Four Victories in the War for Retention and Engagement

AdVance Leadership » Four Victories in the War for Retention and Engagement

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #042. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll discover four victories you must win in the war for employee retention and engagement.

1 Insight

Leaders must generate clarity, facilitate community, create culture, and develop leaders to win the war for retention and engagement.

Over the last few years, we’ve spoken to hundreds of leaders and HR professionals. They’ve made it clear that they feel like they are in a war. This is not a war with other companies or with their employees. This is a war for their employees.

It’s a War in two areas:

  1. Retention – during the Great Resignation, nearly four million people per month left their jobs. Millions of people quit their jobs to gain better pay or greater freedom. Leaders feel like they’re losing a war to keep people working at their companies.
  2. Engagement – Gallup reports that 85% of people classify themselves as disengaged or highly disengaged at work. Leaders feel like many of the people at work don’t care about their jobs.

This War for Retention and Engagement has caused huge consequences for leaders and their organizations:

  1. Diminished capacity. The lower your retention and engagement, the more everyone who stays has to do. No one can get as much done because they’re doing the jobs of multiple people.
  2. Sideways energy. Rather than having teams who focus on their work, people pay attention to their misery at their current job and look for the next big opportunity.
  3. Inability to accomplish big goals. Organizations can’t build momentum on their highest priorities because the players keep changing.
  4. Financial loss. The average cost of replacing an employee is 1.5 – 2x their annual salary. The higher your turnover, the lower your profit.
  5. Poor Customer Experience. Engaged employees create a better customer experience.

In our conversations with Leaders and HR Professionals, they’re asking, “How do we increase retention and engagement?” The typical answers include increased wages, better benefits, and more flexibility. While those are wonderful ways to help employees, they’re no different than what most other companies are attempting. Those answers only work until another opportunity with higher wages, better benefits, and even more flexibility come along.

If you’re going to win the war for retention and engagement, you must gain victories over four battles.

Victory 1: Generate Clarity

People want to be part of something great. They want to make the world a better place. They want to find purpose in their lives.

People often fulfill this desire through their involvement in non-job-related activities: volunteering, family activities, social movements, etc. But more and more people want their job to fulfill a sense of purpose.

Leaders help create a sense of shared purpose by generating clarity. Clarity answers four questions for every person on your team:

  1. Where are we going? (the big mission that unites us all)
  2. How are we getting there? (the plan to accomplish that mission)
  3. What is each person’s role in getting there? (how each person fulfills the plan)
  4. Why is it important to get there in the first place? (the way we make the world a better place)

When leaders consistently answer these four questions, they help people understand how they’re making the world a better place.

  • A restaurant manager can remind her employees that they aren’t just flipping burgers. They making family’s lives better by giving them more time together instead of cooking and cleaning.
  • A leader at a manufacturing plant can remind employees that they aren’t only creating building materials. They’re creating safe places for people to call home.

Victory 2: Facilitate Community

People want to be a part of something great (that’s Clarity). And they want to do something great with others who they care about (that’s Community).

As a leader, you’re responsible for building an environment of trust and collaboration – an environment where people believe the best about each other and willingly work together for the good of the mission. If you don’t create that type of environment, your employees will act in their own interests instead of those of the group.

Good leaders don’t simply build trust with their employees, though. They facilitate community throughout departments and with vendors and shareholders.

Victory 3: Create Culture

Culture is the lived-out values of an organization. It’s the behaviors (habits, attitudes, processes, and resources) that reveal what a company truly values.

Unhealthy cultures emerge when leaders don’t align behaviors with values. They say the company “puts people first” but they only pay attention to financial metrics. Others say they value “customer service,” but then they tolerate rude employees.

People don’t want to work for an organization that says one thing and does something different.

A healthy culture happens when a company’s core values drive the expected and tolerated behaviors. Leaders create that type of culture by expressing, expecting, reinforcing, and rewarding behaviors that align with the core values. If you don’t intentionally create a healthy culture, you unintentionally allow an unhealthy one.

Victory 4: Develop Leaders

Where does clarity, community, and culture come from? It comes from leaders. It starts with your leadership. Upgrade your leadership continually. Read books, go to conferences, hire a coach. Commit to become a better leader.

Leadership Development can’t stop with you. You cannot do it alone. You need leaders throughout your organization who drive clarity, community, and culture. Provide development opportunities for positional leaders (those with a title and authority) and potential leaders (those with influence who don’t yet have a title).

When you develop more leaders and better leaders, you lay a foundation for clarity, community, and culture. More importantly, you win the war for retention and engagement.

1 Action

Evaluate you own leadership. Are you declaring victory by generating clarity, facilitating community, creating culture, and developing leaders? If not, select one of these battles to start winning.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

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