NOTE: this article is the second half of a two-part article. Click here for part one.
What would your small business do without its best workers? In my business, my greatest fear is losing great people. I want to build a company where people can thrive and grow for the long haul.
What do you think it costs your business to replace a great employee? Here’s one way to look at it:
Your cost to replace a great worker very well might exceed the amount you pay them in a year!
So let’s figure out how to build a place where people love to work, and where more great people are lining up to join your ranks.
There are six key factors I’ve found especially effective to motivate employees and build a workplace they don’t want to leave.
Before your employees ever hear WHAT to do or HOW to do it, they need to know WHY.
Why does our business exist? Why are we different from our competition? Why do we do things the way we do? How do those differences affect the people we serve? Why does the work a new employee does matter so much?
Give your employees a sense of purpose in their work. Design training for new employees that answer these questions, and keep reinforcing this information to all employees.
You and your company value certain things, whether or not you’ve ever written them down. Take time to define 3-7 values that you will never compromise on that make your business unique. What do you and your people really care about? What are things that really irritate you? Why? These questions will help you find your core values. Your employees may be able to see these things even better than you, so get them involved in figuring out what your core values are.
Put these values on the walls of your business. Discuss them often. Train new workers about why they matter. And most importantly, hire and fire based on your values.
One of the things that drives great workers away faster than anything is working with a toxic employee. Whether they are negative, dishonest, incompetent or irresponsible, your best employees already know who the toxic people are. You need to discover these people and remove them. I think business owners often hesitate to remove toxic people for fear it won’t go well. But the pain it creates for the leader is short-lived compared to the daily pain your best employees face while they are there.
You have a choice. Either lose the great people on your team or lose the toxic people. You’ll be surprised at the way your team’s morale and productivity come together when you get it done. So get it done!
You want your company to be a place where co-workers are so tight-knit, they’d be letting down their brother or sister if they left. After you’ve removed the toxic people, you can make this happen. I’m not a big fan of greek life, but fraternities and sororities do this well. New recruits learn traditions, symbols, and stories that give everyone a sense of belonging.
TRADITIONS: It might be weekly traditions like Taco Tuesday or Flannel Friday, or seasonal things like a mid-summer ice cream eating contest after work, or an annual trip to eat lunch at the county fair. It might also be traditions for how the employees welcome new employees.
SYMBOLS & STORIES: Anything that represents past victories, remind us of things we overcame together, funny stories, or things that tie back to your values as a company. Stories will be told over and over again, shared with new people in the community, and symbols can remind us of these stories.
Your employees have life outside of work, and they may have hurdles you can help them overcome. Ask the people you lead about their goals outside of work, and look for ways you can help them with your advice, your connections, or your encouragement. Matthew Kelly wrote a great book called The Dream Manager that tells how a cleaning company transformed its business by doing this well.
Develop milestones that give prestige, perks, and recognition to those who have been with you a certain period of time. Maybe it’s 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. It could be extra vacation time, or a special gift or bonus. Or it could be as simple as giving workers on a construction site a different color of hard hat to represent the time they’ve been with you. You can plan a little ceremony at the end of a workday when someone gets their new hard hat and take a minute to recognize them.
With a multi-step hiring process, the right culture in place, a clear set of values, and a community of workers who want to be there, your employees will start doing the recruiting.
Give a $250 cash bonus to any employee who refers someone who applies, makes it through your hiring process, and gets hired.
With a tight-knit team and values established, your employees will refer people who fit the culture and avoid the people who don’t. But it’s imperative to have a hiring process in place first to help you screen out those who don’t fit and make the right hiring decision the first time.
Download our worksheet to clarify your purpose and core values.
This worksheet will give you something you and your team can use to uncover your core values, get clear on the “why” for your business and build a culture that will help you retain the right people. Download it now.
Remember, it’s costly to replace great employees! Don’t cut corners when building systems to recruit, retain, and refer.
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