Workers in America are an unhappy lot. The Conference Board reports that only 45 percent of workers are satisfied with their work, continuing a two-decade trend of increasing dissatisfaction. Research tells us that there is often a link between dissatisfaction and people not doing their best at work. Think about that. Nearly six out of ten people in our organizations may not be bringing anywhere near their best to work
Those types of numbers can lead unwelcome scenarios for your organization. For example, people who are dissatisfied in their jobs will leave — either physically, or sometimes worse, mentally. Usually, the best performers are the first to go when they are dissatisfied. They are highly marketable, and they know it. On the other end of the spectrum, poor performers will often not leave but simply continue to be dissatisfied. The bulk of the dissatisfied workforce will stay. That is, they won’t be the first out the door, but they will begin mentally shutting down. They will begin to only do what absolutely needs to be done or only what will impact their merit increase. They will come in at 8:00 a.m. and walk out precisely at 5:00 p.m. And once they see top performers leaving, they too begin to look toward the door.
As a leader, you need to retain and engage the strong performers on your team. Here are some things to think about:
- Look at your team. Who’s a flight risk? Whose departure would significantly impact the business or the team? Who’s not going anywhere but at the same time is not as fully engaged as they once were? Create re-engagement strategies and contingency plans to implement if a performer leaves.
- Look at yourself. How satisfied are you? Does your performance reflect your satisfaction? As a leader, your team takes direction from you.
- What vision have you developed and communicated for your organization? Does it make people say, “I want to be part of this.”
- As you set goals with your team, how meaningful are those goals? Will the person have a sense of progress? People are satisfied when they perceive they
are doing something meaningful, have a choice in their work activities, feel they are performing competently, and are making progress.
- Are you giving people a choice in how they run their business or manage their work?
- Are you helping them build their capacity through coaching? Do they have the skills and knowledge to perform competently? Are they able to use their strengths?
- Have you spoken with people about how they perceive their current work and working environment. How do they feel about it? What interests them about it? What frustrates them? Have a conversation and create a plan together to build on what’s good and to address what can be changed.
- Don’t throw money at something, unless that is the real issue. In the same way, avoid contests, employee of the month programs, one-time bonuses. These things do create motivating environments for a short period of time—until the momentary glow wears off. Money will not work long term. You need to think about the real motivators. Authors Thomas and Tyman refer to real motivators as meaning, autonomy, progress, and competence. Dan Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
- Finally, on the chance that a poor performer leaves, how attractive is it for a strong performer to join your team?