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To keep employees, focus on management, culture, balance
A new survey found that things like work-life balance, managers who emphasized transparency and positive company culture were major factors in deciding whether people stayed with a job or looked for opportunities to leave. - photo by Greg Kratz
The company for which I work is growing rapidly, and that means we're always in hiring mode.

It's a rare week if I'm not participating in at least one interview of a job candidate, and many weeks I'll be part of three, four or even more.

When you're part of such a high-growth company, though, recruiting isn't the only focus. Once you hire those promising new people, you need to make sure you keep them.

I've thought about this a lot over the years as I've grown into management roles, and I'm always searching for ways to keep the members of my team engaged and excited about working with my company.

As such, I was interested in the results of a recent survey by TINYpulse, a company that is dedicated to tracking and improving employee sentiment. Not surprisingly to me, the survey of 400 workers confirmed that things like work-life balance, managers who emphasize transparency and positive company culture are major factors in deciding whether people stay with a job or look for opportunities to leave.

For example, the survey found that employees who said their managers respected their work and ideas were 32 percent less likely to think about looking for a new job. Furthermore, strong management transparency resulted in a 30 percent better chance of an employee sticking around, according to the results from TINYpulse.

I'm happier in a job when I feel my boss respects my abilities and gives me the freedom I need to complete the tasks I'm given.

As for transparency, I'm trained as a journalist, so I always prefer to share information. I know there are times when some nuggets need to be held back from general distribution, but I think managers should default to sharing unless there's a solid reason not to do so.

This all comes back to the importance of communication, and that was also addressed in the survey. It found that employees who said they planned on sticking with their employer were 10 percent more likely to report having clear goals set out for them.

I'm in the process of goal-setting with the members of my team, and it's always something I enjoy. I'm interested to hear what they want to accomplish and talk about what I can do to help them succeed.

This also means goals for the team and company as a whole should be clear, and I've found that communicating that is often more difficult. That doesn't mean it isn't important, though. It's easier for people to feel motivated when they know what they're trying to accomplish as a team.

Those positive feelings of pulling together to meet company goals are enhanced by good corporate culture, and the opposite is also true. The TINYpulse survey found that employees who gave their work culture low marks were almost 15 percent more likely to think about a new job than their counterparts.

But what can a company do to create the kind of culture employees love? I've found that this doesn't always require huge investments of time or money. It does necessitate that managers focus on workers as humans and try to make their time in the office as pleasant as possible.

According to the survey, employees who reported working for organizations that sponsored monthly, quarterly or even yearly company events were more likely to see themselves working for their employer for a longer period of time.

Members of our "fun committee" at work are setting up a series of fairly easy-to-manage monthly events now, and I'm glad they're making the effort. I think their plans will result in real benefits for our company culture.

Finally, I can't talk about employee retention without mentioning the importance of promoting work-life balance.

"Employees that are tired and burnt out are 31 percent more likely to think about looking for a new job than their colleagues who feel comfortable with their workload," the TINYpulse press information about the survey said.

"Perhaps more importantly, the opposite holds true, too. When we asked employees to rate their work-life balance, we found that those with a positive work-life balance are 12 percent more likely to see themselves staying with their employer."

This result doesn't surprise me. However, one part of building balance that I haven't written about often, but that was addressed in the survey, is the need to encourage employees to use their paid time off.

According to the TINYpulse release about the survey, many people feel guilty about taking PTO, especially if their managers aren't modeling that behavior. However, workers who reported being encouraged to use their PTO were nearly 13 percent more likely to report planning to stay with their company.

I've worked with many people at different companies who were hesitant to take days off. In fact, before I had a family, I was one of those people. But I've learned that it's OK to take a break for a few days now and then. In fact, I think you're a better employee if you take time to recharge your batteries through time away from the office.

I sometimes still feel guilty about taking time off while I'm sitting in my cubicle a couple of days before a trip. However, once I'm out the door on vacation, I find that the guilty feelings tend to disappear.

Based on that personal experience, I've tried to become more of a PTO advocate to my team, too. After all, the people who work with me are a talented, dedicated, hard-working bunch, and I don't want them to get burned out. That's partly because I care about productivity and the corporate bottom line, but it's also because I care about them as people. I hope my communication is effective and that message is getting through.

I'd be interested in your take on the findings of this survey. How important is your manager to your job satisfaction? How about company culture or work-life balance issues? What examples have you seen positive or negative that have shown the effects of these things on employee retention?

Please send me an email or leave a comment online with your ideas, and I'll include some of them in a future column when I revisit this topic.
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