; otherwise they’ll never grow and you’ll be housing a lot of really disgruntled people. Disgruntled people like Susan.

Appreciate Them: If you asked ten bosses whether they took their staff for granted, not a single one of them would say yes. But the reality is a lot of them do. Often companies schedule elaborate company dinners or hand out expensive presents as a way of saying “thank you” for their hard word. That’s great, but it’s probably not what your staff is looking for. They don’t need a five course dinner with the whole audience, what they need is know that you’re actually paying attention. Raises are nice, but, at least for me, a simple email or a comment about a job well done is worth a heck of a lot more. If you see someone’s been putting in some extra hours or doing great things, drop them a short email to say thanks. Sometimes it really does make all the difference.

When’s the last time you checked in with your staff to see how they were doing and to thank them for kicking the amount of ass that they do? If you don’t know, it may be time to stop in. You don’t want to lose your company all stars because you were too busy to realize that they weren’t happy. Your employees are your life blood. Treat them right or prepare to lose them.

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One response to “What Are You Doing To Keep Your Best Assets?”

  1. David Temple writes:

    Good post. I think many business owners, bosses, managers should read this but alas, even if they did they might not get it. When it’s all about the bottom line, employees are usually just a cog in the ever spinning wheel.

    Too few companies really “value” their employees and don’t realize the cost of losing someone. If more bosses thought like you do there would be less churn and more productivity.



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