I was asked recently how I thought organizations could retain talented employees once the economy improved. When your competitors begin hiring again, how will you keep your people from jumping to the other ship?
Competitive salaries and benefits are obvious. But, there is one thing we, as HR professionals, can do and can encourage our senior management to do right now to fortify employee loyalty and minimize the risk that they will leave. Talk to your people. That’s right. It’s really that simple. Communicate truthfully with your employees.
It’s not necessary to tell everything that you know about the business operations or financial performance. It is important, however, to be honest in what you do share with your employees. If there is something going on in the business and you say there’s not, you will lose credibility. Employees are far more perceptive than they are credited with being. When you say nothing is going on, but behave in a conflicting manner, your employees will notice and you will have lost their trust. Employees need to feel secure in their work environment. When they don’t know the facts, and sense turbulence, they assume (and fear) that the worst is going to happen. Leadership secrecy is a fast track to employee disengagement.
Share information timely. The worst possible thing is for your employees to hear information about your organization—their employer—outside of the organization before they hear it from inside the organization. Recently, on a Saturday afternoon, John was at a neighborhood barbecue, where he was introduced to Jamie, a friend of the host. As part of the introduction, the host shared where John worked. Jamie then said excitedly, “Oh, my good friend just got offered the HR Director job there. She starts next week.” John is the HR Manager of that company, and had applied for the open HR Director position. He had no idea a decision had been made or that he was getting a new boss next week. Imagine how his job satisfaction level plummeted. When his manager did have a conversation with him on Monday, it was too late. John had already begun to look for a new job. Be mindful of who might hear things about your company before your employees. You can’t always control that, but if you communicate regularly and are open, you can get in front of it most times.
During times of high unemployment, it is natural for everyone—even high performers—to worry about a layoff. Job security is not a given. Frequent communications increases employee stability. Keep your employees in the loop as much as possible. Even when there are still unknowns, communicate what you know. Share as much as you are able about any challenges the company is facing. Don’t say things are rosy, if they’re not. Be serious and realistic, but remain positive and hopeful for the future. Provide opportunities for discussions and questions.
Your employees are your partners in the business. They have a stake in it too. Send the message that you value them by communicating frequently and honestly. You’ll develop the relationship and reinforce their loyalty. It’s just that simple.
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Great message. Communicating openly and regularly with employees takes discipline. Fortunately we have many avenues for both sending and receiving information with employees: intranet sites, email, texting, social media, etc, and we should take advantage of them all, particularly during difficult times.