"Recruiting good staff is only half the battle these days," comments Kaftan Miah, Director of IRM Solutions . "Considering the cost and stress involved with losing employees, managers have become understandably preoccupied with the challenge of keeping them." Indeed, retaining staff is one of the fastest growing employment issues today. Bonuses, salary boosts and additional benefits are the most common measures by which companies attempt to harness flighty staff. But these measures - essentially all money injections - are seldom effective, especially in the long term. That's because they do nothing to address the real factors that influence people's happiness at work. In the majority of professions, money is actually relatively unimportant to people. That is to say, there are several things that matter more. Thousands of people come to IRM Solutions looking not just for a new job, but a better working environment. The most common things they hanker for are:
a sense of being managed effectively
an understanding of the company's objectives
regular opportunities to discuss performance
Drawing The Bigger Picture
Just as you need to understand the workings of your department, your department needs to understand the workings of your company. Why does it exist and what are they working towards? As a manager it is your responsibility to communicate this. Many managers assume that the objectives of the business are automatically clear to those working below them. But it is remarkably easy for people to work from day to day with little idea of the bigger picture. It is a human trait to react positively to goals. And the bigger the goals are, the more important it makes people feel to work towards them. In addition, clear goals encourage people to put in the extra effort, rather than sticking to the delineation of their role. Conversely, people who see their jobs in isolation lose sight of their purpose. It is all too easy for them to see their work in terms of a monthly pay packet: they become demotivated. Alternatively, they keep themselves motivated by viewing their work solely in terms of their own CV - which is never a good thing for a department. In order for people to work happily and effectively, they have to understand not only the goals of the company, but the way in which they relate to them. The only way to establish this is by talking to your staff one to one. Ask people how they think their role contributes to the business. Make it clear that this is not a test, just a way of establishing how much work you have to do in this area.
Whether you like it or not, your actions and attitudes as a manager are probably the greatest influence on those of your staff. Kaftan Miah, Director of IRM Solutions, says, "You might be surprised at how many candidates lay the blame of their working ills squarely on their boss. People don't quit their jobs, they quit their managers." So how can you make people feel well managed? The good news is that some of the most effective measures are very straightforward. One of the most vital things is to be seen. Employees react badly to managers who they perceive to bury themselves in an air-conditioned office. It gives them the impression that their boss is more interested in climbing up the corporate ladder than in their welfare. To counter this impression, get up! Walk around the office and talk to your staff about their projects. Talk to them about their lives. Make them feel that they are considered. It's true that too many managers weight their time towards the demands and desires of their superiors, leaving their staff feeling neglected. There are no short cuts to reversing this situation. The more time and effort you devote to your staff - perhaps at the expense of other priorities - the better manager you will be. To really improve your department, you will need to develop an understanding of:
the individual roles
the way in which these roles interact
the structures of responsibility
Some of the biggest gripes made about managers relate to their poor listening skills. It is good to remember that most frustration evolves from feeling unheard. Espouse an open-door policy and stick to it - in practice as well as in theory. Listen to your employees, and address bad feeling rather than hoping it will disappear. It seldom does.
Top It Up
Most businesses hold biannual appraisals these days, and this is the very minimum your company should contribute by way of reviews. The most effective way to maintain morale and anticipate departures is to speak to your staff little and often. Ideally you should set aside a day each month for mini-appraisals, as well as making sure to announce any major company developments. One thing to bear in mind: if your staff don't get to air their complaints to you, they will air them to one another before long. This situation can bring down a whole department. Keeping staff motivated and happy is a full-time job, which most managers try to balance with other work. It's easy to feel like you're on a mission impossible. The encouraging fact, however, is that most people who leave their employer do so because they feel driven to it. They would actually prefer not to. After all, moving jobs takes a lot of effort, emotional as well as physical. Most people would prefer to stay where they are. Your job is just to help them.