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Develop Your People – or Lose Them

This is not an idle threat, neither is this about Gen X, Y Z, or Next. The days of loyal workers who, regardless of treatment or generation, remain with the same employer until they retire are long past.

With increasing mobility and access to information, workers can and will make connections across the globe. No longer are they bound by city limits or the comfort of familiar faces. Many will seek out self-fulfillment in lieu of the predictable place to hang their hat.

It is also shown in study after study that employees want to feel heard, respected, and valued. They seek a place where they can apply their talents and see that it is appreciated by their organization.

Sure, sufficient pay and great benefits will hold their attention for a while, but if you don’t recognize and invest in your people, you will lose them mentally and/or physically. This means that even if you are able to retain their warm body, you may be far from getting an engaged worker that is fully applying their skills.

Why should they? If your actions prove that you do not value their input, they will seek recognition elsewhere, or simply give up trying. You are foolish to think that workers show up day after day, year after year, beaming with energy and positivity when their repeated attempts to contribute are ignored and requests for development are dismissed.

Ask yourself:

  1. When was the last time I talked to my staff about their goals?
  2. When did I last time give constructive feedback about their work?
  3. Am I aware of the ambitions of my staff?
  4. Does everyone on my team have a development plan?

Everyone has different goals and likely their own personal life plan. Without prying, it would behoove you to get to know your employees and see how their work time fits into their plans. Ideally, you’ll discover parallel values and objectives where you can progress your operation, while also moving them closer to their life goals. Sometimes, it is not a fit and employees are better off elsewhere. However, since employees elected to apply for the job and you’ve had the opportunity to screen them, there are often aligned preferences and interests.

That’s just the beginning. Sharing an interest in a job description is the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more under the surface that determines whether that iceberg will float or flip. Build that base by investing in your employees. Ask yourself the above questions and take action to demonstrate that you care about their development and future.

Be cautious not to convey that your support is contingent upon their loyalty. With the exception of contract work, employment is generally at will—meaning that both the employee and the employer elect to engage. The worker is not bound to the employer unconditionally, nor is the employer (beyond fulfilling its employment commitment). Both parties choose this mutually beneficial arrangement. Expectantly, the outcome is a work product that both parties are proud of and find advantageous.

The bottom line is that if you want to see your organization’s goals come to fruition, you must nourish the tree. It’s not enough to simply hire qualified people. The people that enable you to achieve your goals require some level of attention and resources. Chances are, if your answers to the above questions are null or vague, it may be time for you to reach out. Act before your staff decides to mentally or physically check out, and you find yourself walking the journey alone, dealing with a demotivated, under-performing team, or living with a revolving door of employees year after year.

You decide.

Lori Okami is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She has over nine years of experience in local and state government in Human Resources, grants management, and as an educator, as well as over twenty years in the private sector. Lori has written over 400 health and fitness blogs for Hawaii’s premiere online news publication. Lori’s expertise is in organization alignment, change management, and customer relationship management (CRM). You can read her posts here.

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Sherin Shibu

I’m not surprised that study after study shows that employees want to feel respected and valued. That’s what we want in general, so it makes sense that the expectation extends to the activity that takes up most of our lives (work). Thank you for writing this and emphasizing the importance of “nourishing the tree” in order to drive engagement for years to come.

Lori Okami

Yes, employers would be amazed at what they can achieve through motivated, “nourished” people. Not only will they reap greater productivity, it also creates a cultural shift in the organization that promotes sustainable performance, and has a positive impact on retention and recruitment. There is little down side to investing in your people. Thank you Sherin!

Isaac Constans

I think this is so insightful, and we’ve been hearing the message of L&D throughout government. Something that the public sector certainly has to adopt in viewing employee health.

Lori Okami

Thank you Isaac! It does seem that we in government are a bit slow to come to the table about employee experience and development. Mark my words, the workplace will need to move further in this direction, if we are to address the changes to come. Have a great week!