And Aim for High Employee Engagement and Retention, Instead

Life is full of lessons. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find them neatly tucked away in the entertainment of movies. Like: How a box of chocolate can be insightful or when to have enough lifeboats for your passengers.

Other times, we learn through our experiences — such as failing to run a business with great employee engagement and retention.

While we don’t have a movie to give you all the answers to stop employees from running away, we have the next best thing.

Here are the 10 quickest ways to lose a good employee by killing your employee engagement and retention, inspired by the Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey classic.

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How-to Guide: 4 Ways to Run an Efficient Small Business


1. Call Employees Out

Do you remember the walk of shame to the timeout corner as a kid? Your mistakes were broadcast to your peers and left you feeling broken and embarrassed.

Now stop and think — when was the last time you made anyone on your staff feel that way? Just because you can’t recall doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

While correcting your staff is important, harshly making an example of someone can leave them feeling belittled. When a mistake needs to be addressed at that moment, frame it as a teachable moment.

A better way: Take a balanced approach.

  • Ask yourself if your reaction is appropriate. If the error wasn’t catastrophic, your response shouldn’t be either.
  • Avoid emphasizing how wrong they were and focus on correcting the issue. This will help them feel more comfortable communicating mistakes to you.
  • Point out things the employee did correctly. Try the compliment sandwich approach where you tuck correction between two praises.
  • Understand why the mistake was made. Sometimes this requires one-on-one time so the employee can be honest with you.
  • Correct the employee with details in private. One of the best ways to lose a good employee is by ruining the culture of trust you’ve worked to build.
  • When it’s time for big fixes that require a long process, bring the employee in. They’ll be properly coached for the future, and you’ll feel more comfortable trusting them.

2. Underestimate Employee Capabilities

Have you ever looked at your team and thought: They’re not ready to tackle a new skill? While growth is always a goal, if you’re looking to bring on new staff because you lack faith in those currently working for you, you’ve got a problem brewing.

You’re sure to lose your best employees if they feel like you don’t believe in them. Rather than hire on new staff or outsource work, ask those employees with the potential if they’d consider taking on a new challenge.

It’s an opportunity to grow the company’s internal talent pool and foster a learning culture.

Over half of employees desire to learn and advance.

3. Offer Vague Instructions

Leaving out details will have your employees grasping for straws. What you may see as an opportunity for them to take charge could turn into a waste of time for all parties involved.

Can you imagine pouring your time and energy into a task only to have your superior share it’s not what they were hoping for? Talk about a blow to their self-esteem.

Instead, when you assign a task or project, be sure to communicate:

  • The objective
  • Any resources available
  • All project requirements
  • The intended vision
  • The due date, including a timeline of any deadlines
  • A budget and any purchasing protocols
  • Expected end-of-project deliverables

Keep in mind, your employees are not mind-readers. Not filling them in will lead to you quickly losing them if the stress of guessing what you want becomes too burdensome.

4. Don’t Celebrate Staff

While the sentence, “Good job,” is just two words long, it carries a lot of weight. It raises morale but also gives employees an idea of what exactly you’re looking for.

When employees don’t feel valued at work, they’ll disengage and abandon you for a company that will appreciate them — costing you big on turn-over costs.

When asked what leaders could do more to improve, 58% replied: Give recognition.

It doesn’t take much to celebrate your employees. Give public, personalized recognition to employees to help the company flourish.

While a raise, lunch or outing on the company dime is an exciting way to celebrate, sometimes a formal thank you letter will do the trick. Remember, add thought behind it. Gifts given out of habit quickly lose their effectiveness.

>5. Never Be Flexible

“Leave your personal issues at the front door” is a phrase that’s beyond unrealistic. If we could simply turn our brains off, the world would be a less stressed place.

The truth is life happens and sometimes your employees cannot be at their best. Your ability to go with the flow can become the deciding factor on whether or not employees stay loyal to your company.

Offer an alternative to the traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour workweek. For employees who are high-functioning in the mornings, allow them to come in earlier than usual. This means you’ll get the most out of their time there.

For parents, the adjustment could lead to saving hundreds on before- and after-school care. Late risers can get in their morning jog and coffee before heading in, and you can officially extend your work hours without specifically hiring a night team.

31% of people would stay with their current employer if they had a more flexible work schedule.

6. Hover, Hover, Hover

If you would like to lose your best employees in record time, micromanage. Give them zero space and watch how quickly they clear out.

When you fight to control and monitor everything, it screams out: I DON’T TRUST YOU! On top of that, it creates a significantly more stressful work environment. What better way is there to lose great employees?

Don’t be a helicopter employer.

  • Work on delegating effectively to avoid unintentional micromanaging
  • Set clear expectations and release perfectionism
  • Ask your staff how they prefer to be managed

7. Refuse Mental Health Breaks

Spending time away from work helps lower stress and boost motivation. Stop denying vacation time. Your workers deserve a break.

We’re not saying you should pay for all the employees to take a month-long trip to Hawaii; however, if your business doesn’t believe in the importance of taking a vacation, employees are sure to take a permanent one — away from you.

Work-life balance was the reason listed for 12.4% of employees who quit their jobs.

8. Ignore Boundaries

Your employee may love you, your company and everything it stands for, but too much of a good thing can turn sour. Your employees have a life outside of helping you run your business.

If you don’t provide the time to separate work from personal, you risk employee burnout and resignation.

Protect employees from overcommitting from the beginning.

  • Say no to work-based tasks and training on their off-time
  • Require automated out-of-office messages outside of work hours
  • Empower them to press pause on certain tasks rather than cut into their break time

9. Ignore Employee Potential

Are you neglecting your employees? This seems like a wild question, but employers can miss the potential in their staff.

If you’re not working to identify and hone in on your workers’ strengths and turning them into transferable skills, you’re doing your staff and yourself a disservice.

Instead of focusing on the bottom lines and deadlines, become their coach. Get to know their hidden talents, pour your knowledge into them and start practicing.

Sometimes you’ll have to weed out a few not-so-beneficial habits before you lay the foundation but, it’s well worth it — especially when the knowledge and history are there. Make the step to commit to their growth.

19.6% of employees listed career development as their reason behind leaving their job.

10. Disregard Employee Concerns

People want to be heard. This is especially true when things are going wrong in the workplace. When you ignore feedback from those who are there to benefit your business, you run the risk of reducing the level of employee engagement as well as employee retention.

It’s not enough to issue surveys and acknowledge present issues.

Manager behavior accounted for the reason 11.8% of employees quit their jobs.

Your employees know when they’re not being listened to. They take note every time their feedback is ignored. You have to actively implement change or accept the fact that you’re going to lose the great employees who care the most.

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How-to Guide: 4 Ways to Run an Efficient Small Business