Monday, February 22, 2010

Employee Retention: Be a Goal Miner

Business Strategies

2010.02.22_GoldMiners Last week we started the series on Employee Retention with the post Insuring Employee Retention, providing a list of elements needed to reduce and, potentially, reach zero attrition rate.

This week we’ll look at the first of those elements: mining your employees deepest wants and needs to learn about their personal and professional goals.  You’ll notice above a picture of gold miners.  This is apropos since understanding your employees goals and wants is very similar to gold mining:

  1. To find something genuine, you need to invest much time
  2. You’ll need many tools to extract what you’re looking for
  3. Untapped resources don't necessarily hold the easier to find bounty
  4. The resulting bounty highly motivates to dig for and find more
  5. The resulting bounty is highly valuable and sought after

Let’s explore each point.  In order to find genuine, specific goals, you’ll need to invest much time.  This means we, as seekers of others’ goals, aren’t just satisfied with the obligatory response we hear from our coworkers that their goals is “to be the best” at what they do.  We have to spend time with each person to learn what this means.  If a software developer tells you this, he could mean best in any of the following and more:

  • Software architect for web applications
  • System security development
  • System troubleshooting and support
  • A particular technology like Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing technology
  • Android applications development
  • Audit applications development for the automotive industry

You get the idea.  There are many variations and details you need to gather to better understand what’s meant by the statement “I want to be the best.”  You want to ask what they want to be best in, in what time frame, as compared to whom, in which industry, and so forth.

You need many tools to find what you’re looking for.  You may send out the cut and dry annual questionnaire that asks each persona about their goals.  Is that they only tool you should use, or even the most effective?  I don’t think so, on either count.  You’ll likely need the following:

  • Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Gathering information in your regular conversations as you learn about a person’s family and values. 

And that’s just the start.  Here are a few more ways:

  • Your perception of their activities and interests at and away from work
  • an understanding of where they spend most of their time
  • The types of activities they favor or avoid
  • The people they hold in high regard 

Once you’ve gathered all of this information, you can decipher fact from wishful thinking or idealism.  The conglomeration of all of this data will point to each person’s actual goals and priorities. 

I warned you it would be a lot of work, but it’s also rewarding work for you and your business. 

What you’ll find is that those who’ve never gone through the goal mining exercises often resist the idea initially or can’t get started as easily, but they also more freely share their information.  We have the a particular set of leaders and managers in business to thank for disappointing the rest of our coworkers by scratching the surface of what goals the rest of the work-force holds.  The older work-force has already been disappointed with these minor attempts at fulfilling their wants through their poor understanding of each individual’s needs.

However, once a person’s goals are better known AND addressed, through incentives that are better tweaked for each individual, high rewards await the business leaders and employees.  The reason behind this is simple: with each clearly stated and rewarded goal, the business owners get more productivity from their employees and the employees more easily attain what they’ve always wanted: higher pay, more time with the family, better recognition in the industry and so forth.

What’s interesting about the process is that it’s highly contagious.  Once fellow coworkers see how their friends’ goals are recognized and their achievements of those goals rewarded, they will open up and share more of their personal and professional goals with the leaders, fully expecting similar treatment.  As this domino effect continues, the workforce satisfaction with the employer grows, as does their productivity and quality of work, thereby increasing the company margins and customer satisfaction, not to mention company reputation as one of the best places to work!

We’ll continue this discussion next week as we pick up the next bullet from our list: how to align employee and company goals.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments, suggestions, and reactions below.

Related Posts

Insuring Employee Retention
Do You Have a BHAG
Keep An Open Mind
Flexibility Outside of the Gym
Missing the Forest for the Fire
Have Faith

Photo Credits: State Library of New South Wales collection