Seven Ways to Increase Employee ROI

By Morrie Shechtman

It's no secret that the economy isn’t exactly booming right now. More people may be looking for work, but that doesn't mean that they are the right people for your company. Instead of viewing employees as expendable, businesses should focus on getting the best return possible on the workforce they already have.

Employee retention is a very big issue and it always will be, regardless of the state of the economy. After all, the key to long-term growth and productivity is a workforce that's familiar with your company and in sync with its goals. A workplace should excite and motivate employees, so they'll want to stay around. And that means creating an environment that challenges people and helps them grow not just as employees, but as people.

Here are some ways organizations can foster the kind of growth-oriented workplace that will survive and thrive, even during a downturn:

  • Forget monetary incentives: focus on relationships. Even if you can offer them, fat salaries and bonuses, more vacation time, and other perks will not increase employee loyalty. Instead, they tend to tie people to your company in the same manner that one trains a dog to stay in the yard—until, the people across the street offer a bigger, juicier bone. Creating a culture in which good relationships are valued gives employees a profound and rewarding reason to come to work every day. Only through relationships can people change and grow...and personal growth is a requirement for survival in our increasingly complex world.

  • Help employees find their "familiars." What is a familiar? Simply put, it's an emotional state we return to again and again. It is a feeling that holds tremendous power over our choices, relationships, and careers. Rooted in our families and our upbringing, the familiar is a feeling that we unconsciously reproduce, sometimes to our benefit, but often to our detriment. For instance, the eldest child of a large family might have grown up having to subrogate her needs to the needs of the younger children. Perhaps she was told she was selfish for asking for things for herself. It is no mystery that as an adult she is frustrated at work and has trouble communicating her needs to her boss. Her familiar—the feeling that she doesn't really deserve to ask for anything—is reproduced in her work environment, where she is unable to assert herself.  You can help your employees tremendously by learning about familiars and encouraging them to identify—and subsequently diminish—their own.

  • Seek employee input. A big part of creating a growth-oriented workplace is to constantly question your employees. "Did you notice what you did there?" "Why do you think you said that?" "I noticed that when your position was challenged in the meeting, you didn't defend it—why do you think you backed down?" Creating a "question culture" will help employees identify their familiars. It will raise performance expectations throughout the company. It will train employees to think carefully about how they do their jobs and ensure that they have sound reasons for every decision they make.

  • Encourage conflict and confrontation. Yes, you read that right. Conflict and confrontation are rarely pleasant, but they are the very definition of teamwork. They are also necessary to create growth relationships. The purpose of the workplace is not to make everyone happy—it is to grow people to their maximum potential. The enormous popularity of consensus decision making/negotiation, participatory management, and self-directed work teams is a sign of our unhealthy quest for comfort above all.

  • Provide honest, caring feedback. Keep the lines of communication open by continually telling your employees how they are doing. A relationship without honest feedback is a "mutual toleration society." Unconditional acceptance—in both personal and professional relationships—is actually a form of abandonment, because it robs the other party of the most important catalysts for growth and change (hence, the reason the feedback is labeled "caring”).

  • Practice the art of self-disclosure. Feedback cuts both ways; you want your employees to provide it to you as well. One way to do so is through self-disclosure. If you want to turn a stagnant employee relationship into a growth-oriented one—or start a new relationship out on the right foot—share your feelings first. This is a big risk because you don't know how the other person will respond; you must be prepared to deal with any type of reaction you receive. But it's a risk worth taking because you can learn a lot from your employees. Self-disclose often and you’ll model the kind of relationships you want to encourage in your company.

  • Form an accountability group. Many people fear receiving or giving feedback because they don't want to show weakness or cause discomfort to someone else. Put them in the right setting, however, and they may be willing to become involved. In an accountability group people give and receive feedback, create action plans based on that feedback, and hold group members accountable for implementing their plans. I have found accountability groups to be amazingly effective in helping clients overcome debilitating work and personal problems. Done correctly, they can lead individuals and organizations to transform themselves from the inside out.


I am certain that the actions detailed here will increase your company's productivity. People who are personally and professionally fulfilled make better employees—it’s that simple. But the big reason to implement these strategies has more to do with tomorrow than today. Creating a work environment rich with opportunities for self-discovery is an investment in the future of your company. Begin now, and when the economy rebounds, your employees won't leave you for greener pastures. Why would they? Your organization will be meeting needs far more compelling than a weekly paycheck.

Author Bio:
Morrie Shechtman is a change management expert and author of the book Fifth Wave Leadership: The Internal Frontier (Facts on Demand Press, 2003). His other books are Working Without a Net: How to Survive and Thrive In Today's High Risk Business World and The Internal Frontier: Creating the Personal Transformations That Lead to Success. Contact him at www.fifthwaveleadership.com

You can learn more about this topic at these AMA seminars:

AMA On-Site:

Every one of AMA’s 170+ public seminars can be delivered on-site. This flexible, money-saving option allows you to train eight or more people, when and where you choose, at a low cost per participant. Click here for more information.


 
American Management Association © Copyright 1997-