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How Improving Culture Retains EmployeesContact usMarketing & Sales Tips

by Eve Gaudet and Janet Wright

Attracting and retaining stellar staff has never been more challenging in the hospitality sector. If you’re one of the many businesses affected by low unemployment rates, keeping employees and getting the best from them is critical. To do this effectively, it may be time to take stock of what’s going on inside the culture of your business.

Corporate culture involves the beliefs, behaviours, customs and values that determine how members of an organization interact with one another, their suppliers, and their customers. An organization’s actual culture might be quite different than what’s posted on the company website, but it’s the actual culture that matters most. Employers of choice have strong, positive cultures that attract and retain highly engaged employees.

Every company has a culture, but how can you tell if yours is a positive one? How is your employee engagement? Turnover? Absenteeism? Productivity? Is everyone working towards a common goal? Does everyone know what the vision is? If you cannot give a positive answer to most or all of these questions, chances are your culture needs some attention.

An organization’s leadership team, particularly the people managers, have the greatest impact on culture. Research shows that there is one thing that managers can do to improve employee engagement and culture: provide feedback – 70% of employees say feedback, more than money, flexibility or autonomy, would improve their engagement. Done well, feedback motivates and energizes employees, helps them grow and develop, and reinforces the manager’s role as a supportive coach.

Sadly, the research also tells us that managers tend not to score well on providing effective, if any, feedback. Often, it simply isn’t part of their company’s culture.

Here are three simple strategies that you and your managers can start using right away to improve employee engagement and retain staff:

1. Adopt the Platinum Rule – Treat Others the Way They Prefer

We’ve been conditioned to treat others the way we want to be treated. But often, this is the exact opposite of the way the other person prefers. The onus is on the manager to learn to “read” others and adapt their communication style to one that can be heard and received comfortably by each employee.

If, for example, you’re a manager with a more introverted personality, giving feedback to more extraverted employees means being more animated and giving them time to share their response and input in the moment.

Conversely, providing feedback to more introverted employees requires speaking calmly, respecting their need for privacy, and giving them time to reflect without demanding a response in that moment.

2. Ask and Listen – Instead of Tell and Sell

Whether it’s a formal performance review or “in the moment” feedback, good feedback starts with a question. Not just a “How are you doing?”, but an intentional question that opens the exchange toward an issue or process.

“How about you walk me through the project timeline to get a sense of progress and challenges?” is an example of a manager finding out more information from their employee without putting the person on the defensive. It empowers the employee to share what they know rather than potentially shutting the conversation down before it begins.

Continuing to ask questions can guide the employee to a new awareness or solution and keeps the conversation focused on them. Your listening acknowledges their importance.

Even if the feedback is negative, starting with a question gives the employee a chance to provide their perspective first. “I’m curious what you think about your work on XXX project?” can open up a dialogue where the manager can gauge the employee’s position or perspective. This creates the space for the manager to ask further questions or provide specific feedback.

3. Say Thank You!

70% of employees say their motivation would improve massively if their managers thanked them more!
Like any feedback and recognition, it should be genuine, heartfelt, and specific. Showing appreciation as soon after you’ve noticed it will have the biggest impact on the employee. Doing it publicly or privately is best tailored to the personality of the employee. Some of us simply don’t respond well to a public showing of affirmation.

There is one small caveat to this: constantly saying thank you has the reverse effect by being disingenuous. The rule of thumb? Do it when you really mean it!

Investing time and effort in implementing these strategies will have a big return in your employees’ engagement. Add ongoing leadership development to improve overall management effectiveness and the result will be much a more positive corporate culture, which is a necessary ingredient to attracting and retaining great employees.

Leadership Coaches Janet Wright and Eve Gaudet were speakers at the BC Hospitality Summit in April. They have joined forces to help organizations prepare their Managers to excel as People Leaders. Visit ramseywright.com or eveofchange.ca for more on improving your engagement, retention and bottom line! 

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