Have you ever been surprised by a staff-member tending their resignation? You shouldn’t be. I say they should have felt safe enough, and seen you open enough, to share their feelings before it came to quitting. More on that in a minute…
In my early days of staff management, I never used to ask people if they were satisfied in their role. What if they said ‘no’? What if they requested something that the business could not give. What if their input opened up a ‘can of worms’? So to avoid this uncomfortable situation, I simply avoided this kind of discussion. However there was a cost to closing off this level of communication: my awareness.
Once I owned my own practice, I felt more obliged to the people I worked with. After all, I was the one who was now in control of the working environment that was created. I decided to take on that responsibility enthusiastically and be pro-active in my management of staff happiness. I did this by incorporating the following three elements:
- Open & Eager: Whenever a staff member approached me for discussion, I immediately stopped what I was doing (baring speaking with a patient) and smiled at them with an ‘eager to please’ intention. I wanted to know how I could help. The more happy the staff member, the better their approach to patients. The more problems I solve for them, the higher their personal performance. Therefore it was in my interests, and the interests of the business to maintain a high level of happiness with the staff. To gain the needed clarity around troublesome issues, it was up to me to create the environment where staff felt encouraged and safe to communicate with me.
- One-on-One Discussions: Every few months, when the opportunity arose, I would directly ask each staff member how they were traveling. What is making them feel happy within the practice? What is making them feel unhappy? Is there anything I can do to create a better environment for them? As an employee, this step truly shows how much they feel cared for. (Feeling ‘cared for’ is one of the top reasons staff remain loyal.)
- I quickly dispelled the fears of not having a solution for every issue by releasing the need to deliver a fix straight away. Sometimes there is an obvious and easy solution, and that’s great. But for those trickier times, my response was, “I hear you. Leave it with me so I can mull things over. I’ll get back to you with a plan.” This is a powerful sentence because it, i) reassures the staff member that what they say is important, therefore they are important, ii) gives you the chance to step away and create the time and head-space you need to deliberate, and iii) assures the employee that you both have the power, and also intend to, make things right.
What if there are no solutions to a problem? The decision to keep things as they are for now and discuss instead how the team-member can better process the challenging situation is also a resolution. There is growth and development in that space. The answer is not always going to be exactly what the staff member wants, or exactly what the business wants. A solution is often a negotiation towards something that suits both.
So if you want to avoid losing good people, only discovering their reasons for unhappiness at the time they quit, I encourage you to develop your communication skills.
Provoke the clarity you need to keep your best people at their best.