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July 26 2006 10:26 AM

�My good employees are leaving the company as quickly as we train them.�
�We are stressed out from being understaffed.�
�Our exemplary employees don�t give us a chance to show them what this company is about before they make a quick exit.�
�We are losing too many people.�
Does this sound familiar?
I�m known as �The Corporate Energizer� and am fortunate enough to speak to thousands of people each year. I work with employees who want to re-energize their passion � to create miracles for their customers. I have asked over 1,000 people in my audiences what their companies could do to keep them from leaving. The comments were the same from people in corporate America, private and public sectors, as well as from those around the world.
Money is rarely the reason employees leave. Today�s employees expect meaningful work. They expect to be challenged. They demand feedback. �I wasn�t listened to� or �I found a company that believes in its people� were comments I heard most often.
I like comparing what is happening in today�s workforce to a good relationship. After awhile, people start taking each other for granted. This leads to one party feeling used or unnoticed. This also goes on in companies and organizations. Start looking at the good people you have and figure out how to keep them.
Here are five ideas with which to start:
1. Make employees feel included.
2. Use positive words along with constructive feedback to give positive reinforcement.
3. Make the environment as productive as possible by using motivational techniques.
4. Food works!
5. Awards make employees feel great.
Make employees feel included
Do you hear your employees saying, �Our managers are always in meetings and they are not accessible. They don�t include us in decisions that affect us and the customers with which we work.�
Would your employees respond to these statements in a positive way? My department receives the cooperation it needs from other departments, I know my department�s role in relationship to other departments, there is open communication among employees in my department, I have confidence in the ability of my coworkers, I am well informed about job openings and the most qualified individuals are selected when job openings occur.
If you do not think their responses would be positive, discuss the issues. Get answers that will help management become more accessible to staff. Make employees feel their ideas are important. Do what you can to schedule weekly or semi-weekly meetings of 15 to 30 minutes with five people chosen randomly from various departments. Discuss and listen to their ideas for improving the work environment, inter-departmental relations, procedures and obstacles they encounter daily. Don�t jump to make a judgement about an idea. Listen to what they�re saying. There may be more behind their comments than seems obvious.
Constructive feedback and positive reinforcement
Listen and act on the ideas brought by employees. I�ve learned from research that good people are being ridiculed just because they have constructive ideas on how their departments or companies can be improved.
�At one time, I only complained to my manager. He said to give solutions. My ideas got shot down when I gave solutions. I took this for a couple of years and then left because I knew my ideas were valuable.�
�My manager does not like my opinions. She takes them personally or as an attack on the company. Listen to me and please tell me in a constructive way why the ideas were not helpful.�
Creativity is squelched by not listening to the employees. �I left the last job because there was far too much focus on negative issues and not enough recognition for the positive achievements.�
Employees are asking management to greet them when they come to work. They are not invisible and need to feel important and needed or else they will look elsewhere. One person told me she had major surgery and management never asked her how she was feeling. Management needs to give both positive recognition and constructive feedback to get good results. �Tell us regularly when we�re doing a good job � not just at review time.� This helps build morale.
�Stand by us with our customers. Customers don�t respect us when management complains about us. Help us learn so we don�t repeat the same mistake.� How about writing a note to two or three employees each week, especially when they take risks, calm an irate customer or attend a workshop on their own time.
Make the environment as productive as possible
Keep a money pot available for any negative comments after a certain hour in the day. For example, the person who makes a negative comment after 10 AM must put 25� in the money pot. The money can be used for a local charity or to purchase snacks for the staff. Allow people to change jobs and move to other departments without retribution from their managers. This way your good employees can grow within the company without looking elsewhere for professional advancement. Partner new employees with veteran staff members so they can learn from each other. This stops the �we versus they.�
Create a feeling of esprit de corps � to do whatever it takes to get the job done. If someone is abrupt or insensitive to a customer�s needs when she is usually upbeat, find out why. Make each team member feel supported.
Ask what the team is doing right. Find out what the weakest link may be. Discover the team�s greatest asset. Ask what team members need from each other and other departments to be successful. Then, watch the morale increase and the team soar.
Learn a technique called straight talk. It encourages people to tell others what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Straight talk is done in a positive manner to build rapport and relationships. This helps us see our blind spots, and if used correctly, can be a gift in one�s professional growth. For example, say, �If I�m not carrying my weight and it�s affecting you, tell me in a positive way.� Make sure to focus on the behavior and not the personality. Tell employees you consider them valuable team players and welcome their comments.
Here are some examples of straight talk questions to ask: What are three things I do that you like and dislike? What can we do about this? How do you think we can improve department and staff meetings? Do you think some employees get better treatment? What would you do first if you became the leader of this business tomorrow morning? What should I know about your work that I don�t know? What do you need to know about the business that you don�t know? Do you feel confident that employees feel free to speak their minds without worrying about negative consequences?
George Bernard Shaw said, �Life doesn�t cease to be funny when people die anymore than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.� Our jobs need to be fun and enjoyable or we are doomed to fail. This is one of many survival skills used in business today.
Create a fun committee. Find out what departments need to increase morale. Create theme days by having employees dress as Elvis or wear clashing clothes. Hold a talent contest. Encourage employees to bring in their baby pictures and put them on a bulletin board to guess who is who.
Of course this can backfire because some people don�t like social activities. Companies spend a significant amount of money on picnics without checking if their employees will attend. It is important to find out what your people define as fun. A compromise may have to take place and each department plan something different. This way, the different personalities make for an interesting activity and it makes people feel more inclusive.
Pipe in music. The team can suggest different types of music every day. This way people don�t feel they have to suffer through music they don�t appreciate. Have employees bring in their favorite posters.
Food works!
Ask employees for food suggestions while planning a meeting. The diversity of the workforce has changed. Including different cultures introduces us to a variety of customs and delicious food. This will encourage employees to learn about each other. Take employees out to lunch when they do something special. Birthday and anniversary cakes are something that employees always appreciate.
Awards make employees feel great
Ask each employee what kind of gift they would like for special recognition. This way you reward them with something they want.
Offer movie tickets when an employee gives constructive feedback at a meeting. This encourages everyone to take small risks. Employees like to be noticed when they have ideas to reduce costs or find a need to offer a new service. If this saves or earns the company money, make sure to give out a token of appreciation. A special parking place may also encourage friendly competition.
Give awards for perfect attendance, the best attitude, the employee who grew most professionally, the safest department, the most enthusiastic team, the most organized department/desk or even the person who brings in the best snacks. Include names in the company newsletter to make employees feel special. Encourage the team to vote for the most helpful team member each month. Suggest a positive award coming from management.
Companies need to return to the basics and take care of their employees. When that happens, employees care about their business. People want to be listened to and appreciated at work. They want a balance between their personal and business lives.
These ideas can and will help. Remember, they came from employees who left companies that did not know how to listen to or appreciate them. Companies in every industry are waking up to the reality they must make motivation of their employees the number one priority or risk falling behind the competition. My clients have shared many stories with me. They have experienced success by seeing the revolving door syndrome stop. Employees are thrilled because they really don�t want to leave. They just want to stay in a place that takes care of them. It is that simple. Not easy, but simple! Have fun with these ideas. Let me know what works for you.
Joyce Weiss, MA is a certified speaking professional. She is author of Full Speed Ahead: Become Driven by Change and The Ride of Your Life! Joyce can be reached at 800-713-1926 or visit the Web at