Don’t lose your most talented people

Taking hard work for granted and never complimenting your staff will trip you up every time. Stick to these seven tenets and build the team of your dreams.

Managing for profit by Peter Hughes

Recently, on the strangely named website ‘Extramadness.com’, I came across a list of seven reasons why talented employees stay with a company. I’ll share these with you, along with my own take on the points raised.

Good pay
We all know that if you ‘pay peanuts, you get monkeys’. Yet so many employers fail to take note of this truism. On a farm, as we all know, ‘pay’ refers to many more elements than in any town-based business.

Apart from salary, medical aid, pension and bonus, it often includes housing, farm schooling, funeral benefits and other ‘perks’. Remember, too, that paying well is not a thumb-suck exercise. It requires professional advice from a remuneration expert.

Feeling appreciated
People crave recognition almost as much as food. This is the core message of The One Minute Manager by Blanchard and Johnson. The authors point out that ‘catching someone doing it right’ has far more motivational punch than ‘catching them doing it wrong’.

A word of praise energises, motivates and lifts people’s self-esteem. Great managers are highly sensitive to success and less sensitive to failure. They are quick to compliment and slow to criticise.

Being listened to
Great managers listen more than they talk. They never answer a question with another question or daydream when being spoken to. They often take notes while listening and constantly provide feedback. If they don’t understand something, they ask for it to be repeated or rephrased.

Receiving a promotion
“My boss always compliments me when I do a good job, but I always get overlooked when it comes to promotion.” Talented employees won’t live with this for long. Recognition with a compliment will only take you so far. It must be backed up with a tangible reward for the person concerned, and is closely linked to the next item.

Being given a challenge
A challenge focuses attention. It leads to a concentration of energy and resources. A challenge brings out the best in a person because it’s a catalyst for creativity and change.

But handle challenges with care. Don’t challenge people in areas in which they are not appropriately trained, or set them goals that are unachievable. Some people, if pushed too far, become agitated; if they fail, their self-esteem and performance can suffer.

Getting involved in decision-making
One of the greatest demotivators is to be excluded from decisions that affect our areas of responsibility. Beware of doing this to your employees; it’s a sure way of driving talented people away.

In fact, if you want to really motivate your staff, do the exact opposite! Invite your employees, where appropriate, to participate in decisions outside their direct areas of responsibility. There is no greater compliment you can give someone, and it’s a sign that you trust this person’s judgement and opinion.

Being mentored
We have all had mentors in our lives. They are seldom appointed, and usually we fail to realise at the time how much they are helping us. Yet, when we look back, we know who they were.

They were typically older and wiser than ourselves, and took more than a passing interest in us. While never pushy, they were always happy to share their experience and offer advice.

Everyone building a career and on a journey of personal growth needs someone like this in their lives. Make sure that everyone in your team has a mentor in some form or other.

Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant with 30 years’ farming experience.