Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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How to Attract and Keep Great People

I recently surveyed over 200 managers, and asked what their biggest management challenges are in the current business environment. Not surprisingly, all of their responses dealt with personnel. Many leaders broached the difficulties involved with attracting and keeping great employees.

How do we make working with us more appealing to an employee than working for someone else? Surprisingly, wages, salaries and other compensation are not the primary factors that kept employees happy.

What keeps employees happy? What makes people want to come to work and do a good job? What motivates our workers?

First, employees want to be valued both for their contributions to the organization, and appreciated as individuals who are important within their span of influence. Managers have to ensure that employees understand how valuable each role is to the success of the mission.

Second, managers need to know their employees as individuals. I interviewed one employee who loved the work he was doing, but said that three weeks into his new job, his supervisor had still not even spoken to him. This created a sense that he was not a valued member of the team, and that he was of little or no value to the manager and the organization. I spoke with the manager, who told me that the new employee was doing a fabulous job, and they could not be happier. I asked the manager why he had not told the employee that, or even had a conversation with the new hire. The manager said that he didn’t realize that the new employee wanted to talk (yes, I’m serious). Clearly the onus of making sure that a new employee feels valued is on the supervisor in the organization.

Third, employees want their managers to understand what makes them more effective in the workplace. Employees want to do a good job. Here are four secrets that employees want their managers to know.

  • It’s not about the money. Leaders and managers in companies need to understand that compensation will get quality people to apply for the job, but it is how they are treated after they are hired that determines whether or not they will stay. I’m not talking limousines and red carpet treatment. This is about making sure that the basic necessities of getting a job done are provided. Employees need to have the corporate knowledge and the resources required to do a great job. Giving an employee a job to do without providing the resources, or explaining company procedures sets them up for failure.
  • Feeling frustrated. Employees will not consider a long-term relationship with an organization that constantly frustrates them. How do organizations frustrate their employees? They ignore them. They don’t take their ideas seriously. They subject them to meaningless training and mindless readings. Regardless of the compensation, employees who are frustrated will find other places to work.
  • Not everyone gets the trophy. Some organizations go too far trying to recognize every little tiny accomplishment that happens within an organization. As a result, the constant award ceremonies, acknowledgments, and accolades dilute the importance of those people who are making a real difference. The consequence is that instead of creating an atmosphere of true gratitude, it fosters one of cynicism and distrust.
  • Talk to me. The most common complaint among employees is that they don’t feel that they know what’s going on. Managers and leaders need to understand that their employees are part of the decision-making process, whether or not the employee’s input is solicited. In some cases not everyone’s input warrants consideration, however for events that might affect that employee’s job, department, or branch, the employees should be aware of the discussion. This creates a sense of teamwork, keeps the employees informed, and dispels the idea that managers are making decisions in secret. This improves trust, confidence, respect and teamwork.

Managing people is managing relationships. As a friend of mine told me, working together involves mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual interests, and the means to conduct the relationship.


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