Oh dear. Another resignation letter. And yet you have no idea why they’re all “taking some time out to get their head sorted”.

Or going to the competition.

Or just walking out and not coming back the next day.

The truth is that most employees leave because they’ve had enough of their employer, whether they know it or not. If it’s not bad line management, it’s something you’ve done, some tech you’ve brought in or some process change you’ve implemented.

Maybe you just hired a jerk and they don’t want to be anywhere near him.

People leave, but they don’t have to leave so soon. As an employer, your job is to hang on to them, and make them better for their next role – not force them out.

But it’s hard to get it right. So here’s how you might be getting it all wrong.

You’re not talking to them

How many bosses forget to actually talk to their people? A monthly one to one is the very least you can do, dedicated an hour to one person, turning off your phone, avoiding meetings. Just one hour a month, it’s not much, out of an average of 150 hours.

Not talking to people is pretty common in the workplace. You might use Slack or another IM, you might have e-mail still (how very 90s) – and it’s easy to default to these tools even when you’re sitting right next to someone.

Just don’t. Use that thing called your mouth, move it around and noises come out.

You’re making them compete

There’s a trend towards gamification and this really should stop. It turns people off as much as it excites others.

We had a piece of software that inadvertently gamified everyone by ordering people into how many billable hours they had submitted. That ignores the fact that some people don’t get allocated as many billable hours, and therefore would always be bottom of the league.

Stick to sales teams, and better than that, split them up into teams so it’s not personal. The Fantasy Sales Team does that, and if you’re going to make people compete – stick to the competitive ones. Many people aren’t competitive and it’s a massive turn-off.

You got the blend wrong

Hiring people that rub each other up the wrong way is not a great recruitment tactic. Especially if you’re paying recruitment agents £8k a pop for a new hire.

Although you may find that on occasions, opposites attract, it’s unlikely that your meek, cat-loving copywriter will get on with your loud, dog-loving, cat-hating developer.

You’re not challenging them

Workloads are tricky things to manage – if you want to hire people to do the same thing every day, repeatedly, then think about whether you could outsource it. I would – if you can teach someone to do it over and over again, you can probably get it done cheaper elsewhere.

Instead, hire people to do the things that are challenging. The things that you can’t do yourself, maybe. When people are challenged, they get out of bed wondering how they can do better. When they’re processing things, they get out of bed wondering where they can do better.

You treat them all the same way

A pat on the back doesn’t work for everybody. Equally, a kick up the behind doesn’t work for everybody. But if you’re treating the whole team the same way, with the same management style, then you’re running the risk of alienating people.

The trick is to actually listen to people and develop a relationship with then. You know, like you do outside of work. Understand what motivates them and what gets the best out of them.

… but you treat them differently

Ah yes, but if you’re treating people differently, they’ll notice. Especially if you’re favouring one person over another, or you’re visibly spending more time with someone else.

It’s more about equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of treatment. If everyone feels they’ve been given the same chance, then you’ll be OK. If someone feels that they’ve not been given a chance to prove themselves, they’ll find it elsewhere.

You’re not using the latest good stuff

Marketers are tech-fiends. If you’re still using Lotus Notes and you won’t cough up for a laptop that charges up within 20 minutes – well say goodbye to those people.

Part of your “employer brand” is your ability to move with your people. At home they’re on smart tellies with smartphones and tablets. They’re doing all kinds of great things, but when they come to work, they’re on a naff little laptop that takes an age to load, and they have to call an outsourced IT department every day for an hour in order to sort it out.

Budget for this. There’s a significant return when you add up the cost of keeping people, and there’s even a return when you add up the time spent calling call centres or making coffee while computers load.

You think everything’s related to pay

You’re thinking of leaving? Have another 10%. We like you. Have another 20%.

Not everything is about money. This is a major mistake committed by so many employers when actually, a bit of extra paternity leave might be better. Or the ability to take your birthday off on top of your annual leave.

Or how about some benefits you can choose from? James over there wants a discount on his case of wine while Sue over there wants some childcare vouchers.

This is cheaper than a pay rise and you know what, it’s more effective, because the effect of a pay rise dissipates quickly.

The effect of benefits is permanent.
 

You hired the wrong people

…in which case, you’re probably trying all of the above in an attempt to make them leave.

There is a lesson here – if you can’t scope out the type of person you want, or if you hire out of desperation, then you shouldn’t be hiring in the first place.

It’s better not to hire at all than to hire the wrong person.

The cost of getting it wrong is astronomical

You forgot what you’re there for

Here’s what I believe: employers are stepping stones. That’s the way most people think – they don’t want to stay at one place forever, nor do they want to stay in one role forever. Everyone wants progress, of a sort.

So you’re there to facilitate that progression – and ensure that this progression is in line with your company’s progression. Give them what they want, and they’ll give you what you want.

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