Retaining Good Team Members

Good team members are hard to find and hard to keep. Although the economic downturn has led to some downsizing, unemployment remains low and talented people still have their pick of good jobs.

There are likely to be increased talent shortages over the coming years, as baby boomers retire and are replaced by a much smaller Generation X workforce.

Small companies face special problems in retaining team members - they can’t always provide a complete career path or the full range of benefits that larger organizations may offer. They have to compensate for this with intangibles. Fortunately, it is often the intangibles that matter most.

Surveys consistently find money is not the top priority for team members. Money is certainly important during the hiring phase. Good people will generally not consider applying for a job if the compensation is not competitive. But they won’t stay in a job for the money.

A recent ABCNews poll found that eight percent of employees put a bigger paycheck as their top priority. Forty-one percent said that their top priority was being treated fairly.

Fair treatment means showing respect and concern for team members as people as well as workers. Showing respect implies listening to team members’ opinions and taking them into account when making business decisions.

It’s also important to give team members jobs that will challenge them. Boredom is a real killer in terms of job satisfaction. Companies are more attractive when they offer team members the chance to do training or increase their skills in other ways.

Positive feedback will also build employee satisfaction. Public and private praise makes people feel they have a valued place in the company. People tend to gravitate to places where they feel appreciated.

Performance guidelines and expectations should be clear. Where team members fail to perform, it’s important to offer negative feedback in private. Most people have a very low tolerance for public criticism.

It’s also important to challenge and reward people according to their individual needs. One person may want a more flexible working week, while another might prefer perks such as company tickets to a sports event.

The better companies know their team members, the better they can judge where their policies need changing. For example, it’s important to conduct exit interviews when team members leave a company. They can help determine where policies could be improved.

Another key to keeping good team members is not to demand too much. Many employers are tempted to depend on their good team members, expecting long hours and good results. But high flyers can burn out if pushed too hard. Long hours and high pressure over a sustained period can turn a top employee into an average one, or one that has just quit and gone in search of a more balanced lifestyle.

Employers should be on the lookout for warning signs that team members are overstressed. These include increased sick leave or working through illness, consistent working through lunch or late into the evening, rushing when deadlines approach, a reluctance to take holidays, and growing moodiness and frustration.

Good management will not only help retain good people, it should increase productivity. Prometheon reports a Gallup survey on employee attitudes and business outcomes. It assessed organizations that had above average employee satisfaction. It found that they rated 38 percent higher on customer satisfaction, 22 percent higher on productivity, and 27 percent higher on profits.