How to make employees fall in love with your company

Part 2 of a series: Happy employees stay longer, work harder, contribute more.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines (and many other major corporations), has said, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough that they won’t want to.”

heart shaped cookiesAlthough it seems counterintuitive, many business owners are hesitant to provide professional development and training opportunities for their employees. Owners fear that once those employees’ skills are enhanced, they will be recruited by other employers, and the owner will watch his investment walk out the door.

It’s a legitimate concern. But there are ways to improve the chances that employees will stay. You just have to make them fall in love with your company. Here are some tips to help.

Focus on the person
Remember the entire person comes to work — not just the person with the skills you need — but the person with a home life, a family life, a financial life and an emotional life, too. Take an interest in your employees. Find opportunities to praise their efforts and ideas. Based on their individual situations, offer flexible schedules and work locations (sometimes working at home can be a nice break in the routine). Allow time off for important family occasions. Allow employees to create a work-life balance that enables them to honor both their commitment to you and to their family.

Communicate
One of the primary reasons employees leave is a sense of never knowing what is going on in the business and never knowing how they fit into the long-term plans for the company. Keep them informed of changes, challenges and opportunities. Ask for their input, and allow them to play a role in your decision-making. If they are allowed to invest their ideas, they will be willing to invest themselves in the organization for the long-term. Keep in mind that simply posting your company’s mission, vision and values on the wall does not accomplish anything unless employees have ownership in what they say.

Have fun
Yes, it’s all right to occasionally step away from the daily grind and let loose with your employees. Some of the most successful companies will tell you, “We work really, really hard, but we play really, really hard, too.” Provide opportunities for employees to get to know one another away from their work responsibilities. The more they care about each other, and the more they have fun together, the more they will want to stay with your business and with one another.

Invest in skill development
As previously stated, this is where some employers get nervous. However, allowing your employees to grow professionally sends a message that they are valued, and that you want them to stay with your company and use those newly minted skills. There is always a chance that someone will leave for another opportunity because you have trained them to be a more sought-after worker. But they could just as easily leave due to a spouse relocation, the birth of a child or a desire to return to school. Take a chance to enhance their value to your company and provide them opportunities to advance and grow into other positions — with you.

Bring the benefits
Offer an attractive and comprehensive benefit package. Younger workers today frequently take a job and remain there for a long time simply because the company offers a 401(k) or some other mechanism that allows employees to invest in their future. Perhaps your benefit package can include a creative opportunity such as giving employees one day per month off to perform community service or one-half day off a month to do something with their families.

Be positive!
Even if you encounter challenges, do your best to remain positive with your employees at all times. Realistic, but positive. If employees hear repeated negativity from the leadership of the company, they will not only become disillusioned, but they will believe that being negative in the workplace is acceptable, and it’s not. Employees take their cues from their supervisors. Keep worries, frustrations and petty problems to yourself, and keep your workers’ eyes and efforts focused on the opportunities of the future.

Finally, just as your employees are your best ambassadors while they work for you, they are also ambassadors after they leave. You never want a former employee to spread a negative message about your organization. The best scenario is when they leave to go toward another opportunity, and not to get away from your company. They may indeed break up with you, but when they do, you want them to say, “I was really in love with that company. It was just my choice to go another direction. We’re still friends.”

Part 3: How to institute a workplace wellness program