Q: My company has been undergoing substantial restructuring and reorganization, and our new strategic direction has been slow to emerge. As leader of a fairly large work team, I am faced with some of my best team members beginning to get itchy feet. How can I encourage retention during a time of transition and uncertainty?
Karen, 47, client services director
A: If you are just starting to think about this, you may be too late. But you may be able to limit the losses and build equity for the future.
Think about the relationships you have with people on your team. How full is the trust bank? If you have been investing in people, standing up for them, and helping them, you will have some equity to work with.
For the people you are most concerned about losing, reflect on ways you could encourage each to stay. This will not be one size fits all, as people respond differently depending on their priorities and personalities.
Do some background work on the incentives you will have to offer, recognizing that some may come with a price tag. For these, work with your leadership to determine what you could offer. These may be financial; for example, companies sometimes offer retention bonuses for key employees. They may be perks such as added flexibility or extra vacation time. Or they could be increased investment in training, education, and development.
Once you know the material tools you have at hand, talk to your team members.
Be open about your concerns, their importance to the team, and, at the same time, your commitment to their best interests. If they are attracted to another opportunity, they should pursue it. Then if they stay, it’s an active choice rather than settling.
Information is another important item to build their engagement. You have pointed out that uncertainty is part of the issue. The future may be unclear, and you may have only partial information, but sharing what you can gives you the opportunity to influence the story.
For example, restructuring may sound ominous; however, it can readily be a source of opportunity. Helping employees have increased visibility within the evolving organization could help build their confidence in their future.
Beyond your current situation, think about the future. Even if you don’t keep the folks you would like to, are there things you’d do differently? As a leader, are you working with team members in a way that creates loyalty to you and your company?
Assess how fully you focus on each person’s career goals, for example, as well as their level of satisfaction and challenge in their current role. Failure to deliver opportunities for growth is a common source of disenchantment; are you helping your talented folks expand their skills and experience?
Feeling valued is another day-to-day step that anchors people. Do you do the little things to communicate your appreciation for your team members’ contributions?
Be an advocate, not a barrier. If you are on the extremes of micromanagement or neglect, find the right balance to help people get their work done.
Challenge yourself to build your team’s loyalty bank; you will have a stronger team and be a more effective leader.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.