Utah wins everytime a successful new company comes onto the scene. Our brand as a startup community grows, we get more media attention, and your home value goes up just a little bit more. But there’s a problem that arises with the launch of every new company as well...there’s one more company trying to hire away your best talent. The more successful Utah’s tech sector becomes, the harder you will have to work to retain the highest performers on your team.
Retention should always be a pressing issue for employers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years in January 2020...” But if you isolate that stat to people between the ages of 25-34, it drops by 24% to 3.2 years.
So when you factor in a competitive job market such as Utah’s tech and startup landscape, the issue of retention becomes even more dramatic. If you’re not careful, you’ll lose your best employees sooner than you want to. Retaining talent takes an intentional strategy and you can’t leave it up to the party planning committee, HR, or the front desk admin. Of course those parties help, but retention is an Executive Team responsibility.
Looking for a few upgrades from the ping-pong table (that’s obsolete now thanks to 2020) to increase average tenure? The team at Motivosity has studied the implications of positive psychology in the workplace and here is what we know...If you want to make people happy at work and retain the best talent, focus on these three principles:
1 - Your Team Wants to Be Part of a Community: We all want to feel like a part of the team, tribe or community. Stanford assistant professor Gregory Walton suggests that “belonging” is a psychological lever with broad implications. “Our interests, motivation, health and happiness are inextricably tied to the feeling that we belong to a greater community that may share common interests and aspirations.” And in 2020, people expect belonging within their workplace, not just in their personal lives.
Some businesses have the benefit of a positive culture as a result of the problem they solve or how they solve it. Non-profits are an example of this (though being a non-profit certainly doesn’t guarantee great culture) - when you have a group of people passionate about a shared topic, it creates the possibility of a meaningful culture. Think about Toms...how they do business creates a cultural precedent. Their website states, “TOMS® has always stood for a better tomorrow–one where humanity thrives. To us, that means no matter who you are or where you live, you feel physically safe, mentally healthy, and have equal access to opportunity.” Certainly, Motivosity’s mission, helping people be happier at work, creates a meaningful culture in a similar way.
But plenty of consumer goods and SaaS companies don’t have such a blatantly philanthropic opportunity and you can definitely have a great company culture without being a 501(c), or giving away free shoes. Clear goals are a necessity, as it gives employees something to work towards together. But goals also aren’t enough by themsleves. Social interactions (harder during a pandemic) strengthen relationships because it moves beyond professional lives. People are more likely to engage when there is a personal connection and personal connections are more likely to be created at social events than behind a desk.
Other values that create positive cultures include: transparency, appreciation, meritocracy, “no jerks” policies, inclusivity, crucial conversations...all of these concepts can keep your employees happy and around longer. Find the cultural building blocks that fit with your leadership goals and prioritize them in all of your hiring, firing, and retaining decisions.
What happens if you don’t focus on culture? It will be created without you, so an intentional approach is best.
2 - Your Team Wants to Feel Appreciated and Recognized...All the Time: Different “currencies” motivate different people. Some are, like I mentioned above, driven by a cause. For others, money talks. There are groups of employees that are motivated by leader boards and stretch goals. But one thing that motivates almost everyone?
Appreciation and recognition.
A recent study conducted by Motivosity and OnePoll was featured in Forbes and states “Three-quarters of the remote workers said their mental health would likely improve if they had more appreciation and recognition.” It also highlighted that, “Two-thirds (68%) of those working from home say they feel unmotivated to work since everything they do seems to go unnoticed.”
Bonuses are great, but most people spend the money before they get it. Then they wait another year for the next bonus and feeling recognized once every 365 days isn’t very inspiring. If you want to reduce turnover, find ways to appreciate your team on a day to day basis. Thank them for their ongoing contributions instead of as a part of their annual review.
But could you take a step further? What if you made appreciation and recognition available on a peer to peer level? When appreciation comes from peers and not just managers, eNPS can increase by as much as 52%. When you are recognized and appreciated by your boss or co-workers, you have a higher level of job satisfaction...therefore you’re less likely to leave. If that only happens once a year instead of once a week, don’t expect to keep your team as long as you’d like.
3 - Managers Impact Retention More than You Think: No one impacts retention more than the managers on your team. An article in Forbes indicates that 65% of American’s would choose a better boss over a pay raise. If that stat holds true, two thirds of your team doesn’t want more money...they want a manager who cares about them, sets clear priorities and helps them improve consistently. Still “more money” is the easy and short lived attempt that most employers lean on.
If you want to improve retention, invest in your managers. That may happen as formal management training throughout the organization, learning and development resources, or tools that make managing more manageable. TechBuzz.News recently published an overview of Motivosity Lead, a new tool that ”enables managers to facilitate better relationships with their employees at every crucial touchpoint. It provides managers with an easy-to-use tool that addresses employee desire for more meaningful engagement, while at the same time providing managers with more consistency and visibility into employee performance.
Leaders need to be trained on what actually impacts employee satisfaction. Megan Bowen, Chief Customer Officer at Refine Labs said: “The best leaders...understand their role is all about creating the conditions for people to be successful.” She identifies the top 5 ingredients to create the right environment:
- compelling vision and mission
- psychological safety and trust
- autonomy and empowerment
- recognition and feedback and
- achievement and growth
As a Vice President at Motivosity, I clearly appreciate that she identified “recognition and feedback” within her list, which is where we specialize. I also align closely with her point about “autonomy and empowerment” as a crucial ability of successful managers. People are happier when they are empowered to make their own decisions and that holds true at the office.
In a previous role my team grew as a co-worker left the organization and I “inherited” their team. I spent time meeting the new team members, and understanding my new responsibilities. Then I got out of their way. I helped brainstorm some new approaches, provided some direction and they came up with powerful solutions. Their impact became immediately noticeable. One of those team members sent me an email saying, “I’ve never been as confident, empowered and energized in my work as I have since starting to work for you….ever. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your confidence in me and what I can do.” That’s not someone who is going to leave for a 10% raise. It wasn’t me specifically that made her feel that way, it was the ability to make her own decisions and feel the powerful impact of autonomy.
As Utah technology companies grow organically and as companies from other states continue to move in, retaining your A players will become increasingly difficult. Your brand as an employer matters and you should double down on strategies that will help you find and keep the best talent. The research is clear, the best way to create that environment is through culture, appreciation and powerful managers.
TechBuzz presents Part II of Logan Mallory's series on hiring and retention. Part I,"Another Level of Interviewing," appeared last week. Logan contributed previously to TechBuzz.News on culture. Logan is VP of Marketing at Motivosity. He earned an MBA and BA in Communications from BYU. He previously held Digital Marketing Positions at LogMeIn, Jive, Workfront, and Deseret Book. He has been an adjunct professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business in Marketing Strategy. He hails from Michigan.