The HR Fix

005 Building a Community is the Most Effective Way to Increase Employee Retention

October 30, 2019 Ann Lustig
The HR Fix
005 Building a Community is the Most Effective Way to Increase Employee Retention
Show Notes Transcript

I will admit that I love technology solutions. I love so many of the new HR products, apps and services on the market. I am fascinated by the capabilities of Data and AI and the potential for the future. But at the same time, I strongly believe that nothing can replace Human Interaction - and the farther we move away from it, the more we crave it.

I think Barbra Streisand was wrong when she said people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. I think everyone needs people and it's already apparent that the more we distance ourselves from each other, the more we will see higher levels of stress, mental illness and/or drug addiction. No wonder we have so many happiness gurus out there.

We need balance and that is why the future of HR must be a balance between a more technology driven path and a more human driven path.

And to me, the most effective way to increase employee retention is to build a community. This episode reviews what that means as well as factors in in building or identifying a healthy or strong community, steps to create an effective rewards & recognition program, and actions HR can take to help build a company or department's community.

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Hi and welcome to the HR fixed podcast. Today I'm talking about building a community because to me, a community is the most effective way to increase retention and we all know that a lot of companies are struggling with retention. And high turnover is a very big expense for companies, but not only that, we want our employees to be happy. Recently, I was advising an HR group about their issues with retention and they seemed to be doing everything right. Yet, when they looked at the retention numbers, nothing seemed to help. And I can't speak about the company specifics but I can say it was a successful company, up to date with some of the latest technology tools and trends and had aggressive plans for growth. On the surface, they were doing some things they thought would help to increase retention, but retention was just not improving. They had after hours activities like barbecues and fun trips, volunteering, happy hours, things like that. They offered rewards for innovation. They encouraged collaboration. All of these efforts on the surface appeared successful, but yet, nothing seemed to help. The issue wasn't their efforts. They were good ideas. The issue was that they didn't do anything to build their community. In fact, some things were working against it and I'll explain that in a little bit, but first I want to talk about what community is because having a strong community is one of the most, if not the most important factors in retention. In fact, to me, community supersedes culture. Although there are some aspects of community and culture that overlap, they are not the same. Culture defines how we act. It's the process. Community, which is often based on actions, defines how we feel. It's the result. A community is a living entity. It's made up of people and every single person contributes to creating that community. A strong sense of community exists when everyone feels a part of that community and supports other people in that community and there are four factors and building or identifying a healthier, strong community. So I'm going to go over those with you now. The first one is having a common goal and I have a great example for this one. I don't know if anybody watches the office. I happen to love the show. And on one of the episodes, Andy who's the office manager, decides he wants to challenge the staff to increase their sales goals. So he creates this really stupid points system with rewards and everybody's kind of rolling their eyes and then one of the employees, Jim Halpert asks, what would be the incentive for 5,000 points? And Andy thinks about it for a minute and Andy doesn't think that they can do it. So, he said that if they reach the goal he will get a tattoo of their choice and in a not very convenient place. The office workers agree to it and then decide to pool their points, making it possible to get the 5,000 points. So watching them work, you see that the office, which usually has like really low energy is suddenly bursting with activity and it's because everybody had a common goal. Everyone was working toward the same thing. The cooperation was at an all time high. The morale was really good. Everyone was happy and productive. And I realize this is a TV show, but still it's effective to illustrate what can happen when everyone has a common goal, which by the way, they ended up reaching. I just looked it up and it season 2, episode 8 if you do want to watch it, it's actually a pretty funny episode. Anyway, when you're at work a common goal would be, could be something different. That could be something like launching a new product or working toward an important deadline. It could be growing your overall sales or it could be just the like a million different things. It's going to vary depending on your department, depending on your company. Common goals can vary and common goals can also be outside of work. It can be working together to help the community or fundraising or something else like that, but looking back on the example that I mentioned earlier about the company that I met with, you know you have to ask, did they have common goals and I'm going to say no. They didn't have common goals. They had deliverables, they had things that they were accountable for and things that measured their success, but the individuals did not share a common goal. They each had their own individual goals and just like the example about the point system on the show , the office there, they each had their own individual goals, but once they started working together, they exceeded those individual goals and they were happier. The second one I want to talk about is transparency and collaboration. So to understand a goal, it's important to understand the purpose of that goal. Let me ask you this. How do you feel when you hear phrases like, because that's the way we do it or because that's the way it's done or because that's the way we've always done it. I don't think that phrase makes anybody happy. Transparent organizations stay