Attracting and hiring brilliant people is already a big enough challenge, but what’s harder is keeping your employees. Gone are the days of money as the strongest tool for employee retention. In a study by American Psychological Association, 51% of surveyed people stated that their team is one of the factors that keep them in their job and 56% said they stay because they feel connected to the organization.
However, how can one keep their team engaged, linked to the organization and easily keep it healthy? Somebody once said: every happy team resembles one another, every unhappy team is unhappy in its way. So here are the simple secrets of happiness that successful teams share.
1. Empower by Collecting Feedback
Spend time with the people you manage to collect direct feedback from them. It is usually from the individuals in the trenches who deal with the faults of the systems and processes where you can gather your best feedback. Let your employees know they do have their say in how things operate in the company. Create the atmosphere of trust and when you start receiving constructive criticism, take it seriously and act on it. If more than two months have gone by without a one-on-one meeting with one of your employees, you are doing something wrong.
Acting on the feedback directly and in a positive way will continue to help you build trust with your team. Follow-up with team members on the feedback they provided you and provide a status. Great ideas will come from team members, but only if you show that you are taking their feedback seriously.
Retrospectives or project close meetings are additional ways of gathering up the good, bad and confusing things that are happening on your team. They are a little bit more formal in nature but gather up good ideas and strategies for future projects. What is lost most often however is the follow through on making sure the ideas are acted upon. Spending an hour in a meeting generating ideas but not having any of them acted upon can be a morale buster for your team. Retrospectives and project close meetings can generate a ton of ideas. You will need to have the team prioritize which ideas are the best. Create a top 5 to 10 improvement ideas list. Don’t lose the rest of the ideas or throw them away. Your team members spent significant time writing those ideas so show them their ideas have value by keeping them around and referring to them from time to time.
2. Track and Celebrate Successes
Simple, right? No matter how much we talk about it, it will not make a difference until you start doing it. Teach yourself to pay attention to and recognize small victories your staff accomplishes every day. In fact, just saying “I have noticed you have improved in this” when you mean it can do miracles to your team’s sense of encouragement. If you do not do it, you will incur a lot of management debt and end up losing someone valuable.
Milestones and goals can also help in tracking success. Set dates where major deliverables or end dates for phases. Track those dates visibly and publicly. Don’t hide them from your team's sight. When your team accomplishes those milestones or goals, make a point to update the list to show the milestone or achieved the goal. Celebrate the success!
Celebrations do not need to involve a marching band, confetti, and champagne. They can be very simple. For individual contributions, a simple handwritten thank you note or card hand delivered is a nice touch. Shooting off the email does not have much value when your team member gets a thousand emails every day. For team successes handing out a small token of your appreciation in a team meeting is a great way to show your team appreciation. Don’t have anything else on the agenda. Set aside the time and focus on saying “Thank You” thoughtfully and meaningfully. Although food and money are big motivators, it does not have to be part of the celebration. Look them in the eye and say “Thank You.” That will always leave a long lasting impression than a doughnut.
3. Eliminate Waste from Meetings to Reports
No, I am not suggesting you ditch meetings and reports altogether. However, is it sensible to keep people in a 3-hour meeting just to say something you could communicate in a few lines over email? Split up lengthy meetings into daily standups to avoid data overload and typical meeting drag bottlenecks. When it comes to reporting, just choose a set of clear and relevant metrics and automate the generation of their recurring reports - easy!
Think in terms of minimally viable. What is the least amount of work needed to produce the biggest results? Approach this carefully, some deliverables are required for legal or regulatory reasons. Other deliverables help in clearly communicating with other teams. It may not be cutting the deliverable out entirely but rather looking at a different approach to presenting the deliverable. Having a design walk through with the quality team might just reduce the need for significant amounts of design documents. Always ask your colleagues and partners what information they need to be successful and then figure out how to deliver it as efficiently as possible.
4. Promote Personal Development
No matter how great and motivated a person is, unless they grow, their enthusiasm will slowly fade away. Give your people opportunity to grow both within their field and beyond. Send them to appropriate seminars and professional conferences. Start giving bonus remuneration to those who read books or take online courses and share this knowledge with their team. Investing in your staff will make them invested in their career and your team.
Often we tend to think of formalized training as a way of career development but attending conferences like Business Analyst World or Project Summit gives your team the chance to interact with others in their field to gain perspectives on how another approach the problems you are having at your organization. Give some homework to the attendees of a conference. Tell them to network with 5-10 other conference goers on your top 5 issues and get their perspective. It is amazing to see the ideas the come back from the conference.