June 17, 2012

Our Secret Ingredient is Our People - Part II

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In my last article, I tried to bring out the importance of hiring the right people for your company. We did look at some of the areas to focus on and some of the best practices in acquiring the right set of talented and passionate people, and also some good practices that companies follow today. This article is going to be the second one of the three part series where we will look at another critical piece of the puzzle - Retaining People.

Many organizations today focus and invest heavily on the acquisition process (done rightly or wrongly), conducting hiring drives, paying hefty sums to head hunting firms, dishing out juicy joining bonuses and the like. But the minute the person / candidate joins the organization, its more likely that he or she is left on an auto-pilot mode after going through a set of preconceived induction programs. Remember, a company's DNA is not just in its policies. As these people start to move out of the initial honeymoon period, they get to start feeling the true spirit of the organization. What is this true spirit, you may wonder. Read on...

There are various ways of retaining talent, and there are experts from across the world talking in length about it. In this article, we will look at 5 focus areas to retain talent, which traditional HR websites / firms may not necessarily talk about.
  1. Nurture Passion
  2. Identify & Recognize Potential
  3. Embrace Openness
  4. Take Interest in your people's Well-being
  5. Establish a Creative Workplace

Nurture Passion

People come from various educational, cultural, religious and social backgrounds. And, with diverse backgrounds come diverse perspectives and beliefs. It's important to recognize this fact and look forward to it from your people too. Having done a good job of identifying the right people, it's also important to acknowledge the fact that talented people (especially) are strongly driven by passion. While some may be aware of their passion, others may not. Helping your people nurture their passion or helping them identifying their passion is very important. Here are a couple of instances for example -
  • People who have a passion for Technology - Offer them small projects or allow them to prototype ideas of their own. Identify a sponsor in the organization if the prototype is worth investing.
  • People who have a passion for a Sport - Depending on their level of sporting experience, consider sponsoring them for sporting events or perhaps a gym membership.
One of the companies I know had an employee who was passionate about gaming - They gave him a Sony Playstation and saw a tangible difference in his work and productivity. When I asked their HR Director, he said -
He is a good employee. If we lose him, we lose talent and also will end up paying at least 10 times the cost of a Sony Playstation to the head hunting firms! On the contrary, by getting him a Sony Playstation console we've ended up gaining his loyalty plus a sizable increase in his productivity.

Identify & Recognize Potential

For those people who haven't been able to identify a passion, help them identify - Observe them at work and other non-working hours and try identifying what they get kicked about. You really don't need a psychologist to do this - a keen pair of eyes would do! Trust me, people will be extremely happy when you help them identifying their forte and passion!

Embrace Openness

Many companies have adopted open-door policies (quiet literally!) and are reaping the benefits coming from them. People hate to be protected from secrets, nor do they like to work without the freedom to question the management. Establishing a flat-organization hierarchy at work helps foster openness as people get the confidence of being able to reach to anyone in the senior management directly. Also, it helps senior-management directly influence people. Adopting open email groups for communication and having open-door discussions are good signs of a healthy workplace.

Take Interest in your people's Well-being

Life is a two-way street, said someone. It's very true when it comes to inter-personal relationships at the least. When you do good to someone, good things will happen to you. No, I'm not getting philosophical here. When companies care for their people, people reciprocate with trust and loyalty. Many companies do try to do this by giving gift coupons on their birthdays or anniversaries. But that's not what I'm referring to here. Instead, try doing smaller things that make a difference to your people's everyday lives. Here are a couple of examples from companies I've known -
  • Free Lunches and Snacks - There is no lunch as free-lunch. What you get back is the trust of your people, which is invaluable!
  • Free Laundry - Yes, I'm not kidding. There are many people who find it extremely tough to manage laundry on busy work days. They neither want to spend weekends doing laundry. It's one of the least expensive ways to win over your employee (and his family's support too!)

Establish a Creative Workplace

Buddha gained enlightenment sitting under the Bodhi Tree, not in his bedroom! So will your employees. Many companies boast of having the best of workplaces with spacious desks and coffee vending machines. But hey, what do you expect your employees to do in their big work desks and with gallons of coffee? Get sick? Bringing in some creative elements to your workplace definitely make a big difference. Here are some ways companies I've known do this -
  • Foosball, Video games, Table Tennis tables and other indoor games - They bring in a sea of a change to people's minds, helping them think fresh and get creative
  • Creative walls - Paint your walls with creative designs that people will love to see. Do an employee-poll for the best designs and have them painted on your walls
  • Bean-bags, Relaxation rooms, Massage chairs - Power naps and massages can refresh your people more than the darn caffeine can!
Hope you've found this useful. Should you or your company have interesting practices to retain people, do share them here. Readers and I will love to know and perhaps together we can come up with more interesting concepts! Here are some useful links that talk about talent retention too -
Till I see you back with my next article on Growing people and talent, have a wonderful time keeping your people happy!

Stay Tuned, Stay Inspired!
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