As we head into the third month of the new year, I want to continue the conversation about improving your business performance by reducing employee turnover. As discussed in my recent LinkedIn article (read), focusing on improving retention of your best employees is a critical, strategic play to reduce turnover. There are many actions that you can take as a business owner or manager to improve turnover. For now, I want to focus on what I have experienced as having the greatest impact - cultivating talent.
To begin, let's discuss the purposeful analogy of cultivating. Throughout my childhood, my father and his brother grew most of the vegetables that my family ate. My mother would have dinner ready when my father arrived home from work so that he could eat and then head to my Uncle's home where they farmed together. He worked most evenings until dusk, from early spring planting into the last of fall harvesting. It was work that took commitment and dedication, and it brought immense satisfaction with each delicious meal that we enjoyed. Whether planting by seed or seedlings, the same land preparation was required. The soil was tilled, often with nutrient material mixed into it during this process. Next planting furrows were lined into the soil before the planting could begin. Once the garden was planted in early spring, the work did not end; rather, regular tending and maintenance of the plants were required to ensure an abundant harvest. This included training beans onto poles, removing weeds that would rob the vegetables of important resources, pruning runners to increase production, treating pests, and so on.
Why did my father and uncle give so much of their personal time to farming instead of buying vegetables at the grocery store, as so many others in our community did?
As business owners and leaders, we are keenly aware of the costs and effort expended to recruit new employees; and yet, once those recruits walk through our doors, we step away and leave them to figure things out for themselves. This approach is akin to a farmer dropping seeds along the furrowed ground, walking away from the field, and returning in a month to find that many of the seeds have been stolen away by birds, others have rotted in overly damp soil, and less than 40% have begun to sprout.
In addition to meaning preparation in the context of gardening, the word cultivate is synonymous with these words - FOSTER, NURTURE, and ENCOURAGE. To get the highest possible return on our investment known as hiring, our work cannot stop once the position is filled. Our systems, processes, and culture must be designed to firmly plant each employee into the company so that strong roots are formed.
As with plants, each individual has specific needs and tolerance levels. If the fertilizer or light is too strong, the plant begins to brown and becomes less healthy. Similarly, you must adjust to individual employee needs. Some need more specificity about their role or guidance in completing tasks, while others experience that same level of attention as micro-managing their work.
Regardless of these nuances, all employees thrive when they receive regular and authentic appreciation for their work and experience feeling of success in their role and belonging in the company that they have joined.
After several weeks to months on the job, if you have created a strong medium for "roots" to form, employees will show strong, healthy growth. This can create the need for a bigger container and the expansion of your responsibilities in tending their continued maturity as an important member of your team.
Let me conclude by stating the most important part of this analogy - The gardener must be present and have his/her hands in the soil regularly.
As the owner or business leader, it is healthy for you to delegate tasks. Delegation, however, is not the same as abdication. Just as with my father and uncle, economics, quality and value are important outcomes in business. Whenever you know that you can save money and get better quality, you have the start of a powerful value proposition.
If you have a small company where you know every employee by name, get directly involved with the steps outlined above. If your organization has many layers of management, lead the charge in establishing the systems, processes, and culture that reinforce cultivation of talent throughout the company. Consultants specializing in organization development, such as me, are great partners in assisting with the design and implementation of these. If you are ready to make talent cultivation part of your employee retention strategy, let's connect!
PS - My special discounts for coaching and consulting work expire at the end of this month, so don't delay.