This is the full version of an article published today in the Pittsburgh Business Times:
According to Manpower Group, 84% of employed Americans sometimes feel trapped in their jobs and want to find a new position elsewhere and 64% have gotten either a “feeler” or a firm job offer from a different company in the past 12 months. Whether the economy is turning around is still being debated, but the question remains: What can you do to create a workplace where good people WANT to stay?
1) Make work as good as it can be
Your strong performers (and most people) want to be successful. If productivity is suffering due to something you can address, do so.
- Are there personality conflicts, redundant or unclear roles, uneven workloads, and nasty customers to deal with? Are working conditions sub-par? If you aren’t sure, ask yourself if you would want your loved ones to deal with the situation day-in and day-out.
- Are you willing to use your energy and authority to create change? If so, ask for specific input from the individuals and involve them appropriately (no dumping) in making the improvements.
2) Grow yourself
Remember, most people take new jobs because of the company but leave because of a boss. Even if you have never been nominated for the worst boss award, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself “am I the best leader I could be?” If you have room to grow, (and who doesn’t?) try the Quarterly Focus method to continuously improve yourself (see Quarterly Focus).
Quarterly Focus: How to Continuously Improve Yourself
- Reread your past few performance reviews or 360-degree feedback reports or ask some trusted colleagues for feedback. Colleagues can provide a list of two to three strengths and one behavior or skill that, if changed, would make you significantly more effective. Offer to reciprocate with feedback of your own.
- Pick one thing at a time to work on, tell your colleagues what it is, and work on it daily for 3 months. We are talking about habit change – things that are simple but hard. Things like delegating without micromanaging, being prepared for meetings, being more collaborative, listening without interrupting, or modeling the values that you say you believe in. Check out your company’s programs, and online tools, leadership blogs, books, or articles to get tips.
- After 3 months, follow up to ask for feedback from your colleagues. If you have told them what you are working on, they are more likely to be watching for change. You may decide to keep working on the same habit for several quarters or pick the next one on your list.
- Keep doing this and you will become a better leader. You may even inspire others to do the same.
3) Help Others Meet their Goals
- For people with potential and ambition, study after study shows the best way to develop and retain them is to put them in charge of challenging projects. Show your support by supplying the resources and sponsorship that are needed for success. This may mean regular check-ins with you or other senior leaders, a mentor or peer advisor. It could mean specific training, budget or staff.
- For those who are doing good work but not clawing for the next promotion, what will help them be at their best? What are their motivators? If you don’t know, ask. Things like flexibility, occasional seminars, a chance to join a cross-functional team or a new title may cost little but deliver wins.
- What about peers? Instead of competing in a game of workplace “sibling rivalry,” flip your mindset and think: “How can I create a win/win?”
Evy Severino is an executive coach who works with leaders and teams when they are ready to take performance to the next level. She is a member of the coaching team at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women and serves as a board member for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the International Coach Federation and Amachi Pittsburgh.