Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Show Them More Than The Money

"Love 'em or Lose 'em" (image shown here from Amazon) is a book that came out over a decade ago, currently in its 4th edition.  It was a popular management resource during those years when jobs were plentiful and thus staff retention was critical. 

For many organizations, the arrival of the recession and job eliminations put retention concerns on the back burner.  For those organizations, it's time to dust off the tools and get busy. 

Back in 2000, I attended a workshop developed around the book and its concepts.  One of the key messages I remember was that once an employee was at a certain level of compensation, the retention strategies that were most effective had little to do with money.  Employees will always say they'd like a raise.  But when asked why they stay with a job, retention has far more to do with the behaviors of their direct management and the quality of the work assignments than it does with the size of their year-on-year raises. 

Well, that was over a decade ago, you say.  And today we still have companies who are just getting back to giving out those annual raises, at a much smaller percentage than they once were, so the money matters. 

True, but the lesson is still the same.  Money matters to a certain point, but once you cross the threshold of a solid compensation package, it's the manager that shows their employees more than the money that holds on to their team.   And for the managers that kept on showing the love all through the recession, employee loyalty will be there even when other opportunities come knocking.

There's a great one page tool that we received with the workshop based on a key concept from the book that the authors call What Matters Most?  Employees select the top three behaviors out of a list of 26 (A-Z) that they need from their direct manager - and none of them include monetary compensation.  I used it with my management team for many years during annual performance reviews.  It's a good tool when getting to know new direct reports, and it's interesting to see how the requests change over the years for the same person.  For example, after a few years. "encourage me to expand my skill set" may evolve to "recognize my accomplishments" or even "give me autonomy and power to make decisions".  And the employee you hired who was single and selected "talk to me about my career ambitions", may find behaviors like "support my need for work/life balance" more important once married with children.  Or not.  But that's the thing, you don't know if you don't ask.

So don't assume - ask.  Ask before the recession eases, ask after it eases.  Ask your entry level employees, ask even if they're senior management.  The dialogue itself shows that you see each member of the team as a unique individual, and that's showing them more than the money.

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