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What You Want Employees to Say When They Leave

Scrolling through LinkedIn lately I’ve seWhat You Want Employees to Say When They Leaveen a number of posts marking someone’s last day with their current company. The post, often of someone moving on to another opportunity, are appreciative of the opportunity they had, grateful for the relationships they forged and overall very positive. The comments on the post from current co-workers and leaders are more of the same. They share their sadness over the person leaving and congratulations for the new opportunity. And every time I see it, I think the same thing.

That’s really the way you want someone to go.

Before the cynics jump in, I completely realize that for every one of those positive exits there are many more negative ones. I know that employees don’t always leave on good terms, but this post is about how you want employees to leave so I’m going to focus on that.

Employees take on new opportunities for all sorts of reasons. Sure the statement about people leaving their leaders is mostly true, but my time spent every week recruiting tells me that often people aren’t looking to leave. They aren’t dissatisfied in their current role, but something intriguing came along and they jumped on it. Many times throughout my day, a person I reached out to with an opportunity will say, “I’m not really looking now, but this does sound interesting”. They then go down the path of pursuing an opportunity not because they are dissatisfied in their current role, but simply because the timing is right for them and the opportunity allows them to move forward in their career or work on something they wouldn’t get the opportunity to in their current role.

Sometimes it isn’t about a poor working relationship with their manager or dissatisfaction with the business, but simply the right opportunity at the right time. And when it is, that employee leaving a positive note on social media about your company is amazing branding. It also may serve as great advertising that a position is open.

As I think about what I would want employees leaving my company to share, a few things come to mind. I want them to share that…

Their decision to leave had nothing to do with leadership or dissatisfaction, but one of opportunity.

They felt supported, challenged and appreciated while working for my company.

They are sad to be leaving so many great colleagues including leadership behind.

If the door were ever open for them to return and the opportunity made sense, they would do so in a heartbeat.

These are the things that speak to people these days. Pay, benefits, flex work and promotional opportunities are always important, but what people gravitate to now are places that check the boxes above. People are more willing to exchange more money for feeling valued. The highest paying environments, that are also the most toxic, are not as appealing as they once were.

I believe statements like this, when employees leave, are powerful. They are also powerful from current employees and the more you can accumulate the better. Now the question of how to make sure this is what employees say is a whole other blog post -or series – or leadership development program. But knowing what we want them to say is a good start.

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A Sense of Entitlement is Everywhere – Not Just With Younger Workers

There is a very common theme running through my interactions lately. I’m seeing it in the workplace with clients, in my consulting and recruiting practice with job seekers and interactions with random strangers at the store. Entitlement. From our good friends over at Websters, entitlement means a “belief that an individual is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”

“When are we getting our Thanksgiving gift cards so I can buy a turkey?” (because they were given last year and the employee feels they deserve that again this year).

“I will keep looking until I find a company that pays me the base my experience deserves.” (job seeker out of work for 18 months and being told over and over he is too expensive. Coming down just a little in his expectations would move his job search forward much faster.)

“Mom can you buy this for me?” “How about you clean your room and then maybe I’ll buy that for you.” “You’ve never made me do that before…” (you get this one right?)

The millennials take a lot of heat for being the “entitled generation”, but none of the examples above were from a millennial. Our entire culture is bred on entitlement and it can create a ton of problems in the workplace. My last corporate job was for a company who managed call centers. Keeping employees motivated to hang out on the phone for 8 hours a day and be yelled at can be a difficult task. We quickly learned though that the more incentives we gave them to get them to perform, the more they expected. Just like the turkey gift card example above – it happened last year so we feel we deserve it again this year.

It can be a tough cycle to break. Leaders have to set clear expectations and boundaries. Letting employees know which are fixed bonuses (meaning they will happen over and over such as in a pay-for-performance model) and those which are case by case (meaning they may or may not happen again) can help. I fully believe that this is an area where leaders have to be firm. Giving into a sense of entitlement breads more entitlement. Letting employees know that you want to reward them for their work, but that sometimes that reward may be nothing more than their paycheck and your gratitude may be necessary in a workplace rampant with entitlement.

