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A Heart for Employee Retention

As you probably know, February is American Heart Month. Yes, it is meant to draw attention to heart (read ‘cardiac’) health, but let’s talk for a moment about the other reason February is the time to share the love. You will soon be surrounded by the exchange of chocolate, flowers, and heart-bearing Cupids stamped on Valentine’s Day cards bearing tidings of friendship and more. What better opportunity is there to have a heart for your employees? The perfect gift this Valentine’s Day just might be the gift of employee retention!


All You Need is Love…Really?

Mark C. Crowley (2015) in his online article Why Engagement Happens in Employees’ Hearts Not Their Minds explores the real drivers of human engagement in the workplace. His singular mission was to “identify the few critical leadership practices that affect people so deeply that they become uncommonly loyal, committed, and productive.” His answer? Love. Not the love of romance, but of being engaged, seeking satisfaction, and receiving affirmation through meaningful work. Emotion that serves as the foundation upon which human motivation rests.

Mr. Crowley researched Gallup findings, as well as explored Google and the software analytics firm, SAS (companies that are consistently recognized as leaders in fostering employee engagement) and found common themes regarding employee engagement and retention. He also interviewed the founder of the Great Place to Work Institute, Robert Levering, positive psychology author Shawn Achor, and many others leaders in the field including John Kotter, Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson, and Adam Grant. His conclusions just might make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside…take a look!


Love Matters

  • Employee perks are nice but not everything. Health care and on-site day care make people feel valued, but there are few others that do the same and influence employee engagement. That said…
  • Flex-time is a great perk.
  • Job fulfillment is essential.
  • The heart rules the mind, not the other way around. How employees feel has the greatest impact on performance.
  • Employees care more about “emotional currency” than actual currency. In industrialized countries, pay ranks 5th in importance to employees!
  • Employees want supervisors who care; about the individual, their well-being, and personal growth.
  • Employees want leaders who have a passion for the development and success of others.
  • Employees want to use their talents to do work they enjoy.
  • Building a highly engaged team is all about choosing team members who have a passion for the mission.
  • All people need to feel appreciated, valued, and as if the work they do matters.
  • All people need to have their accomplishments acknowledged.
  • Organizations must have and live their mission.
  • Corporate culture and values do matter. A lot.
  • Team members need to develop strong bonds with one another. Engagement and loyalty is highly dependent upon this connection.
  • Engaged employees manage stress and work demands effectively.

Love Your People

Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, is quoted by Crowley as saying, “I think you’re going to find that what people really are seeking in return for work is love.” In the context of business and management, that is quite a bold statement. Glassdoor™ identified corporate culture and core values to be the top predictors of employee satisfaction, not higher salaries or improved work-life balance.

A recent Gallup study says 20 to 36 year olds struggle to be engaged employees, about 21% quit their jobs last year, and 60% are actively seeking other employment! Engagement really starts at the CEO and executive level, and it is driven by good managers, not organizations. Gallup even attributes 70% of engagement score variance to managers. (For you number crunchers out there: Gallup also says that great managers are associated with 48% higher profits than average managers!)

High-performing managers are:

  • Motivators
  • Assertive, especially during adversity
  • Accountable, and expect and help to create a culture of accountability
  • Relationship builders, ensuring trust and transparency
  • Decision makers, seeking productivity and not politics

Leading with Mind and Heart

Crowley turns these traits into behaviors in another article he wrote, Gallup’s Profound Discovery: Engagement is Driven by Good Managers with Rare Talents. He says good managers:

  • Balance being results-oriented with a commitment to the professional growth and development of every single employee
  • Intentionally include employees in decision making, creating an atmosphere of transparency, trust, and inclusion
  • Ensure employees feel connected to the work and each other, and appreciate the importance of their contributions to the organization’s success
  • Motivate performance through nurturing and appreciating all employees regularly and at known intervals
  • Care deeply about every individual employee under their direction

So what does this mean for you and your organization? It means there is no time like the present to thoughtfully consider if your employees are “feeling the love”. Having the privilege of celebrating another Valentine’s Day with them next year might just depend on it!

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