Honesty: The Secret To Retaining Your Best Employee

This is an Influencer Post by James Caan, Founder, Hamilton Bradshaw.

employee management

I was overwhelmed with the comments and support I received for last week’s blog which highlighted the signs to watch out for from an employee who is thinking of leaving their job – fortunately, I didn’t receive any employee notices’ so it wasn’t a premonition of what’s to come in my own office!

This week I thought I’d touch on what happens next. What if you have actually spotted these signs in an employee who you don’t want to lose? The way to address this is simple; be honest, approach them and have a frank and candid conversation.

It’s not easy for all staff members to speak honestly to their managers but if you don’t open up then how will things improve? I implore my team to avoid the safe and silent route and speak out when they’re feeling demotivated or under valued. If you have genuine feedback for your boss to consider which could improve the team and help the business grow why wouldn’t you share it? Constructive criticism in the workplace should be incentivised, and not hamper career progression because you will retain your best staff and stay ahead of your competition if you listen to them.

So here are my top tips for fostering an open and honest communication stream with your team; 

Practice what you preach:

It’s one thing to welcome people into your office to discuss ‘how they feel’, but if no one in your team takes the opportunity to do so, you need to ask yourself why? Do your requests for constructive criticism come across as genuine? How can you reassure your team that those who cross the honesty line will be heard and not then pushed out? In my experience, many employees are paranoid that their honesty will get them fired or that their truthfulness will mean they are overlooked for future promotion. Manager’s need to make sure their team feel comfortable, not living in fear of drastic consequences.

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Different personalities will need different approaches:

As a manager, you have to ensure your team actually believe you’re willing to listen to them. Strike the right balance between friendly and understanding, and perhaps approach the quieter members of your team first for their feedback. Different personality types in the workplace will respond differently to being asked about how they feel about their role or if placed under pressure to give constructive criticism. So get to know your team and see what works best for them. This is a learning process, but the key thing is to ensure that feedback received is rewarded with your attention, not dissent.

Feedback becomes the new normal:

Asking your team for honest feedback shouldn’t be something you do when you realise you may have already lost them. It can’t be a once a year question which only gets asked during an overpriced team away day or team building exercise. Once you decide to foster an environment which rewards constructive criticism, you must maintain it and make it routine. Prove to your employees that you’re committed to hearing their thoughts regularly, and processing them formally. When brainstorming a new project or assessing a possible investment idea I often encourage my team to first discuss ‘why it wouldn’t work’ or to point out all the areas we could fail on first. If we already know what ‘bad looks like’ we can work in a positive way to build consensus and ensure that it doesn’t happen.

Don’t get defensive

As a manager and business owner, it’s hard to not take criticism personally. Whether the feedback being offered is about another employee, strategy, or practices in the workplace; the key thing is to never get defensive. An employee will never offer constructive feedback again if you’ve demonstrated your disapproval. Even if you disagree with the feedback being given, or want to share your opinion on the issue, do so with the employee in mind. If they don’t have all the information at hand and have misjudged a scenario, it’s fine for you to try and alleviate their negative view of a situation but ensure you understand why they feel the way they do. They have a different perspective  and it’s always worthwhile to listen to this. Do not dismiss any feedback because despite length of service and level of experience, it should all be considered to create a better working culture for your organisation. So listen, consider and then respond.

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People breathe life and innovation into businesses but this is stifled if old school business owners aren’t willing to foster a culture where by their smartest and brightest members of the team can share open and honest opinions without fear of being negatively impacted by this. Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to keeping your employees happy. So if you notice that a team member is losing their way and displaying signs of de-motivation, ask them outright what you can do to help because you value their contribution. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism, it encourages us to be better managers, employees and work more effectively as a team, helping us all to reach our career and business goals.

Disclaimer: This is an Influencer post. The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of iamwire and the editor(s). This article was initially published here.

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