The Employee speaks:
You could completely change my cynical opinions about the selfish motivations of most companies.
You could be the surprising exception of good corporate governance amongst your competitors and I could become a fan of your brand, your culture and your operations.
Your company could benefit from my expertise, passion and loyalty. I could become so emotionally invested in your company, that when the chips are down - when your corporate reputation takes a hit due to whatever crisis and your stock price plummets - you could count on me to hang around and to stick it out. You cannot buy this affective commitment and my decision to stay in your company, the improbability of lifelong employment notwithstanding, would be the result of three key reasons.
I would stay in your company a really long time IF...
1) You inculcate a culture of transparency, credibility and fairness
I can appreciate that this point might come as a big surprise to you but it is actually the most powerful incentive for a long tenure in your organisation.
But it must be done the right way and it must be sustainable.
I realise that due to different dynamics, Management would change often but values should not. In fact, values should be certain and unyielding.
You must strive to be transparent. Ensure that guidelines for operations are clear and develop checks to prevent sabotage and/or incompetence. It must be consistently communicated that every member of the organisation is accountable for his actions: from you, Mr. CEO, to the new associate who has just begun his career.
Aspire to become credible. Remove bottlenecks and eliminate unethical practices and fraudulent inclinations. I am a straight arrow; most of your employees are, so encourage us to continue to be that way. You are the most important driver of perceptions, so make your actions reflect your convictions.
You also need to prioritise fairness. Your policies, especially when they affect interpersonal relationships and professional development, must be fair. Moreover, compensation, benefits and entitlements should all be given when due and should not be delayed by internal politics. Remuneration at the very least should be within the acceptable industry range. Espouse diversity and eliminate discrimination.
Do a corporate culture overhaul and I would not be going anywhere.
2) You ensure excellent professional development
The fact that I sought out your company, applied for my job and generally like my role is an good indication that I actually want to stay in your company.
But I need to be challenged. I need to find purpose in my career and I need to grow.
Therefore providing me with essential training and encouraging me to become responsible for my own professional development, whilst providing me with the support, time and resources in order to do so, would speak volumes to me.
For example, supporting me in a new career path; (I might want to switch departments or functional responsibilities); as well as approving a study leave for me to pursue my Master's or to upgrade my skills, whilst guaranteeing my job security, would be fantastic.
Likewise, being considered for a coveted role after the newly acquired qualifications, or making international work placements available, would be viewed with great appreciation.
Factor in a couple of dedicated and experienced executives to mentor me at every stage in my career development and I promise you this - I would not be leaving you any time soon.
3) You communicate clearly and consistently
And I mean communicating in simple language, regularly and without bias. In fact, clear communication must be encouraged, especially by your executive cadre. Good communication is not a privilege; it is a necessity for greater organisational effectiveness.
Let us also not forget the importance of feedback. Without timely and factual feedback, your vision, company initiatives and goals neither would be effective nor supported. There just would be too much ambiguity and prolonged speculation to make acceptance possible. Moreover, I would not care for anything that I do not understand or in which I do not believe.
You may want to make an investment in your internal communications function. Among other things, it is believed that this move would create a co-operative culture, incite talent development and promote internal branding.
The Age Of Social Media
We also live in the digital age and virtually all your employees have smartphones, tablets and other communication devices. The ease with which we communicate today is unprecedented, making opinionated people powerful advocates of company brands or formidable adversaries. So I suggest you use the power of social media to build your corporate reputation.
We may be out of the office most of the time but no matter how busy we are, we, your employees, use our devices. Most of us are active on at least one of the major social media platforms where we share information, vent about our frustrations and discuss breaking news.
Your company has hopefully realised the importance of social media to its corporate identity and you may have set up a social media team to manage the company's online presence. Slots on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and even YouTube might even be in the works.
But here is the thing Mr. CEO - you are not visible online and that somewhat bothers me. This is because I believe that your presence would make your company's social strategy more authentic.
In fact, I have read some interesting research that was carried out by Weber Shandwick, in partnership with KRC. They surveyed over 600 senior executives from 10 markets worldwide and revealed that 76% of global executives wanted their CEOs to engage in social media. Benefits for this engagement included - a positive impact on company reputation and business results; the improved ability to share company news and information; as well as the ability to communicate more directly with employees, customers and other key stakeholders.
This all makes sense given that social media is all about relationships and about building trust.
I suggest Mr. CEO, that you join Twitter at the very least and regularly post messages about company news, relevant industry insights and your opinions. If I were to become one of your followers, then receiving updates from you would make me more inclined to trust you. Obviously, the more I trust you, the more committed I would become in my job and the more likely I would remain in your company.
Do not be overly anxious about putting yourself 'out there'. Many CEOs, founders and notable personalities do it. To name a few: Richard Branson of the Virgin Group tweets regularly about company information and causes after his own heart, as does Bill Gates of Microsoft and Arianna Huffington, President/Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post media group. Then in January this year, Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group and according to Forbes, Africa's richest man in 2013, joined the world of Twitter.
So Mr. CEO, you would be in great company if you take your cues from them...
Contrary to what those in management circles may think - it is really not always about the money when a professional is considering a long, successful tenure in an organisation.
All the points I have given could all be summed up in a single piece of advice - show me by both your words and actions that you really care about the things that matter to my career and I would return the favour. I would go 'over and beyond' in my duties and I would stay with you a really long time.
It is really that simple.
So what is your strategy for retaining me?
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N.B– First image courtesy of Master, via freedigitalphotos.net. Second and fifth images courtesy of Renjith Krishnan, via freedigitalphotos.net. Third image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, via freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image courtesy of Ratch0013, via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image is author’s work.