Keeping your good people

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TradieHR director Leigh Olsen presents some top tips and steps employers can take to retain their valued staff.


I met with a client recently, and I could sense that something was on their mind. When I asked them, their reply was “the usual Leigh — I just can’t keep my good people. I’m over it!”

Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard this, as this issue has increased in the past few years thanks to a nationwide skills shortage and the impact of Covid-19 on our businesses.

Keeping good people is a reality for many business owners, and one that can be managed better with some advanced planning and key action steps taken on a regular basis.

Start with the ‘Why’

Before we look at how you can keep your good people for longer, it is important to first understand why a person leaves a company. Start with yourself, and find the reasons why you have left jobs in the past.

What are the common themes?

What you will discover are your key reasons for “why” you work — your motivation to stay in a job. When a good worker’s motivation dries up, good people don’t stick around to complain. Instead, they find other employers who will provide the “why” in their work.

For most of us, our themes for why we stay in a company are not based on money. In my experience, the most common theme for why a person left their job is because of their manager.

In fact, in some research reports I have read, this can be the main reason for up to 80% of people leaving their jobs! Other themes include boredom, not being included, or being treated differently.

More recently I’ve seen people leave their jobs as they feel that their values are out of alignment with the company’s. Or, in even more recent times, employees have left because of their workload.

Due to Covid-19, some employees have had a significant increase in their workload. At first, they have not minded this increase as they wanted to stay committed to their team. Yet, in time, the workload has not reduced, creating unrealistic and long-term demands.

Top Tips

Based on these common themes, there are also some common actions you can take before and during an employee’s time with your company to keep them on board and part of your team.

• Communicate, communicate, communicate: Right from the first interview, keep communicating with your employee. Before they start, set out a clear direction with a solid job description.

Set them up to succeed in their first 90 days with someone to communicate and teach them what is expected in their job.

Keep up this communication with regular 1-2-1s, checking in with them to see how they are going, and opening up the conversation to share what their worries are.

During lockdown, one of my clients in their weekly team meetings would always finish the meeting by asking his managers, “what do you need from me? What resources do you need?”

His team loved this communication approach, and it helped to keep his hard-working managers going, during a really tough time.

This is a great skill to ask of your managers as, remember, a lot of good people leave because of their manager.

• Stay connected: Keep in touch with your people — always! It does not have to involve long lengthy conversations and, often, it can be just picking up the phone for a quick check-in.

If you are working remotely, add in a Zoom call. Go beyond just one celebration a year — the annual Christmas party — and diarise a gift box to go out in the middle of the year to keep up the connection and to also show your thanks.

One employee recently was buzzing for the whole day when his boss sent a simple gift box saying “you’re awesome”. It was a simple gesture to keep a valued employee on track and on board.

Staying connected and providing recognition shows your good people they are still top of mind and they are still valued.

• Create opportunities for growth: A big reason people join a company is because they see an opportunity to develop and grow — and not for the money.

Yet if these opportunities dry up, it’s a key factor why they will leave, and quickly. Take time in your business planning to identify possible projects for your people to grow and develop.

Think about the possibility also that a team member could be seconded to something else to develop a new skill set.

Finally, what can you do if your good employee says they are about to leave because of the money?

Take them for a coffee and ask them if it’s really about the money. Sometimes it could be the frustration of poor resources, such as a slow computer, or that their tools are too clunky.

These are easy fixes that, even if you cannot keep this good person, you can make changes for the future to keep the rest of the team happy in the workplace and wanting to stay.

To fine-tune your plans for retaining your people, please contact Tradie HR for more great ways to take the right plans and key actions.

Note: This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.

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