Holding on to your best employees should not be hard, but guess what? It is. Most of the mistakes that companies make can easily be avoided. When you make mistakes, your best employees are the first to hit the road. They know they have options elsewhere. If you can’t keep your best employees engaged, you can’t keep your best employees. Period! It is that simple. It seems this should be common sense, but it isn’t common enough. A survey by CEB found that one-third of star employees feel disengaged from their employer and are already looking for a new job. When you lose good employees, they don’t disengage all at once. Instead, their interest in their jobs slowly dissipates. This is referred to it as brownout. This is where your star employees slowly lose their passion for their jobs.
Brownout is different from burnout. Workers afflicted by it are not in obvious crisis. They seem to be performing fine. They are putting in massive hours, grinding out work while contributing to teams, and saying all the right things in meetings. However, they are operating in a silent state of continual loss of passion. We all know the predictable consequence of that is disengagement. In order to prevent brownout and retain top talent, companies and managers must understand what they’re doing that contributes to this slow fade. The following practices are the worst offenders, and they must be done away with if you’re going to hang on to good employees.
You make a lot of stupid rules.
Companies need to have rules, but they don’t have to be shortsighted and lazy attempts at creating order. Whether it’s an overzealous attendance policy or taking employees’ frequent flier miles, a couple of unnecessary rules can drive people crazy. When good employees feel like big brother is watching, they’ll find someplace else to work.
You treat everyone equally.
This tactic works with school children, but the workplace ought to function differently. Treating everyone equally shows your top performers that no matter how high they perform, they will be treated the same as the lazy dude who does nothing more than punch the clock.
You tolerate poor performance.
It’s said that in jazz bands, the band is only as good as the worst player; no matter how great some members may be, everyone hears the worst player. The same goes for a company. When you permit weak links to exist without consequence, they drag everyone else down, especially your top performers.
You don’t recognize accomplishments.
Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Rewarding individual accomplishments shows that you’re paying attention. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good, and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a pat on the back!
You don’t care about people.
More than half the people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain that their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate their employees’ successes, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge them, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates.
You don’t show people the big picture.
It may seem efficient to simply send employees assignments and move on, but leaving out the big picture is a deal breaker for star performers. Star performers shoulder heavier loads because they genuinely care about their work. Their work must have a purpose. When they aren’t given a purpose, they find one elsewhere.
You don’t make things fun.
Fun is a major protector against brownout. If people aren’t having fun at work, then you’re doing it wrong. People don’t give their all if they aren’t having fun. The best companies to work for know the importance of letting employees loosen up a little. Google, for example, does just about everything it can to make work fun. Free meals, bowling allies, and fitness classes, just to name a few. The idea is simple: if work is fun, you’ll not only perform better, but you’ll stick around for long hours and an even longer career.
You don’t let them pursue their passions.
Google mandates that employees spend at least 20% of their time doing “what they believe will benefit Google most. While these passion projects make major contributions to marquis Google products, such as Gmail and AdSense, their biggest impact is in creating highly engaged Googlers. Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction, but many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies have shown that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, achieve a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.
Leaders tend to blame high turnover on everything while ignoring the real issue: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.