Resetting expectations (or setting them in the first place) will also help with employees who have this sense that they are entitled to certain ongoing rewards or even explanations. A few weeks ago I witnessed an employee walk into a leaders office and question a major decision the leader had made. More than just expressing her concern, she wanted details about how the decision was made and why. Sharing that information with this employee would have meant sharing confidential information that she was not privy to. She was extremely agitated that the leader wouldn’t share all the details. Rewards and information, employees often feel entitled to both.

What do you see in your workplace? Do you work in an environment where employees feel entitled to certain things that they shouldn’t? How do the leaders of your organization handle this? How do you balance your own sense of entitlement with what you truly are deserving of? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Fun Does Not Equal Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a phrase thrown around in human resource offices for years. There are tons of definitions of employee engagement and varying opinions on whether it is even an important topic.

For me, employee engagement means, at a very basic level, employees are aware of what the company is trying to do and how their role fits into that. Understanding this and then doing their part to ensure they are fulfilling their role is engagement. Ensuring this happens is the responsibility of each and every leader in the organization. Do you want employees who will stay with you until they retire? Sure. Is it important to have employees who are so passionate about their job they think of little else? Maybe. Do you need every employee engaged in these ways to say you have employee engagement? I don’t think so.

I can also say with certainty that employee engagement does not mean employees are having fun. While fun is certainly a good thing to have, the individual responsible for employee engagement often turns into “Director of Fun”. They spend all of their time planning parties and contests and dress up days rather than really focusing on whether employees are engaged.

When leaders are concerned about employee engagement “fun” is where they immediately go. “We need to have more fun.” “I don’t think our employees think their work is fun.” I just don’t think that should be the focus. Employee engagement they way I look at it is actually easier than making sure employees have fun all the time. Fun is relevant and no one can be having fun all the time.

What do you think? Do you agree with my definition of engagement? Do you think engagement is more about happy employees having fun or employees who engaged enough to know their role in the company and do their part in fulfilling it?

Employee Solicitation – A Place for Policy or Understanding?

A common occurrence in today’s workplace is the need for employees to supplement their income. While your company may have policies against employees working for competitors while working for you, it is unlikely that the policy rules out all avenues for employees to generate additional income. And really why would you need too?

When individuals with not a lot of extra time and the inability to go to another physical location after leaving yours needs to find work they often turn to direct selling companies. Avon, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Thirty-One Gifts and the new Origami Owl are just a few of the numerous companies one can independently join and work to earn additional income. So what happens when an employee not only wants to sell these products on the side, but they decide their main workplace is the best place to do it? Suddenly Avon books are scattered on every break room table. Emails about deadlines to order and the newest product offering start flying around a couple of times a week. Invites to house parties are splattered on every bulletin board and bathroom stall. Once one employee starts and has success, others join and before long it seems items referencing the new enterprise attempts are every where.

Can I have a no solicitation policy?

Of course you can. You can also have a policy that states employees have to wipe their feet 12.5 times before entering the building, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

Events like this are a real opportunity for business leaders to develop a win-win solution that can do wonders for employee morale. Instead of worrying about the disruptive behavior of direct selling activities (and I do agree they can be disruptive) why not focus on a way to support your employee’s need to earn extra income while still running a productive business. Here are a few things you could do.

  • Dedicate Space to Solicit Orders – it could be a billboard or one table in the break room, but that is the space sellers can place their cards or marketing materials.
  • Start a signup for personal email addresses. Rather than just say that business email can not be used for this activity, encourage those interested to share a personal email that sellers could use. If you really want to be LOY (leader of the year) add yours. You can always delete the email.
  • Show support, but be clear on expectations. Letting employees know that you support their business endeavors there are a few specifics you want them to keep in mind. Things like soliciting to customers, conducting direct selling business on company time etc. It should be a quick list and be sandwiched with your desire to support their entrepreneurial spirit.
  • This is one of those things that doesn’t really have to be a big deal. Leaders often want to jump in and put the k abash on all activities at work, but is it really necessary? Would showing that you support their efforts and want to help them while sustaining your current business actually make them more dedicated to your business? While throwing a policy at it is usually the first defense (in this case and so many others), sometimes a little creativity can go a long way!


