Keep your best employees: Develop a “culture of caring”

Personnel Matters

In today’s economy, many employers from restaurants to high tech are concerned about keeping their best talent. As the economy heats up, talented individuals have many more options regarding employment opportunities. According to the Tennessee-based Work Institute, roughly 42 million U.S. employees, or more than one in four workers, will leave their jobs this year to work for another company.

Many employers will see this situation in terms of a need to increase recruiting efforts, but having a robust retention strategy to hold on to good employees will reduce recruiting and training costs. According to the authors of the study cited above, nearly three of four employees who quit could have been retained by employers.

Why do employees leave?

The reasons employees leave are multiple, but it boils down to two major factors: (1) They are dissatisfied with some aspect of their work and (2) They encounter what appears to be a “better opportunity” elsewhere. While employers cannot do much to affect the perception of a better opportunity elsewhere, they can impact why employees are dissatisfied.

According to a variety of research findings, employees who leave their employer for a new opportunity report being dissatisfied with (1) a lack of training and career development, (2) a poor work-life balance or (3) a poor relationship with their supervisor. What do all three of these reasons have in common? They all reflect a lack of a “culture of caring.”

What is a “culture of caring?”

The idea of a “culture of caring” encompasses many things: leaders caring about employees, employees caring for each other and for customers and everyone in the company caring about the company’s purpose. However, the starting point in this chain of influence is demonstrating to your employees that “they matter.” Getting to know your employees as individuals, treating them with respect and dignity and showing a genuine interest in their goals in life will set an example for how they should respond to co-workers and customers and work toward fulfilling the company’s goals. Caring is about building connections and bringing people together around a common purpose or goal.

How do you create a culture of caring?

Share information. Keep employees informed about the company’s operations. Let them know what’s working well, as well as your concerns. Be willing to share your own vulnerabilities. Transparency builds trust.

Be professionally personal. Get to know your employees, what their interests are and what’s important in their lives. The purpose is to let your employees know that you don’t just see them as “worker bees.” Celebrate their personal successes: birthdays, weddings, births, educational achievements, etc.

Make time. Ensure that your employees know they can come to you when they need advice or assistance. Set aside time to engage in periodic conversations with your employees, collectively and individually. Never appear to be too busy to talk with the people around you, especially if they are experiencing a problem.

Seek employee feedback. Ask your employees how they think you could improve the way things are done. Ask how you could do better as their supervisor. This gives employees an opportunity to improve their workplace and become more effective than they already are.

Communicate openly. Be honest with employees about what you expect from them and how you view their performance. But also let them know why your expectations are important and how they can improve. Link your expectations to company performance and, ultimately, to the welfare of your employees.

Provide training and development. Assist employees to be better at the job or learn new skills. Be the company that wants its employees to succeed as individuals. Create a supportive environment in the workplace that nurtures personal and professional growth.

Recognize and reward. People spend more than a third of their day in activities related to work. Show appreciation for what they do. Give credit and recognition when it is due, even if it is just a pat on the back or a simple “Well done” email or a handwritten note.

Employees want to feel wanted, needed and useful. The more you show your employees how much you value them, the greater their dedication will be to you, to each other and to the organization.

About Dr. W. J. Heisler 14 Articles
Dr. W. J. Heisler is professor of human resource management and director of the MSHRM program at Troy University. He operates out of TROY’s site based in Chesapeake, Va. He holds Ph.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Syracuse University and worked for more than 20 years in management and executive positions in human resources at Newport News Shipbuilding. Contact:

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