This is the final installment in a three-part series on employee engagement. Read the first and second posts.

I’ve advocated doing everything you can to understand your employees’ motivations. In my previous post, I wrote about how communicating through this lens gives your employees a more vested interest in their own work, which pays dividends for your company. But sometimes—in the face of an overabundance of options or perhaps a lack of big-picture awareness—the employees themselves aren’t aware of their motivations. This makes your job doubly difficult, but not impossible.

Throughout much of the world’s corporate history, workers tended to spend their entire careers at the first company to hire them. They would get on-the-job training, move through a series of promotions, and generally stick around much longer than today’s employees, as this “Forbes” article points out.

Today’s employment philosophy is obviously very different. Changing jobs is the rule, rather than the exception. Even if you invest heavily in training, development, and communication structures, loyalty can be illusive. Your employees might stick around a little while longer, but, let’s face it, they’re not going to be lifers.

Reciprocal loyalty no longer exists. You can’t change that, but you can plan for it.  Tweet This Quote

I used to wonder why my employees couldn’t stick with the company or why they weren’t always thinking about the long-term good of the business. But I now realize that their job hopping is perfectly fine.

As is the case with many entrepreneurs, my personal motivations were inexorably linked with my company, and I just assumed it would be the same for all of my employees. The reality, of course, is that there’s a big delta between my expectations and those of the people I lead. There’s no eliminating this delta, but by framing things in terms of your employees’ own motivations, you can easily bridge it.

Reciprocal loyalty no longer exists. Today’s workers see personal and professional development as part of their compensation from the company, regardless of how quickly they decide to leave. You might not like that, but you can’t change it. So your best approach is to plan for it.

The key is to create a development program with your employees. Don’t simply hand them a list of benchmarks to meet; create the benchmarks with them, then give them the freedom and tools they need to reach those goals. In this way they will feel more engaged and much more accountable for their own performance and development.

Make your employees’ personal motivations work for you by :
· Placing responsibility in their hands and having managers act as guides along the way;
· Asking them to create and manage personal-development plans, listing milestones that align with opportunities for growth;
· Referring back to those milestones frequently;
· Being available for guidance and mentoring.

Making the employee the principal driver of his or her own career reduces the burden on the company (which is critical, especially for startups) and encourages the employee to take an active role. An added bonus is that the sense of independence and trust this instills in your employees makes them much more likely to stick around.

How do you develop and engage your employees? What’s your workforce succession strategy? Share your experiences in the comments below.


Wendy Lea

Author Wendy Lea

Wendy is the CEO of Centrifuse and Chair of the Board for Get Satisfaction. She has over three decades of experience helping companies drive predictable growth through trusted relationships with customers and partners.

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