MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Stop your people getting 'happy feet'

As some optimism returns to the job market, how can you make sure you hang onto your top performers?

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

With 2010 likely to see a recovery (of sorts) in the UK economy, employees are finally starting to lift their heads above the parapet and scope out new job opportunities. As was the case at the beginning of the last recovery in 2003, employers are vulnerable to their best people departing for pastures new as the market picks up again. So MT asked Jim Albert of Modis International for his top tips on how to prevent your staff getting a bad case of 'happy feet'.

1. Commit to clarity
Nothing makes employees more uneasy than uncertainty. Line managers that give unclear instructions and set ambiguous expectations will breed a team of unsure, uncommitted workers. Ensuring that clarity of mission is maintained throughout the company, and that everyone knows the part they’re playing in the organisation’s success, will help avoid cases of happy feet.

2. Speak to your people
Don’t just assume everything’s OK because they haven’t complained in a while. Your people may have been reticent to moan when times were bad, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy. Speaking with them, and doing it regularly, will mean you can be aware of any cases of happy feet in time to do something about it.

3. Communicate all the way through the chain
Conversations shouldn’t be restricted to peer groups within an organisation. Giving everyone in the company access to senior management, and ensuring the most senior figures communicate with the rest of the company regularly, can help employees feel more integrated. It’s a twee concept, but employees that feel part of a big family rather than a faceless employer will be less likely to leave.

4. Invest in your people
Commit a portion of the benefits of any fragile recovery into training, development or team building programmes; they’re almost always cheaper than having to replace someone good.

5. Challenge your people
Put your people into situations that challenge them and help them to grow professionally. Ask them difficult questions about what they want from their career, and help them to find the answers. Challenging your people in this way will help keep them engaged with the organisation. True, a balance needs to be struck between 'challenging' and 'impossible'; but if you can do that, your people will recognise the opportunities they’re being given and want to stay for the long term.

6. Identify top performers
Be aware of who your business can’t live without, and ensure you’re meeting their expectations as an employer. Have a succession plan in mind for these people in case they fall victim to a bad case of happy feet despite your best efforts.

7. Recognize achievements
Nothing will bring on happy feet quicker than good work going unnoticed. Give recognition to your stars for a job well done. It needn’t take the form of expensive bonuses – simply making public the appreciation you have for an outstanding piece of work will go a long way to making your people feel valued, recommitting them to the next task on the list.

8. Pay attention to the softer details
Make sure you’re ticking all the retention boxes that don’t necessarily cost money. The headline salary isn’t the be-all-and-end-all that it used to be when it comes to retention. Things like providing clear career plans or flexible working can help combat the threat of happy feet.

9. Make sure the job fits
Roles change, as do people, and so the job someone had when they first walked in the door may no longer be the right one for them, leading to a case of happy feet. But you needn’t lose the expertise and inside knowledge they’ve built up. Regularly assess roles within your company, and if you find a mis-match, look around the rest of the organisation to see where that individual’s skills can be used.

10. Plan for the future
Accept that your business isn’t going to keep everyone forever. Keep up a dialogue with recruiters in your industry, so that when you do need to replace someone you’re not starting from scratch. A recruiter that already knows your business and your people will be able to find a suitable candidate for you more swiftly and effectively.


Jim Albert is managing director at IT and engineering recruiters Modis International.

 

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MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Stop your people getting 'happy feet'

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