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How To Keep Long-Term Staff Engaged
September 28, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Employee turnover is the age-old nemesis for all business owners. Recruiting, the hiring process, training and skill development are time consuming and costly. The real wildcard in the recruitment process is hoping that the new hires will adapt and fit into the company’s unique culture. At the other end of the spectrum are your long-term staff members. These employees have been with you through the good times and the not so good times. They’ve seen you at your best and, most certainly, they have seen you at your worst. They know the game, get their work done and represent the heart and soul of your company.
Like any long-term relationship, long-term staff members can present a unique set of potential challenges for leaders. At the top of the list is resistance to change. Because senior staff members typically require less oversight, they tend to settle into their routines and their own modified methods of getting their work done … better known as settling into their comfort zones. Once their comfort zones are furnished and landscaped to their liking, very often, even minor changes to workflow, work schedules or the introduction of new systems, is met with resistance.
Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies to keep your long-term staff members engaged, adaptable and in the game of growing the company:
- The “Drift Factor”: Long-term staff know every nuance, nook and cranny of the business they work in. They know your leadership patterns and what they can and can’t get away with. Their performance and behavior can easily and gradually drift outside of acceptable norms therefore establishing a double standard when it comes to adhering to systems, company procedures and rules that other staff are held accountable to. When drift occurs with long-term staff, the company culture is compromised. GOTTA DO: Because long-term staff are natural mentors, leaders must monitor and address drift quickly. In most cases, the drift is not intentional. The longer a leader waits to address performance and behavioral drift issues, the more embedded the drift becomes.
- Long-term employees are not “maintenance free”: Long-term staff are not like “Old Faithful” that always spouts right on cue. The predictability of long-term staff makes it so easy for leaders to focus attention on developing new staff and other projects while unintentionally ignoring their most productive team members. It is not uncommon for long-term staff to feel under appreciated and their contribution taken for granted. GOTTA DO: Long-term employees require some time and attention to stay engaged and on their game. Like all employees, they need periodic performance reviews. They thrive on receiving kudos for jobs well done. Some like being included in the planning of change initiatives. Most of all, they need to feel respected and appreciated. A little TLC maintenance will go a long way.
- Adhering to a higher standard: Long-term staff are a natural quality control system that keeps the bar set high for younger staff. They have the experience and knowledge to mentor and inspire. When long-term staff evolve into change resistors, pot-stirrers or simply become indifferent to the company and its vision, they can do serious damage to moral and the company culture. GOTTA DO: Long-term employees must be held to the highest standards of performance and behavior. They are your company’s elite … your best. They are also your highest paid employees. GOTTA DO: Relentlessly communicate, reinforce and hold long-term staff to the highest standard of performance and behavior to the point where they honor and respect their role in the company hierarchy.
- Expectations and absolute clarity: Because they are long-term employees, the expectations for all aspects of their work and position in the company should be communicated with absolute clarity. Absolute clarity eliminates the wiggle room and “but I thought” stuff that gets in the way of progress. GOTTA DO: Clarified expectations and absolute clarity keeps the long-term staff focused, results-driven, committed and disciplined. Disciplined is not a dirty word or something overly restrictive. It is simply a commitment to doing it to the best of one’s ability.
- Mentors must change first: Just as leaders must be the change they want to see in their companies, long-term employees must be the first to embrace change. Again, when the drift factor sets in, long-term staff become the change resistors and roadblocks to growth. And when they drift too far, pulling them back in can be a drama-filled and ugly process. GOTTA DO: It is the leader’s responsibility to keep long-term staff engaged and committed to the goals and vision of the company. Have them participate in planning new initiatives, hiring new staff and creating new systems. The more you keep them at the forefront of change, the faster they adapt and lead others.
- Reality of life and work: Just as youth, drive and determination is the essence of career growth and climbing the success ladder … years of great service, time and age are part of the lifecycle for all of us. There comes a time when slowing down and cutting back is unavoidable. There are no easy answers when today’s productivity is no comparison to one’s best years. GOTTA DO: No one wants to be told, or admit, that their best years are behind them. It’s even harder when a long-term employee’s current rate of pay, isn’t buying the company the level of performance it once did. In business as in sports, great players hang on as long as they can. For leaders, honor the contribution and years of service for long-term employees as long as you can, but sooner or later, all employees and all leaders need to step aside to make room for the next generation.
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