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10 ways to retain your best talent in 2020
Published Thursday, February 13, 2020
by Staff Reports

Now is the time to start thinking about your workplace culture. A positive one produces happy, engaged employees who give their best efforts, challenge themselves to grow, and consistently meet goals and delight customers. A toxic one creates miserable, unmotivated clock-watchers and job-board checkers.

Deb Boelkes says shoring up your culture — making sure your company is a place where the best and brightest can thrive — is probably the single most important thing you can focus on this year. "In a strong economy like ours, people have their pick of good jobs," said Boelkes, author of “The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture.”

"If your culture is one of disengagement and toxicity, your most talented workers will be looking to leave. You'll be left with mediocre and low performers who have little incentive to do more than the bare minimum."

The bad news is that leaders often aren't aware their culture isn't what it should be. The good news is that they can change that. When leaders consistently motivate and inspire employees, fill them with purpose, challenge them, and make them feel safe and supported, what Boelkes calls the "WOW factor" manifests, grows, and permeates the entire culture.

To start creating a culture of WOW in 2020, follow this advice.

Stop allowing a**holes and idiots to thrive. (Hire slow and fire fast.) When your company is made up of talented, enthusiastic, hardworking people, employees won't want to leave. That's why you should hire only people who will fit in with the culture you're creating, and get rid of bullies and others who create a toxic culture. You may be reluctant to fire someone you yourself hired, but don't wait till they do maximum damage. Fire him now.

Make adjustments and break things to make WOW happen. Adjustments are made all the time in WOW factor workplaces to make things even better than they already are. The adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is not the way workplaces become WOW factor workplaces. Sometimes you must break things intentionally to make continuous dramatic improvements that enable WOW to happen.

Encourage your employees to interview elsewhere...really! Boelkes is a strong believer in a piece of advice she learned early in her career: Always be interviewing. While this applies to managers seeking the best possible job candidates, she says it also applies to employees. Everyone should interview elsewhere from time to time. This is one way to ensure neither the employee nor the business gets complacent. It's crucial for employees to know their value to the outside world.

Start mentoring in the moment. Mentoring should happen every single day, not just a few times a year during performance reviews. That's why Todd Wilcox recommends that leaders should have a smaller number of direct reports — more like five or six instead of 15 or 20. With a smaller group, leaders can talk to their mentees every single day.

Set high expectations and hold your people to them. WOW factor workplaces have a well-documented set of behavioral standards and performance expectations. When someone isn't meeting these expectations, leaders will collaborate with him to develop an improvement plan that spells out SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound). Each party is responsible for holding the other accountable to his end of the bargain. The underperformer must either get his act together or move on to something else.

Refuse to tolerate excuses (from yourself and from others). Some people hold themselves back. They may think they aren't as good as others or as prepared as others to assume a leadership role. Maybe they haven't had as much education or they're from a low-income family or any of a whole variety of reasons. Don't let this happen. Tell employees they don't need to have had a model upbringing or have earned a Ph.D. to live up to their potential. They can do their best work with what they have right now. No excuses. They'll be amazed at what they can achieve with their talent and wherewithal alone.

Help employees connect to purpose and meaning.

Nudge people out of their comfort zones. Strong leaders look for the potential in employees and push them out of their comfort zones. They show employees that they have faith in them. They mentor them along the way. When you do this, employees are inspired to make the best use of their talents and push past their perceived limitations.

Make them feel like they belong. Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, talks about fostering belonging. He says, "People feel like they belong here because we are doing things every day to help them be better. We help educate them. We help them deal with their stresses of life."

Urge employees to go beyond the expected to delight customers. "You can always improve if your culture isn't yet where you want it to be," Boelkes said. "The year 2020 is a fresh start. Commit to start moving in a positive direction and build a culture that will make you and everyone on your team feel lucky to work for such a great organization."



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