Where is everyone going!? 3 actions to successfully onboard and retain employees

The summer of 2018 brought many headlines that should make any manager worry about the well-being of his or her team.

In June, headlines were dominated by a trend known as “ghosting” employers, ranging in severity from blowing off a job interview, to quitting a job without any notice.

In July, MarketWatch reported that Americans are quitting jobs at the fastest rate the job market has seen since 2001.

These trends may point to good news for the broader economy—but not for managers who want to keep the employees they’ve already spent time, money and energy hiring, training and leading.

While some employees opt to leave because they’ve been offered a salary or benefits their current employer simply can’t compete with, many employees seek out new jobs for intangible reasons, like the desire for more flexibility, due to a lack of positive challenge or fulfillment in their current role, or because their current employee or manager doesn’t offer them a path that will further their career development.

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You may not be able to give all your employees a promotion or a new job title to keep them satisfied enough to not enter the job market, but you can make their job more appealing by encouraging a culture of creativity. Here are three simple ways to encourage your team to apply creativity to their roles, to keep them more excited, inspired and motivated.

Let your employees choose how and where they work. Your office may be a “show face” type of environment that isn’t conducive to remote work arrangements or highly flexible scheduling, but allowing your employees the freedom to change how, when, and where they work can help them feel more inspired and fulfilled. The Telegraph reports the results of one workplace happiness study that revealed employees who ate their lunch outside, on a beach or in a green park were happiest in their jobs.

Those who visited the workplace cafeteria for lunch each day had no noticeable lift in their happiness during the workday; those who ate lunch at their desks were the most miserable.

Freedom of time management can boost employee productivity, creativity and satisfaction. Google, an employer known for cultivating workplace creativity, allows its developers to spend 20% of their time on projects of their choosing.

A similar practice has helped 3M maintain a culture of innovation, by giving engineers time out of each day to spend however they wish, provided they tell colleagues what they worked on for that hour.

Give employees the tools they need to succeed—and get out of the way. Give your team the combination of the direction they need to do the job, the “why” and the desired endpoint—and the autonomy to approach the work in a way that best suits them.

You’ll likely get better results and happier employees. Instead of imposing timelines or instructing “how” they go about the job, let your employees determine the best way to bring projects to completion, based on the final deadline you tell them they need to hit.

When employees feel “stuck” help them work through creative barriers, but allow them to arrive at the answer without directing the outcome.

Reward results. Focus your team’s performance on experimentation and the willingness to try new approaches that get results, not on task completion.

Not every idea will be a winner, but when you encourage your staff to not only consider, but try at least some of their new ideas, they’ll become more trusting of their own creative instincts (and your support of them).

When ideas do fail (and some inevitably will) engage your entire team to help determine what lessons can be learned from the experience, and encourage all of your employees to continue to grow, based on this new information.

Adjust the focus of your one-on-ones and your performance reviews to reflect that ideology as well.

Beware the 4-month slump

Most people start a job with a bounce in their step and a gleam of eagerness in their eyes. But after four months or so on the job, most employees feel the job isn’t that interesting, challenging or rewarding. The novelty wears off.

Gradually, morale improves as daily experience replaces preconceived ideas. This reassessment process normally takes another four months. In short, morale starts high, drops at about four months and then recovers at about eight months.

What does this mean for a supervisor?

1. Don’t overreact or take an employee’s negative feelings or waning interest as a reflection of your supervisory abilities. Realize that in several months or so, most employees are going to feel disappointed about their job regardless of what you do.

2. Be patient with new employees. Give them time to work through their slump. If your organization requires a 90-day probationary review of new employees, use it as an opportunity to draw out the employees’ feelings. It may even be helpful to discuss the four-month slump phenomenon so that employees won’t be caught off guard when it begins to happen to them.

3. Recognize that employees need constructive ways to discharge feelings of frustration during the slump. Talking about it can help. Additional work assignments may also help by keeping them busy and interested. The sooner an employee can express his frustration and disappointment, the sooner he will get it out of his system and become more productive.