Maintaining Employees by Building the Right Work Environment
I recently toured a couple of businesses I was considering acquiring. While the companies were similar, I had two distinctly different experiences. It all came down to the culture each leader established for his business.
On my first tour, I encountered employees who appeared to enjoy being at work. I observed the boss engaging his team – shaking hands and patting them on the back. His employees were smiling and poking fun at one another and their boss. The energy was profound. Judging from the genuine interactions, it started at the top and filtered down throughout the organization.
During our discussion, we broached the topic of job vacancies and their turnover rate. But I discovered this was not an issue for the company. The boss attributed it to “luck.” However, it was obvious that luck had very little to do with this company’s success in maintaining its fantastic team of co-workers.
On the day that I visited the second company, it was overcast and rainy outside. Of course, that is not the company’s fault. But as soon as I walked in the door, the atmosphere was just as gloomy inside.
The owner said everyone worked as a team and in harmony. What I observed on our tour was a completely different story.
As I walked through the office, I noticed that the owner and his team exchanged very few words. In fact, no one seemed to notice or care why their boss was giving visitors a tour of their office. We received the same reception – or lack of reception – from employees on the shop floor.
There was absolutely zero energy on display. From the top down, it seemed like everyone left their passion and enthusiasm at home and simply showed up to collect a paycheck.
As we discussed the business, the owner explained how they had the potential to triple their sales output but were struggling with a weak application pool. He attributed it to the lack of people in the area who wanted to work.
I also discovered they had a significant turnover rate, which they explained was because their employees were enticed away by other establishments offering a few more pennies on the hour.
These two businesses are on opposite ends of the success spectrum for one very simple reason—the work environment established by their leadership. It is not luck that the first company does not have employment issues. The company is keeping employees and finding new ones because it is a place where people enjoy coming to work every day.
Do I believe the second company cannot keep employees because the competition is able to lure them away with a little more money? No way. Their employees are leaving the company because of the lack of connection.
I recently read a Gallup study that said 65% of people who leave their job do so because of their manager. They are not leaving because of the job itself. They are leaving because of the everyday, personal interaction that they have—or perhaps do not have—with their manager.
That is exactly the problem I observed while touring the second company. If you want happy employees, it is management’s responsibility to create a positive environment.
Company number two’s low retention rates were also a problem. With recruitment costs up to one-and-a-half times an employee’s annual salary, it is far less expensive to keep an employee than to try to find a new one.
I recently read that for every two job openings, there is one unemployed worker. That means employees have options on where they go to work. If you have a company with a positive work environment, this stat is no cause for alarm. That one unemployed worker will choose your company.
People desire to work where they feel valued—personally and professionally. For example, on the weekend you can visit any of your friends or family. However, it is unlikely that you will choose the house where you will feel unwelcome or disrespected.
If you are experiencing high turnover at your company, look first at the leader of the team where employees are departing. If that is you, you may want to look in the mirror. I can assure you there is a connection between the departures and the attitude of the one leading the troops.
Make sure the leaders at your organization have the right attitude to lead their teams. I like to explain to our teams during the hiring process that, “We don’t try to make people nice, we just hire nice people.” If we miss and hire someone who is not nice, we will quickly fix the mistake before one bad apple spoils the whole bushel.
Finding and keeping the right team in place comes down to the culture, systems, and the leaders you have in place. In his best-selling leadership book, It’s Your Ship, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff explains the more control you give up, the more command you get. Leaders need to take a step back and see their organization from their team’s perspective.
They must make it easy for their team to express themselves and then reward them for doing so. When employees take ownership, while having fun at work, an organization’s performance skyrockets.
Where do you start? The first step is to observe your leadership team. Are they having fun while engaging with their teams? Do they inspire and engage team members with a clear vision of the future state of your organization and show them how they are a vital part of the plan?
Next, make sure leaders are showing their team members the pathway they need to take to get there. When employees clearly see the relation between their specific job responsibility and the attainment of your organization’s mission, they will be more inclined to exhibit the desired attitude.
Lastly, open the lines of communication. Listen sincerely to your people and you will earn their respect. Once you have found out what matters most to them, create an organization where they can prosper as your business prospers. Everyone likes a win-win situation.
Engaged, happy, and loyal employees result when everyone feels valued, heard, and appreciated. They will be inclined to buy into the vision you have for your company and will be excited to be actively involved in the success.
This is a long-term investment that starts at the top. It will take time to convince your employees that you are committed to building a happy place to come to work. If you set a high value on attitude, are clear on what you want to achieve and communicate that well with your team, buy-in will happen naturally.
Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, 3 PLS Labor Services, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection, and Safety Company, and EZG Manufacturing.
To view the products and equipment his companies created to make job sites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 740-749-3512.
Mid-South Steel Products, Inc.