How to Attract and Keep Productive Employees

A productive employee is a satisfied employee. Productive, satisfied employees create successful businesses. It’s your job to create the environment that enables employees to feel satisfied on a consistent basis.

What do people want from a job? The consensus reached from my reading and my personal experience in working with clients is that, regardless of the job title and duties, an employee in any business wants the following – in descending order of importance or weight.

Pleasure – Job pleasure includes looking forward to going to work and feeling satisfied when the day is done. What that means will be different for each employee. It may come from being creative, successfully carrying out an assignment or task, seeing a positive result from their actions, knowing they’ve contributed to someone else’s good or receiving respect and recognition from others.

A creative person will be most productive being creative. A detail oriented person will enjoy digging into the minutia. Moving a technical genius into an administrative position probably isn’t going to be productive – anywhere. Job duties and individual personal qualities need to come together in order to maximize productivity.

Money – For most employees, money is only important when it feels like the pay does not match perceived value. Money can add to job pleasure, but does not replace or supercede it. Those who are driven by money alone may have trouble aligning with the rest of the team.

Comfort/Time-Off – Everyone has a different definition of comfort. For some people working close to home is a comfort because of family needs. Flex time or extra time off may be needed for a variety of reasons. Feeling in a bind because of conflicting demands takes away from productive focus. Willingness to negotiate is the key to success here.

Security/Benefits – No one wants to feel like they may be the next to go or that the company is in dire circumstances out of their control. Benefits are more important to some than to others. Benefits that fit the needs of each individual is ideal and may be negotiable. Make sure the employee understands their benefits and their responsibility in order to receive them.

These are the prerequisites needed to experience job satisfaction. Any time an employee spends thinking about, talking about or pursuing any of these is unproductive time.

The guy who goes home at the end of the day feeling satisfied will look forward to coming to work tomorrow. He will not only stay on board, he will be highly productive while he’s there.

How do you create an environment where employees can feel satisfied? And how do you find the right people for the jobs to be done?

Here are the steps I recommend.

Present your Vision, Mission and Goals

People are attracted to those who know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. Before considering hiring anyone, make sure your Vision and Mission are clear and written in a way that will attract those who can get excited about being a participant in your plans. Share this with applicants, together with long and short term goals so they will know exactly what they’re buying into. You only want employees who can enthusiastically adopt your Vision, Mission and Goals.

Write Your Own Job Description First

Since you can’t do it all by yourself, determine how YOU can be most productive in your business? What are your own personal values, your strengths, your assets? How can you best apply these to your business? If you’re good at sales and like selling, that should be a good part of your job. You want and deserve to get pleasure and satisfaction from your job also. You’ll hire others whose talents and interest more closely fit the remaining jobs to be done. Jobs you dislike or have trouble doing either won’t get done or will be done poorly. Your business can’t afford that. I’ve seen businesses fail because the owner was trying to do jobs for which they were totally inept.

Write a Description for All Other Jobs

Organize the tasks that you will not be carrying out, think through the work flow and relationships and write a clear job description and prerequisites for each. Consider what qualities, values and behavior is most suited to each set of tasks and use these as guidelines for recruiting and interviewing.

Present the Job Description to Applicants

Share and discuss the job description with applicants. Ask them to tell you how they would carry out the job. Listen for their level of passion and ability to commit as well as to their competence. You’re looking for their ability to think through and deal with the issues at hand and how well they see the future possibilities.

Create a Team Environment

In a small business each “position” is dependent to some extent on others. In order for the group to function as a team, each person must know their position and know how they will relate to all others. Have final candidates meet with other team players to make sure the chemistry is right.

Provide an Organized Communication System

People want and need to know what to expect. Provide written guidelines, train where needed and reinforce desired behavior. Keep all staff informed about areas that affect their work, ask for their feedback and thank them for keeping you and others informed. Everyone should ultimately be working toward the same business goals and be gaining pleasure from carrying out their individual actions to achieve them.

Use Staff Feedback to Create a Plan

Use what you learn from staff, plus all your other information gathering resources and create a plan that everyone can embrace.

Accept and Share Responsibility

Take ultimate responsibility for business results and allow others to take responsibility within the scope of their position. Make sure they know they have both the responsibility and the authority. Responsibility without authority will lead to frustration very quickly.

Celebrate Wins; Give Recognition Freely

Take time to celebrate success and give recognition for a well played game even with a losing outcome. One of the most important acts a leader can do is give recognition. People follow and stay with those who give recognition freely.

Reap the Reward

The reward of creating a productive and satisfying employee environment is being the owner of a strong and profitable business that SUPPORTS YOU in every way. Many entrepreneurs complain that they are supporting their business. Isn’t it time your business supported you? It can happen only when you attract and keep productive employees.

Daniel Goleman, developer of the concept and author of the book, Emotional Intelligence, suggests that leaders and staff function most effectively when they reach a state he calls resonance. This happens when leaders encourage ongoing communication at all levels and focuses this communication around the vision, mission and goals of the business.

More than anything else workers want their voices to be heard, says Richard B. Freeman & Joel Rogers who based their book, “What Workers Want”, on survey results. They desire a greater role in the workplace, and have strong ideas about how their involvement could improve not just their lot but also their companies’ fortunes.

Jim Collins, in his book, Good to Great, emphasizes the importance of hiring the right people. Your business can’t afford the wrong people taking up the space of the right people. In the entrepreneurial classic, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber devotes several chapters to hiring and developing a productive team.

I’ve seen small businesses with employees that are totally out of control. When the owner puts up with unproductive employees who disregard policies and procedures and are disinterested in the business, the result is resentment, negative behavior and chaos. There’s no chance such a business will succeed.

It’s been shown time after time that there is a high positive correlation between employee commitment/productivity and reduced turnover. A stable, low turnover work force produces significantly more.

One client recently summed it up very well: “I used to feel like I was the adversary with my staff – always pushing to achieve results. Since I’ve learned what it takes to attract and keep the right people, I now have a team that’s working with me. We all know where we’re going. Achieving goals is much easier and I’m enjoying my business as never before”.