away from that type of thinking and instead they explain why the goal has been set and the value of the goal. When employees understand the purpose of accomplishing a goal, they're more engaged in achieving that goal. Employees that are encouraged to offer their opinions and see some of their suggestions implemented, feel more connected to the company and have an increased sense of ownership in the company's success. Transparency and collaboration was clearly missing in the company I met with recently. In meetings, they would ask for opinions, but decisions were often made before the meeting even took place. I'm sure some of you have experienced that. And the leadership thought they were encouraging collaboration by letting a group of employees plan the events. Sounded great. Right? But no. By just digging a little deeper, we can see that the events were all organized by the same four people every single time. They would meet amongst themselves. They would never ask for any other employees input about the events. They would just decide what was g onna happen and go for it. And what's worse, everyone else felt excluded from this group and resented them. So many times when these events took place, people attended because they felt obligated, not because they wanted to attend. The third thing we see in a h ealthy employee community is that every single employee is looked at as important. Have you ever felt at work like you were on your own and there was nobody around that was friendly or there was nobody around to help you? Many employees feel this way. Now imagine working in an office where people say good morning every day or ask you how you are and sincerely listen. Also, think about an office where everyone's willing to help. Peers and managers are approachable and willing to offer an opinion in a constructive way. What a different feeling it is to know that you have support when you need it. Supporting coworkers, no matter who they are, creates an atmosphere of respect, trust and honesty and who doesn't want that? It's one that focuses on inclusion and breaks down barriers and it eliminates pettiness. One that values every single person's contribution. Now let's think again about those four people that were planning events. What would be different if the same four people were friendly with everyone? If they approached people and asked if they can help them. If they had lunch with people rather than just having lunch with each other. How would that change the environment there? Or the feelings people had about attending the events? I think it would change it a lot. The fourth way of looking at if a company has a healthy community is to look at their way of doing recognition and rewards. Thanking employees through recognition and rewards is an effective way of making employees feel appreciated. The company I met with recently recognized accomplishments, but it was so inconsistently done and it seemed as if the same people were always being acknowledged. In fact, one of the employees I spoke to there mentions how those four party planners always got a huge thank you at the end of every single event, while everyone else just rolled their eyes. People were tired of those four people and it was really impacting the environment. Because r ewards shouldn't be predictable. Sure it's True that you know on occasion somebody or a group creates something amazing and you want to reward them. You're definitely proud of them. They've done a great job and you c an predict that they're g oing t o win an award, but there's a lot of other little things that happen all the time and these people need to be recognized as well. So h ere a re some things you can do to make an effective recognition and rewards program. Number one, involve all staff by having a nominating process that anyone can use. You know, a coworker does something fantastic and nobody would know about it unless you told people you have the opportunity to share that with everyone. Number two, have a process where employees review the nominations and this is made up of employees with different perspectives or have a voting process. Number three, limit the amount of times somebody can get an award or how often somebody can get an award. You want this to be fair and you want everybody to have an opportunity to be recognized. Number four, announce both the nominees and the award winners. All nominees should be recognized also, they've also accomplished something and I think it's important for them to be recognized as well. Number five, encourage everyone to congratulate the award winner. Number six, be happy for everyone's success and show it. So to recap, things are not always as they appear. If your efforts for building a community aren't working, you need to speak to the employees to find out what's really going on. You can't guess by just watching what's going on. You don't know how somebody feels unless you actually speak to them. So I say talk to your employees, as many of them as you can and ask them, what did you think of this? What's your opinion on that? And you know what? You can use things like surveys. I think surveys are really important for recognizing trends and they really help. But by speaking to people directly, they become part of the process and they become more engaged. So by just asking, you're actually taking a step in the right direction for building a community. And HR can take an active role in helping to build a community as well. Here are four actions that HR can do to help to build a community. One, help managers diagnose the issues that are preventing them from creating a healthy community. Two, help managers to understand the concept of and create a common goal. Three, coach managers about the importance of effective uses of transparency, collaboration, and creating an environment that is supportive to all workers. And it doesn't just have to be coaching. This can be training as well. And four, Create an effective company wide or department wide recognition and reward system. So that's it for now, but I do plan to talk about this in more detail in future podcasts. So if you're interested in learning more about this topic, please subscribe to this podcast. And if you want to contact me or ask a question or invite me to speak at your company or conference, you can reach me through my website, which is or send a message to me through LinkedIn. Thanks so much for listening and remember... Focus on tomorrow, take action today!