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    PS. The link to Mary Kay above does take you to my awesome friend Andrea who is not only a professional makeup artist but also sells Mary Kay. She is one gifted lady with a makeup brush and makes me beautiful all the time. No easy feat! So to support her business while still running my own, I’m linking to her page. See how easy that is:)

How Do I Stop Competitors from Stealing My Employees using Linkedin?

I had a very interesting conversation with a great HR pro recently. When I say great, I mean one who normally gets it. One who has been around the block a time or two and has the scars to prove it. One who understands that engaged employees are more than likely the answer to most of life’s problems. So you’ll understand my surprise when she said the following to me.

“How do I keep our competitors from stealing our employees? I mean, I know we need to focus on why they would want to leave and blah, blah, blah, but is there some way I can keep others from seeing them on Linkedin?”

Um, no and what the heck is blah, blah, blah?

She knows better so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. She is stressed and under a lot of pressure, I’ve been there. There is no other answer though. If you don’t want your employees jumping ship to your competitors or anyone for that matter, give them a reason to stay. That’s it. There has to be a reason why they are willing to entertain emails or phone calls from other recruiters. Is it more pay? Better benefits? A better environment? More growth potential? To get away from you? Figure it out. It really is a simple process (the figuring out part anyway, maybe not the fixing).

Know what else? Figure it out before they get that call. Have the conversations before they become ripe for the picking. Plan a course of action to fix what is in your control before they start jumping ship. Act now.

If you are not sure where to start, call me. Lets talk through what can be done before you decide to ban Linkedin from your workplace. (by the way, that won’t help)

Recruiting When Your Business Is A Stepping Stone

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Final Four match-up between the University of Louisville Cardinals and the University of Kentucky Wildcats this past Saturday.  While I grew up in Louisville, my parents grew up in Lexington, therefore we are Wildcat fans.  Now, basketball is really no big deal to me, but the rest of my family are die-hard fans.  My younger sister and father live and breathe this stuff.  Ashley drove to my parents home on Monday so she could watch the Championship game with my dad.  They take this stuff very seriously.

Trying to be a good sister and pretend to care, I started reading a few news articles about the Wildcats and in particular their coach, John Calipari.  This article about John recruiting one and done players really caught my attention.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like if companies recruited and hired like sports teams, you know scouting for months, holding a combine to check performance and then holding a draft where there were rounds and pictures taken and the first choice overall got the most money.  Anyway, I digress.  The reason this article jumped out to me is because of a call I got two weeks ago from a business that said, “How do I recruit people who aren’t just going to use my business as a stepping stone?”  The business is a small fish in a very big pond.  A pond with fish named Google and Apple.  People are accepting jobs, getting some experience under their belt (maybe a year) and then moving on to work their way up to those bigger fish.  The owner wanted to know how to screen these people out.

I had to really think through this one before giving an answer.  On the one hand, I know how such turnover hurts a company.  On the other how nice to always have fresh minds entering your workplace.  He never had a problem finding candidates, his only problem was getting them to stay.  We talked through employee engagement, pay, incentives, all of the things that might make employees stay where they are.  He has a pretty good setup and the reality is, no matter what he does he will never compete with Apple.  We talked about a few things he might be able to change, but in the end, not sure they are going to make that much of a difference.

So now we are taking a lesson from John Calipari.  While we will certainly review the recruitment process and see how we might target candidates a little differently, we are also talking through how to work within the current stage that is set.  If we are aware that his business is a stepping stone, but because of that he gets an abundance of fresh, eager minds willing to learn and do whatever they can to get the experience they need, how can we tap into that for however long we have them?  We have some neat ideas to work through and I’m excited to see where this takes us.

What about you?  Have you ever had to recruit or engage employees when the business is only viewed as a stepping stone for larger businesses?  What were some creative things you tried to either keep your talent or just tap into it’s power while you had them?