Looking to keep employees happy? Careful, you’ll tumble head first into endless articles that tell you WHAT to do—give feedback, align people with company goals, motivate employees—but no one tells you HOW to do it. I’m going to change that. I believe that keeping employees happy is crucial for more than company culture accolades—it saves your business money. An HR services company found the cost of replacing a single employee is about 16-to-20 percent of the annual salary of that position.
During my career, I’ve had great managers and I’ve had some that still irritate me 25 years later. Let me introduce you to “Charles,” a former manager of mine who failed to follow these 5 best practices for keeping employees happy, resulting in high, costly turn-over rates.
Dig for each employee’s specific strengths or skills
All people are different, and what inspires one person may not inspire another. Charles was convinced the way to be a good leader was to perform “the daily walk.” Charles would start each day going from cubicle to cubicle attempting to have a conversation with each of his employees. Sometimes he would make small talk about subjects he obviously had no interest in, and other times he would come to you with a specific request. I don’t mind connecting with my manager, but a forced, transparent display held no value for me. If Charles really wanted to connect and gain my loyalty, he should have made an effort to understand my specific strengths. Had he done so, he’d know that discovering unique solutions to complex problems is my gift. Instead of wasting time and energy with social nonsense, he could have used my problem-solving skills to our team’s advantage.
Find out how your team members best communicate
Charles assumed all people communicated like he did, and holding people to the same standard here was another big mistake. For example, my team member, “Brian,” preferred to communicate via email. Brian’s gift was analyzing data and coming up with the most historically accurate and data driven solution. It was stressful for Brian when he was asked to give information on the spot, as Brian’s biggest fear was being wrong. Brian was rarely wrong about anything. When he provided data, you knew you could trust it. But Charles didn’t give Brian time to research before putting him on the spot with questions during those famed “daily walks.” Therefore, he never learned how to get the best out of Brian by avoiding impromptu, half-baked conversations and giving him the ability to communicate in his preferred way.
Pair your strong “doers” with strong “talkers”
“Liza” was not a fan of Charles’ “daily walks.” Liza was action-oriented, and her focus was on getting things done. She didn’t need drawn-out conversations, she simply needed a check list containing the tasks she should be focused on accomplishing. Liza found these conversations with Charles distracting and was frustrated by the way he slowed her down and kept her from focusing on the tasks at hand. Liza’s gift was being able to “get shit done,” and anyone or anything that stood between her and being able to complete her to-do list created stress and frustration.
Every team needs a Liza who is focused on execution, but teams also needs great communicators who can get the team on board with new projects and processes. Luckily for Charles, “Ginger” enjoyed “the daily walk.” She was a wonderful conversationalist and she thrived on human connection. Ginger’s gift was in sharing information and getting others on board with any new project or process, so Charles’ style worked for her. Charles should have noticed the difference between Liza and Ginger, and used these conflicting behavioral traits to his team’s advantage.
Don’t be the same leader for everyone.
What Charles failed to recognize is that leadership is not one size fits all. He never took the time to really get to know his people. He had no idea what inspired them, what got them excited, nor what their gifts were. He invested in his own leadership training program, but he made no investment in his people. His leadership style frustrated three-fourths of his team, and because of that, we didn’t work for him for very long.
Had Charles been a self-aware leader who had the ability to see each person differently, he could have pivoted and become a better leader. Unfortunately, none of that happened, and as a result, the company experienced high levels of costly turnover due to job dissatisfaction.
Make your employees aware of everyone’s gifts and work preferences.
What Charles’ team was missing was a leader that invested in a unified language and methodology that brought to light the differences in work preferences and unique gifts each person brought to the table. Charles had no method for understanding the behaviors that demotivated his employees, therefore, we had no insight into our team members’ work styles. We were not a high-functioning team.
The moral of the story is: Don’t assume what works for one person will work for everyone else. People are unique, and what inspires one may not inspire another. Look for the gifts each person brings and value them for their unique perspectives. Understand their working styles and connect with them from their preferred style, not yours. Make your team aware of these discoveries so they feel part of a happy, productive team.This is the path to success and satisfaction and what will ultimately drive you to be a more effective leader, and save your company from costly and stressful turnover issues.