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Give Your People a Reason to Stay - Providing Direction

Aug 17, 2007
There is forecast to be a shortage of skills and businesses are going to have to work hard at attracting and keeping the good people.

The first of the baby boomers, those born in 1945, turn 60 next year. Dr Frank Gelber of leading economic forecasters BIS Shrapnel, says business is prospering and employment is rising strongly. There is the start of a strong and long upswing in business investment and there will be skilled labour shortages putting pressure on wages and salaries.

How do you keep good people? A starting point must be in planning and communicating direction.

People want to be on a team that knows where it is going and is making progress. If they know what your organization is trying to achieve they can take up the challenge and make a contribution. These are the things that keep people motivated and staying on to see the success and enjoy being part of something they've helped build.

The first element to address is corporate planning. This should provide a direction for the business and this should be communicated to all employees. It may have to be structured to meet the needs of the various groups of employees to meet the needs of each but it should be done on a regular basis in the most appropriate form.

Communication is not just memos and reports. It's about ensuring that each employee, when they make a decision, can understand the context of it and how it fits with the overall vision and contributes to it.

If employees know where the team is going and how they fit in they can make better decisions about how they can contribute. Many suggestions for improvement come from the most surprising quarters when people are committed to help and know what is required.

People like to know how they are going. How many people would watch football if they didn't keep score? Regular progress reports will help them feel they are moving forward and having some successes.

Regular updates of performance against target can be positive if progress is going well. If it is not going well, why keep them in the dark? - ask for help.

An interesting exercise to see how well some business do this is, when you are dealing with some other organization, to ask the employee you are dealing with how their business is going. Some don't know and don't seem to care. Their reaction is normally in line with the quality of service they are giving you.

Excellent service is normally given by someone who is interested in, and knowledgeable about their business.

It is very easy to become so involved in planning within the boardroom that communicating to the people who make it happen can be forgotten. They can be an untapped source of additional energy and creativity.

The following quote from a dock worker at a trucking company is taken from an excellent book, "The Leadership Solution" by Jim Shaffer.

"It's like management has this little game. It's called "Connect the Dot" We're supposed to watch what they do, then figure it out for ourselves. We're supposed to connect the dots. What a waste of time and energy. Isn't that what good leadership's all about? Aren't they supposed to connect the dots so we can get on with growing the business?"
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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