Six Ways to Immediately Improve Retention

This article appeared in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Retaining top talent should always be a focus of leaders and organizations. Today, it might be your biggest organizational challenge. While we often look to HR for solutions, there is much individual leaders can do to keep the best talent on their teams. Here are just five things you can do — starting today — that will move the retention needle in the right direction.

The Six Ways

What can leaders do to improve talent retention? Here are six specific and immediately implementable ideas.

  1. Say please and thank you. After we teach children their names, “please” and “thank you” are among the first words we want them to learn. We know these words show respect and appreciation for others. Just because you have positional power doesn’t mean you must (or can) demand things. And just because “it is their job” doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) say thank you when they do something well. If you appreciate what people are doing, are you letting them know?
  2. Ask for opinions. Your team members have a perspective on the work that you don’t have. In many cases, they are doing work you never did. Even if they are doing your former job, if you have been the leader for any length of time, things have changed. When you ask for the opinions of others, you will show respect and appreciation to them — and arrive at better decisions.
  3. Listen. When you ask for those opinions, then you better listen to their ideas! Asking doesn’t mean you always have to implement what you hear, but asking without really listening to understand might be worse than not ever asking. Work to be a better listener in all your interactions with team members.
  4. Trust more. One way to show your trust is by becoming a more active and effective listener. But there are plenty of ways to show your trust in your team. Here are two other examples that will show your team members you trust them — delegate more responsibilities and micromanage less.
  5. Provide feedback. Feedback needn’t be all negative and saved for the annual review or in emergency situations. Let people know how they are doing. Show them what is working and encourage them to continue. Help them see where they can make corrections and adjustments. We all want to do good work and know how we are doing.  Regular feedback allows both to happen.
  6. Communicate the big picture. People want more than a paycheck; they want to do work that makes a difference. When we as leaders help them see where the work leads, who it helps, how they are making a difference, they are less likely to leave. People find their own meaning in work, but not in a vacuum. Make sure people see how what they do matters and is making a difference.

Read this list again and ask yourself two questions:

  • Do I want to work for a leader that regularly does these things?
  • Everything else equal (or even close), would I more likely stay to continue to work for that person?

Assuming your answers are like mine, then there is just one more question…

Where will you start?

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About the Author

Kevin EikenberryKevin Eikenberry is an author, speaker, and Chief Potential Officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group. He is listed as one of the top 30 leadership voices in the world by Global Gurus.

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