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The Four Keys of Employee Retention (Part 2)

Leaders must respect and recognize their teams if they want to keep them

CHICAGO — With the labor market as tight as it has been in memory, finding good people for your drycleaning business is only part of the solution. Keeping experienced team members is crucial to continuing to provide great service to your customers.

This was the message from Jeff Jordan, VP of business development at Fabritec International. Jordan spoke on a panel that addressed hiring and retaining employees earlier this year, sponsored by the North East Fabricare Association (NEFA), the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA), the Pennsylvania & Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

In Part 1 of this series, we examined Jordan’s first key — Provide Exciting, Challenging or Meaningful Work — and today, we’ll take a look at the next two keys to keeping your team engaged and building an exceptional atmosphere.

Key No. 2: Supportive Management (AKA, a Good Boss)

“CareerBuilder recently had a survey,” Jordan says, “where one out of three employees described their boss as a ‘nightmare,’ and an additional 11% said that their boss is difficult to work with. That’s almost 50% of people having problems with their boss. Gallup found that 80% of turnover can be related directly to an unsatisfactory relationship with the boss.”

When there’s that kind of friction between leadership and their team, employee satisfaction plummets, absenteeism increases and turnover is a constant problem. “If your employees are scattering when you walk through a room, that’s a problem,” Jordan says. “They’re going to slow their production, they’re not going to be as motivated — they’re going to be afraid to talk to you.”

So, how do you avoid the “nightmare boss” scenario? One of the best remedies is to simply walk through your plant regularly and talk to your team. “If the only time you talk to your employees is where there is discipline or corrective action needing to happen, they’re going to be terrified to talk to you,” Jordan says.

Again, one of the main strengths owners of small businesses have over huge corporations is the ability to get to know their people. “You should have a lot more latitude with your time and what you’re able to do to connect with your employees as their boss,” Jordan says.

This personal touch not only strengthens the morale of the team, but it is a simple, cost-effective tool that every leader should respect. “A poll found that 36% of employees said that they’d rather have a better boss than a $5,000 raise,” Jordan says. “Make the boss the most important relationship they have in their environment.”

Key No. 3: Being Recognized, Valued and Respected

A crucial part of being a supportive leader is to regularly recognize your team for the value they add to your business. “Everyone loves to be appreciated, and we forget to do that,” Jordan says. “The desire to be appreciated is one of the deepest human emotions.”

And, again, this doesn’t have to be an expensive perk or elaborate system set up. Jordan found that, while working in a bank leading a call center operation, a $20 trophy was worth its weight in gold.

“The trophy cost me $12, and I got an engraved for $8,” Jordan says. “I just bought it myself because otherwise, I had to go through layers of management approval just to get the $20 trophy.” The trophy became a monthly rotating award for the top salesperson on Jordan’s team. “It had no monetary value. You got your picture taken with the trophy, we put it on the ‘Hall of Fame’ and the trophy sat on your desk for a month.”

Jordan did it in the beginning just for fun, but he soon learned a valuable lesson. “It seems kind of childish, and I didn’t think anybody would care that much,” he says, “but it became the most sought-after award I had. It was just a simple trophy with a nameplate on there that just said ‘Top Performer.’ It was so simple, but worked out great.”

Another way employees can feel recognized is to give them the means to share their appreciation with each other. Jordan’s team had a “Staff Shout Outs” board, where they could write small messages praising a co-worker for some specific action they’d performed.

“The employees will start to run with this,” Jordan says. “You start to feed it and, all of a sudden, it’s going to run itself. That appreciation is going to come not just from the top-down but from the bottom-up. Everyone’s going to get involved.”

Management can still play a role in this form of recognition, Jordan says. “At any sort of team function, you can read these out loud, it makes a huge difference to hear the words spoken in front of your peers.”

Getting to know their team by speaking regularly with them will give leaders more tools to use in this area, as well. “You start to learn a lot about your employees,” Jordan says. “Some employees want to be recognized publicly, and some privately. Some appreciate written recognition, while some appreciate spoken. Some appreciate gifts, and others want words of affirmation. It’s a great way to get them continually engaged with their own workplace — you’ll see morale start to tick up as you go.”

Come back Thursday for the conclusion of this series, where we’ll examine the fourth key to employee retention: allowing them to see their future. For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.