By John Muscarella
Senior Director, Cox Business
I’ve written a lot about understanding your customer, whether creating personas or diving even deeper and creating micro-targeted solutions to a customer’s specific business challenges. In this article, I want to turn inward—to understanding what motivates your team. How do you keep your employees healthy and engaged, not only in boom times when job opportunities for your best people abound, but in our current environment or like the one we saw during the Great Recession of 2008-09? Even with higher unemployment rates, it’s never safe to assume people will stay at a job if they are unhappy where they are.
There are many reasons to ensure you are nurturing your team. First, voluntary turnover is expensive. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the annual overall turnover rate in the U.S. is 26.3%. With the cost of replacing someone estimated at one-half to two times a person’s annual salary, the financial costs are particularly hard on small businesses. But the impact on the bottom line doesn’t stop there.
For companies of any size, but especially SMBs, losing a strong employee can impact customer relationships and your sales pipeline, lower staff morale, and erase institutional knowledge that is important to your success.
You may think that employee turnover is inevitable, but that’s not always so. According to Gallup research, 52% of employees who voluntarily leave a job say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving. And 51% of existing employees say that in the three months before they left neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization. No wonder people feel disconnected and discontent and leave for greener pastures.
It’s easy to assume that if your team seems to be running well and you don’t see any obvious red flags, everyone is good. But this is simply not the case. Between the pace of technology and the need to be nimble as an organization, employees can be bombarded with conflicting priorities and expectations.
Just as I talk about touching base with your customers regularly to see where they are, it is also critical to consistently do that with your team.
Can We Talk?
When is the last time you sat down with each member of your team individually, whether virtually or in person, to have a meaningful conversation about how they are doing? In my experience, managers frequently struggle with this. And it’s understandable—many managers come up through the ranks because they excel at their jobs and assume the role without being trained on how to be a strong manager.
The first step is to create an environment of open and ongoing dialogue but be careful to avoid something that feels like micromanagement rather than a process that creates consistent future-facing and strength-based conversations.
Consider looking at yourself as a coach rather than a boss. Take ownership of your employees’ development in a way that looks to inspire and energize them to do their best work, not to simply measure and dictate goals. An important part of that is giving them clear, collaborative expectations that are aligned with the organization’s goals. Ultimately, you want to give all employees the tools they need to be successful in your fast-moving environment. Not only will you gain more loyal, motivated employees, but you’ll gain the trust needed to hear about the obstacles they are seeing when on the front lines. Often your team will spot these long before you will.
Remote working has required us all to become a little more creative with team meetings, but those meetings are no less important. Team building, creating alignment, and feeling connected are core to keeping employees motivated and moving in the right direction.
Asking everyone to be on a video call is a small but important way to ensure no one is distracted by an overloaded inbox while they should be listening. In addition, rather than you standing at the front of the room or being the sole talking head on the screen, give everyone a chance to talk about their wins and challenges and to ask questions of the team.
We’ve even taken a cue from the creative ways we’ve connected with friends personally and have enjoyed some team building “happy hours.” Consider surprising your team with a virtual chocolate, wine, or beer tasting. There are many local companies that have gotten creative by offering these events, complete with shipping each team member a ready-to-open-and-enjoy care package for the occasion. No matter how you do it, fun is an important part of building a team.
It’s Not Just a Job
Before the pandemic (or for some of us, even still) we would spend more time with our coworkers than our families. Now, it’s often trying to balance the two. All leaders have had to empathize with the difficult scenarios their team members are facing and work that much harder to stay connected in a world that now intermingles our personal and professional lives like never before.
Zoom calls with kids or animals or life in general interrupting has become the norm, even as we start to get back to whatever normal will be. I believe it is important to find a way to stay connected in a more personal way. Beyond focusing on professional success, always take a moment to ask how someone is doing. This lesson, which was emphasized this past year, is a good reminder to make sure we always nurture the whole person. In the end, it will create a bond that will reap benefits both personally and for the organization’s success.
John Muscarella, Senior Director, Cox Business — As a Senior Director at Cox Business, John is responsible for the overall readiness strategy for the indirect business sales channels. His team has the primary responsibility to develop, implement and sell solutions utilizing the Cox Communications network throughout the country. John has more than 25 years of experience in business management, which includes sales and leadership positions with companies such as Polycom, Sprint and EDS.