Hey, HR Lady….

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Q I own a small engineering firm and I’m afraid some of my top talent will leave because in this   economy I cannot afford to pay them what they are worth.  How can I keep them from moving on to the competition?

– Will from Bend

Dear Will, Now, more than ever is the time to cherish your star players.  If you fail to do so, your firm will experience a “brain drain” of talent and your company will most certainly suffer.  Sure everyone     is replaceable but in this geographic area engineers are hard to find and you will end up having         to relocate someone most likely from the bay area or Seattle.  This recruitment can be costly and time consuming.  If you already have the right team in place, do whatever it takes to keep  them.

The problem with losing your current talent is that they possess what we call “tribal knowledge.”  Wikipedia defines tribal knowledge as “any unwritten information that is not commonly known by others within a company. This term is used most when referencing information that may need to be known by others in order to produce a quality product or service.”  Tribal knowledge is hard to recreate because it is something that has been handed down generation to generation as knowledge that is “known” but not yet documented.  Not to mention, your engineers probably possess some type of artesian intelligence unique to their own DNA which will make them difficult to replace.

If you cannot pay more in salary think of other ways to engage and incentivize those employees sitting on the fence about whether or not they will stick by you.  We are in unprecedented times right now where employee satisfaction is at an all time low.  Leadership must step in and do what they can to turn it around.  The good news is that it is not too late.  The most recent Gallup analysis shows us that increasing employee engagement correlates directly with a positive impact on key business metrics.  There is a strong connection between employee engagement to critical business outcomes.  According to Gallup, engaged organizations have 3-9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to organizations with low engagement levels.  Unengaged employees are in JOB JAIL and they are just doing time waiting until they can safely jump ship.

Managers and leaders listen up:  If you value your employees, tell them, show them, and make them feel the authenticity.  If you are a good leader they will follow you because the trail you blaze is leading them to something positive.  Employees want to believe in leadership and they want to be a part of something, be recognized for their contributions and acknowledged for their work.  There are many ways to do this without spending a dime but it will take time and effort.  While competitive comp and benefits packages will get employees in the door, it is recognition and appreciation that will keep them engaged.  Engaged workers are more productive and have a sense of loyalty because they know that their contributions matter to the success of the company.

The Wisconsin Chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management defines employee engagements as “the willingness and ability to contribute to company success, which ultimately comes down to people’s desire to invest that extra level of discretionary effort that separates outstanding performers from the rest of the pack.”  In summary, if you don’t take immediate actions to proactively engage your workforce, sadly they will eventually leave and they will take the tribal knowledge with them to the competition.  Do what you can now to create strategies that will enhance engagement for your workforce before it is too late.

Julie Leutschaft writes a monthly workplace advice column called Hey, HR Lady for CBN which appears the third Wednesday of the month.  Julie is also the owner of The HUMAN Touch (www.thehumantouchHR.com) HR Consulting and Career Counseling firm located in Central Oregon.

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