Clear, Concise 'Leadership' Skills Are Seen as Key to Employee Retention

Clear, Concise 'Leadership' Skills Are Seen as Key to Employee Retention

Kitchen and bath firm owners and managers need to truly "lead" if they want to increase productivity, retain key employees and make the most of the company's talent pool. In order to do that, however, they "need to do more with more more interaction with employees, more communication, more partnering and more coaching." So says Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., a Pittsburgh, PA-based author and business consultant who spoke about this topic at the recent Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Orlando.

"Effective leadership is always the key element to motivating and retaining staff," Sujansky says. "Whenever employees are asked to identify why they left a company, 'lack of leadership' is often cited as one of the top five reasons. In order for employees to want to contribute, they must feel that they know where the company is going and that it's strategically strong. Strong leaders instill these beliefs."

Sujansky suggests implementing the following practices to get employees excited about the com-pany and eager to produce results.

  • Set clear expectations. Just like the company, each employee needs a clear focus, Sujansky says. "Continually communicate with your employees and state your expectations of them. Tell them what you want, what they did right, what you expect of them, and how you will measure their progress," she adds.
    Employers should share their organizational vision and goals, so that employees "understand the big picture," Sujansky says. "Realize that your team members want to know where the organization is going and how that direction impacts their personal objectives. The more you reveal to your employees, the more leadership they'll feel that they have."
  • Show respect. Business owners and managers need to stay attuned to employees' need for "life balance, as many people are sensitive to keeping work life, home life and community life in balance," Sujansky comments. "To respect employees' time, consider flexible work schedules. This could include longer work days and shorter work weeks.

    "Another great way to show respect is to get creative with your benefits plan. Employees may have more sophisticated needs in this area than you thought possible. For example, some companies now offer shopping services, adoption reimbursement and even pet care and pet insurance for employees. When people feel respected, they'll be more loyal over the long term."
  • Make the work day meaningful. Employees want more than just a job, Sujansky points out. "They want to contribute to the big picture. Therefore, leaders need to provide challenging and meaningful work assignments that stimulate their employees. When employees feel bored, their motivation declines and they lose focus of how their work fits into the big picture.

"Delegate meaningful work whenever possible so employees can learn something new and feel challenged," she adds.

  • Provide appropriate praise and recognition. "Recognize and celebrate even the small accomplishments, since praise and recognition inspire people to increase productivity," Sujansky comments. "Employees appreciate spontaneous and positive recognition along the way instead of delayed recognition during a performance review."
    One way to give praise and recognition is with a simple 'thank you,' Sujansky says.

    "This can be done in a moment in the hallway, by phone, or during a drop-in visit," she says. "'Thank you' is a powerful phrase that can make a person feel appreciated and valued. Whatever you choose to do, remember that rewards and recognition are great motivators, so use them freely.
  • Continually coach. To keep morale high, coach and facilitate every day, Sujansky suggests. "The 'I tell/you do' method of management simply does not work for motivating and retaining people," she notes. "Instead, become a coach to your people and encourage them to try things their own way. Allow for mistakes to happen, as mistakes are often our greatest learning opportunities. When people know that mistakes are understood as a part of the experience, they'll be more creative and take more risks.

    "When you need to correct employees, do so constructively by offering information on ways they can improve, attain and surpass desired results. Most people are grateful for constructive feedback. It shows that you're paying attention to their progress," she adds.

    While these guidelines won't guarantee that valuable employees will stay with you through good times and bad, "they do increase your chances for leading, motivating and retaining key people when your company needs them the most," Sujansky observes. "By partnering with your employees and creating a work environment that's enjoyable, meaningful and focused, your company can achieve great results."