On earlier posts here, I’ve offered some advice, tips and resources, I’ve found useful in:
- Recruiting the best potential candidates to interview;
- Interviewing thoroughly, consistently, with the goal of hiring only A-Players.
Let’s talk about how to keep your best ones, your best employees and colleagues. These are your Best Ones.
Your employees are the number one asset for your company. And your Best Ones are your leaders, those who set the tone, for and create your brand. They sustain your brand, their brand, through good times and not-good times. ( Your company is thought of as their company if you’ve recruited the best and interviewed to hire only A-players. A-players take ownership. And you want that. You want everyone thinking that it’s their company. )
How do you keep your best employees, your leaders, the ones most engaged in making your brand…their brand?
I’ve thought about this post for a few weeks now. I came across two smart business-thinkers, from different industries, who shared a simple theme for keeping your employees engaged and inspired.
Everybody goes home happy. That’s one of Jake McKee’s mantras. Everybody means everybody: customers and employees. Jake blogs at CommunityGuy and is the Chief Ant Wrangler and Principal for Ant’s Eye View, a Dallas-based customer collaboration strategy agency. You can listen to our recent conversation about building community around everybody going home happy at BlogTalk Radio recently.
Makes sense. Leave a smile on the face of everyone touched by your brand…they’ll come back.
Over time, and if you are consistently sending them home happy, everybody will come to your business with almost bated-breath.
Yeah, it’s rare. But those moments happen with nearly all companies. Everybody arrives with anticipation of a great experience. The truly great companies, the ones that survive, are successful at weaving those moments into a fabric.
And when we anticipate an experience…we have the intent for that experience. And intention is the first step in creating our own experience.
Their slight intention then makes customers and employees, everybody, co-creators of your brand promise to each other: going home happy.
I don’t have the research links to document this spurious claim. But, there’s no need to get all pointy-headed here. Just check your own experience…you participate and engage with those that make you happy. And you don’t, with those that don’t.
And if everybody goes home happy….every day, they’ll find more reasons to come back. That’s the key, really: finding more reasons for everyone to come back. At the very least, giving them no reasons to not come back.
And more people. You’ll find more reasons to bring more people with you.
We all have choices now. Everybody has choices. When everybody goes home happy, they find more reasons to come back tomorrow. And they bring their friends, too.
Everybody goes home happy.
That’s the advice of Guy Kawasaki, too. He says it slightly differently, for a more focused audience:
Make sure your employees want to come back every day.
That’s his advice in his book titled Art of the Start (Chapter 6 on Recruiting).
It’s obvious. In today’s market, if they don’t want to come back, eventually they won’t. And your A Players, are the ones most likely to NOT come back, if they don’t go home happy. You see, they’re the ones with the most choices.
Simple. Right? Make sure everybody goes home happy. And they’ll want to come back every day.
There lies the rub, as Bill Shakespeare wrote awhile back for that dude, Hamlet. If it was that simple, more companies would do it.
But it’s not simple.
And it’s rarely achieved.
Its lack of achievement comes despite, or in spite of, the tens of thousands of consultants and books and approaches and coaches, entire companies, to choose from to inspire their troops, reignite passion with the employees, empower their ownership of the brand…(and generate a never-ending stream of buzzwords to master…)
And with all these resources and case studies (mostly about failures…) and buzzwords, too, it’s still the number one challenge: How to Keep Your Best Ones.
Disappointment warning: I don’t have a fixed solution. I should have told you this before. This isn’t a 10 Steps to Employee Engagement-kinda post. (Were we as a species so simple, our lives would be different and it’s unlikely we’d be reading blogs. )
I have some guidelines, a process perhaps. Results are not guaranteed. I didn’t bat 1.000 using them.
And, I’ll start by showing you where I found the greatest obstacles. And in showing you what to avoid, describing what will interfere, we’re almost home.
We know the path now:
- Make sure everybody goes home happy.
- Make sure your employees want to come back the next day.
And, here are the 4 obstacles. It’s where the breakdown of these simple rules of human nature occur most frequently:
Disengaged Leadership. The leaders aren’t engaged. Maybe they’re burned out. Maybe the company’s grown beyond their abilities. Maybe distractions outside the office sap their emotional energy. Maybe they never were engaged.
And it won’t happen, everybody going home happy and employees wanting to return the next day, when it does.
I’m not saying Surrender Now, Dorothy. But I am saying that you won’t keep the best if your executives, or you as the executive, aren’t working towards those two goals every day.
Disengaged Employees: The company or the industry has grown beyond the employees’ skills and motivations. Best Ones remain the best only because you have neither recruited more appropriately skilled employees or upgraded the skills of your current players.
They’re still great people, competent with their current skills. But those aren’t the skills that will grow the company moving forward. And these new skills, needed now, are neither owned nor desired by the employees. And their tolerance for change has been exceeded.
Effectively, your Best Ones, your A players have now become C players. And they know it; they, we, you, always do.
Disengaged Financials. It’s a pragmatic leadership being pushed by a rising star. The leadership needs to see the numbers. And the numbers are there, just not in the presentation from the aspiring star. The star doesn’t understand their audience. Neither one speaks the other’s language. Frustration and alienation usually result. And…the rising star, usually leaves.
And those left behind see only half the story: that the great idea was rejected.
Visual. You don’t see where you’re going. You don’t have an end-goal in mind. It’s a little like Alice-in-Wonderland saying Well, if it doesn’t matter where we’re going, it doesn’t matter how we get there… Or if.
This usually happens in companies operating proficiently, but in a vacuum. It’s a cozy nest of good enough…And the raging storm of change just over the treeline is seen as a pleasant reminder of how good it is… right now.
Here, you can’t measure progress. You can’t create a timeline. Why? There’s no rewards and there’s no motivation. There’s a declining sense of accomplishment as what you accomplish matters less and less. That always breeds cynicism, disinterest, disengagement, declining performance.
And then the storm hits. And the illusion is over quickly. And sadly.
What did we learn? The simplest things are often the hardest. The obvious is even more difficult. We see where to go. We have the goal in mind. And there lies our Rub.
And now we see the obstacles.
How do we avoid them?
About the Author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit. And he regularly interviews guest in social media and customer evangelism at his BlogTalk Radio show.