Nick was an employee in his mid-twenties. He was a high energy individual and very personable. He would come to work early and stay late. Whatever it took to get the job done, Nick was willing to do it.

He received accolades from all of his clients. In fact, some of them even went out of their way to personally contact the owners of the business and tell them all about Nick and everything he had done for them. Nick felt very good about himself and the owners felt good about him, as well.

Either his efforts were not acknowledged by the owners, went unrewarded, or went to Nick’s head, eventually the inevitable happened. Nick’s pattern of behavior changed. His quality of work began to suffer. He came to work late and left early. Things went unfinished. Assigned tasks were incomplete. Clients no longer called raving about him. In fact, they complained about him. He ended up leaving the company under less than favorable circumstances. This story begs the question, what caused Nick’s downward performance spiral?

Author Lolly Daskal, who also happens to be the President and CEO of  Lead From Within, has gone to the extent of identifying seven of the top reasons why people quit their jobs:

1. There is no opportunity for growth or advancement. Most people want to know there is some pathway for promotion in a company.

2. There is too much work to do and not enough people to do it. Unfortunately, it is usually the best employees, those who take their work more seriously, who end up being ‘burned out’.

3. Visions are cast, but there are no specific plans developed on how the company is going to achieve them.

4. Making money is more important than taking care of the employees. If profit is the primary motivator over people, the good people will leave, resulting in only the poorer performers being left behind.

5. Failure to acknowledge exceptional work. Recognizing employees for a job well done is a huge motivator.

6. The distrust of management. If management is unethical or fails to deliver on its promises, even poor performers will either leave or begin acting in unprincipled behavior.

7. There are too many managers and not enough staff. If the organization is top heavy or the level of bureaucracy is too complex and people do not feel empowered to make decisions, the employees will leave.

Most business owners or managers would agree, there are three primary factors  that cause employee disenchantment:

Lack of proper acknowledgment/recognition of staff accomplishments.

The employee was not managed well enough.

The employee himself had individual issues that needed to be dealt with in some way. For example, do they have personal problems that don’t relate to their work environment, but certainly impact work performance?  

If continuous positive behavior goes unnoticed, eventually a person will come to the conclusion ‘Why am I knocking myself out for this company if they don’t even notice?’

In the story of  Nick, the owners should have taken the lead and acknowledged him in some manner. Maybe they could establish an employee of the month. This approach could serve to encourage others or it could start a competition. Starting something like this could be the beginning of helping to take the entire company to the next level of growth.

From the perspective of the owners, they should have been more intentional, yet tactful, in determining and addressing what was “wrong” with Nick. Once they determined the cause or causes of his disenchantment, it would have been much easier for them to address and resolve them. They should have coached Nick and helped him define his goals and develop a plan to achieve those goals. They also needed to communicate how he was going to be rewarded for his efforts like a new title or a bonus. Nick himself, should have realized that he needed to establish short, intermediate and long term goals for himself, with or without the help of the owners.

Keeping stellar employees is an art and a science. There needs to be the right mix of tangible and intangible incentives to keep them performing at an optimal level. The mix will probably be customized for each employee. It will also need to be a blend of monetary and non-monetary rewards. Finally, there needs to be a genuine attempt to balance the rewards across all of your high performing staff.

Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor.

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