I’ve been serving as the Integrator at EOS Worldwide since 2016, finding talented people and guiding them to reach their maximum potential.
No company wants to lose valuable team members, yet far too many employers put their faith in shortcut measures to boost retention. These include everything from monetary bonuses to benefits perks. While these attempts may be well-meaning, they’re ultimately a Band-Aid on a broken bone—a temporary cover-up that doesn’t address the true problem. There’s nothing wrong with offering a competitive salary, but it won’t keep great people from leaving. Money isn’t what keeps individuals engaged and invested in a company.
As someone who regularly helps businesses build teams, I can attest to seeing this phenomenon play out again and again. You don’t have to take my word for it, though: When McKinsey surveyed companies and employees about turnover, workers consistently listed “feeling valued” and a “sense of belonging” as the most important factors in their decisions to leave. But employers mistakenly believed those were some of the least consequential reasons.
This doesn’t mean that fair and competitive compensation isn’t important, but dollars can’t make people feel connected with their colleagues or company. The only way to encourage team members to stay for the long haul is to make sure they know they are valued and appreciated.
How does this happen? As Patrick Lencioni talks about in The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, the most important foundation of all relationships is trust. Without trust, you can’t have productivity, accountability, innovation or success.
Trust takes time to build, of course. It also takes a willingness for you and the other leaders in your company to commit to making widespread changes so that you don’t lose the people who are important to your brand’s future. Try starting with some of these methods.
1. Share your organizational vision regularly.
Every quarter, our company conducts what we call a “state of the company” event. This get-together is designed to highlight the importance of our vision statement. It’s also a chance for everyone to reflect, celebrate and plan.
During a “state of the company” gathering, you can talk about the past, present and future. Spend time on each of these parts to connect what you’ve done and what you’re doing with what you plan to do with your vision. This can help all team members have a deeper understanding of where the company is headed, as well as what part they have played, are playing and will play.
It might sound like a simple solution, but it works. Too often, leaders aren’t consistently communicating the company’s core values to team members. By giving credence and time to a solid vision, businesses create a foundation to guide and inform what they do.
2. Strive for positivity.
Another use for these gatherings is to share core value shout-outs. These are opportunities for anyone to share the good things that have been happening around them—especially times they’ve witnessed coworkers living out the company’s values.
Sharing the good things naturally creates stronger bonds between people, not to mention plenty of positivity. Team leaders can use this positivity as a springboard for quarterly one-on-one conversations with team members. These meetings serve to bridge the gap between a single person’s performance and the bigger picture and vision.
Positive touchpoints at all levels tend to prompt more honest discussions. Remember, positivity doesn’t mean overlooking issues. But when you manage from a positive viewpoint, you are more able to motivate others rather than casting blame or causing unnecessary distress.
3. Spread gratitude.
When you shower people with gratitude, that gratitude becomes contagious. I’ve seen how gratitude can spread rapidly throughout every corner of a company. Best of all, gratitude can come from anywhere—it doesn’t have to be initiated by the founder. Any individual contributor can be a “gratitude spark” and a change agent.
Still, it’s terrific when leaders exhibit gratitude to set the tone for the organization. Gratitude prompts empathy and compassion. Companies that promote empathy among their team members set themselves up for getting all the benefits that come with being authentic and vulnerable.
Gratitude doesn’t have to be difficult to harness. Saying “thank you” and calling out exceptionalism in real time can have an almost instant effect on morale and culture. Team members feel like they’re being led by leaders who possess a genuine love of people. And when employees feel like their leaders are people-centric, rather than profit-centric, I find that they feel more interconnected on a deeply personal level to all other areas of the company.
4. Learn from your attrition losses.
If you’re a leader for long enough, you’ll lose a valued team member. From my perspective, if I’m the boss and someone leaves, it’s on me. Certainly, there may be extenuating circumstances. Nevertheless, I owe it to myself, my company and my future team members to reflect on what happened. For example, did I do my best work in attracting and hiring the person who left? Did I provide the training and development the individual needed? What could I have done to step up my “retention game”? Could I have shown more gratitude, or perhaps shown gratitude in a more meaningful way?
These are important questions to ask and answer because each team member is essential to the health of the whole company. Team members will go above and beyond when they feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves. It is the leaders’ job to make that happen.
As Napoleon famously said, “No amount of money could induce someone to lay down their life, but they will gladly do so for a bit of yellow ribbon.” In a business sense, that’s a philosophy that makes sense. People will transcend their roles and expectations if they sense that what they’re doing has long-tail impacts.
All humans seek relevance and connections. If you’re having trouble getting your teams to gel and perform, switch up the way you lead. Aim to unite everyone under a common vision, and show them that their work is mission-critical—and forever appreciated.