How To Keep Good Employees
In Your Small Business


by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff This has to be one of the oldest quandaries in the history of business. But, I think it's the wrong question to ask.

The question I would ask is, "How can I create a work environment that employees will never want to leave?"

The reason employees are hard to keep is because they have their own personal goals and I'm sorry to say that those goals are not to make you, the business owner, rich.

And, I'm also sorry to say, that as long as you put your business goals ahead of your employees personal goals you're going to have turnover and lots of it.

How can a business create a work environment that helps the business owner and the employee both reach their goals?


Consider The Hour's Employees Aren't Working

Employees work 40 hours or less per week. There are 168 hours in each week and that means 128 hours each week your employees are somewhere else.

What are they telling others about where they work during that time?

Would an unhappy employee talk to their spouse or partner? What would the spouse or partner tell others?

Each time the story of your business is related to someone else there is a very good chance it will be embellished until it reaches a point where a large part of it is no longer true.

Are you beginning to see how easily negative word-of-mouth cannot only spread but do major public relations damage as well?

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Create a Win-Win Environment

In order for a business to be successful there must be a total team effort between employees and management. Each employee depends on other employees to perform his or her specific function.

Management then has a choice.

It can establish or even demand certain levels of performance as a condition of employment, or it can create a work environment where employees not only take pride in the work they do but take personal ownership of their specific responsibilities within the company.

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"But" Is The Great Eraser

Let's face it. Employee evaluations are primarily to correct what the employee is doing wrong and rarely to praise what they are doing right and that is their major downfall and the main reason most managers' dislike doing them.

My good friend and fellow speaker Patrick H. McGaughey introduced me to this concept.

A typical conversation would go something like, "You do A, B, and C great BUT, D needs a lot of work." Do you think the employee hears what happens before the "but" or after it?

"But" erased the good part of the employee performance because it was just glossed over as a transition to the corrective part of the evaluation.

Years ago I worked with a very smart man who told me that you always give "two warm fuzzies" for "every cold prickly." In other words praise should be given twice as often as criticism.

He knew that his employees were doing more right than wrong and they were also doing good things within the company that he would never know or hear about.

So he made a point of making sure they heard from him whenever he heard or saw them doing something positive.

I worked with another company that had a practice of sending handwritten thank you cards to the employees home in the mail.

This was a definite hit with the spouses who now had a definite indication of the appreciation the company had for the employee and actually improved the employees home life in some cases.

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Placing Blame vs. Training

Most employees welcome training that will make them better at their job.

Companies spend millions each year to train people in everything from customer service to equipment operation. Accessing and placing blame is not training.

When something goes wrong stress happens. Management wants someone to be accountable for the problem.

Finger pointing, accusations and placing blame are often used as the most common methods to deal with the problem.

The correct action should be to determine what the cause of the problem was and to design a training procedure to prevent its reoccurrence in the future by all employees.

I don't mean to imply that you never discipline an employee but there is a time and place and a right way to do it.

If problems persist and it is determined that an employee is simply un-trainable that should be the point where disciplinary action and documentation should begin.

Tomorrow, before you leave for work, take a look in the mirror. Ask yourself, "Would you want to work for you?" If you have a hard time with the answer you have some work to do.


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