How to retain and grow your rock star employees

If key employees are leaving for a competitor, your organization much change, starting with real communication.

Credit: iStock

When key staff leave your business for a competitor, it’s time to admit that it isn’t just them. The entire organization must change its ways—starting with real communication

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, branding expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about creating influence through trust.

Across North America today, we’re facing a crisis in employee retention. Inc. magazine states that 70 percent of staff aren’t engaged at work, and Forbes says that half of U.S. employees are looking for new jobs right now.

Your rock star employees are probably part of this trend.

The first question to ask is WHY, and the second is WHAT can you do about it?

The why usually comes down to one thing: ineffective communication throughout the organization. It’s no one person’s fault; it’s everyone’s. We live in a world where communication has become a lost art form. We all say we communicate. We send emails, write memos, post information on internal servers, have the entire office connected via Slack or some other internal communication tool, but do we communicate?

Communication breakdown

Communication is a two-way affair. It’s as much about listening and understanding as it is about sending out information. That’s where most companies fail. They don’t take the time to make sure what they’re trying to say is understood.

We don’t take the time to talk face-to-face anymore, either. The justification is that there are too many of us and we’re all too busy. But what are we too busy doing? Often, we’re busy fixing what could have been done right the first time if we’d just communicated effectively in the first place.

That lack of communication leads to frustration. It leads to people misunderstanding and misinterpreting what is important and what is not, and leaves them at a loss as to how to do things effectively, and how to help achieve the organization’s true goals.

Because of this, people don’t feel valued. They don’t think their opinion matters, because their perception is that they aren’t being listened to or understood. They feel that what they say or do isn’t effecting growth within the company, that their efforts don’t matter. And with that, they go looking for a workplace where they think people will appreciate their opinions, efforts and actions.

Make employees part of your story

If we truly want employees to stay, be productive and be the future leaders of our companies, we need to change our brand. 

You may be familiar with this saying:

Your CFO asks: What happens if we train them and they leave?

Your CEO responds: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

We need to get back to a point in time where we communicated the vision to our employees. We need to let employees understand our story and be part of it.

In other words, we must communicate where we came from, where we are, the challenges and successes we face, who our clients are, why they buy from us, where we want the company to be in five years—and train employees and give them the tools to be part of that vision.

It’s vital that we get away from thinking that all staff want is a paycheque, beanbag chairs, free-beer Fridays and a cool-looking work environment. They want to understand and believe in the future of the company and feel that they’re part of its success.

Now, how can you do this? How can you make some simple shifts in your organization that will allow you to be the company where employees want to stay and be engaged? 

Dig deep!

Take the time to look at your organization as it is today. The first thing you want to look at is who is leaving and why. Is it a certain role within the company? Is it a certain age demographic? A certain gender? People within a single department? People who report to a specific person?

See if there’s a specific reason people are leaving, and if it’s easily fixed, fix it!

If there is a certain person within the company who is causing people to leave, figure out why and deal with it immediately!

If a certain demographic is leaving in droves, now is the time to have exit interviews with those people, even if they’ve already left, to see if you can figure out a pattern.

Don’t believe there is a sacred cow in your organization. Everything and everyone must be looked at to see what changes you can make to keep your best employees.

The cost of them leaving is far too high for any organization. Not only are you losing someone productive and valuable, but now you have to find a replacement, train them and hope that they have the same work ethic and abilities as your previous employee. And here’s something you may or may not have thought of: not only are they now not working for you, but they’re working for a competitor and making that business more effective and profitable, at your expense.

Looking for some concrete things you can change immediately to make your company better for your employees? Here is my latest e-book, Top 10 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement and Company Loyalty. I think you will find it a great place to begin your path toward greater long-term employee satisfaction, corporate success and profitability.

Ben Baker wants to help you retain and grow your rock star employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Lead at Any Level. He is the author of Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-on Guide to Understanding Yours, hosts the iHeart Radio syndicated Your Living Brand show and writes extensively on brand and communication strategy. Contact Ben here.