Last week, we heard a story about a soon-to-be college graduate who majored in communications but was eager to gain any kind of experience he could. He was selected for an internship at a product design company despite having no prior knowledge or experience in the field. So, what can an intern teach us about how to retain your best employees?
Starting from day one of the internship, he was enamored with the team’s welcoming attitude and their willingness to teach him. He was given hands-on assignments – including selecting materials and critiquing designs – that made him feel like his perspective was valued. His supervisors took the time to introduce him to employees at all levels of the company and made sure to recognize his work and contributions at meetings.
He received constant and specific feedback that provided him with useful knowledge and it motivated him to learn more. He wanted to learn more about the business and the product design process, and he wanted to figure out where he could be of more value to his company. His supervisors’ clear and direct explanations of what worked or didn’t work made him become more interested in the field. The company took the time to teach him and give explanations, which helped him learn quickly and gain valuable knowledge and skills. Even though he was being paid slightly more than minimum wage, he felt like the experience and knowledge he was gaining was priceless.
By the end of his scheduled internship, he had impressed enough people to turn the opportunity into a full-time job. The company’s positive attitude and willingness to teach him when he was new and inexperienced enabled him to begin charting a career path that he was actually passionate about.
By providing specific and consistent feedback, the energy that the company invested into teaching this intern was returned to them almost immediately. They effectively molded an employee who was passionate about the company’s mission and willing to work hard because he knew his work would be valued and he would have the opportunity to grow from every project he was a part of.
The Feedback Loop
Every individual, from the lowest intern to the CEO, can benefit from such an outstanding feedback model. The benefits this intern felt at the company – feeling like he was included, constantly learning, having a sense of purpose — all stem from the consistency with which he received quality feedback on the job.
When done right, consistent feedback can form a powerful two-way relationship between employer and employee. An effective feedback culture acknowledges the effort of employees while providing them with tangible tools to embrace their role and excel as part of your company. Creating a culture of consistent feedback doesn’t require a major company overhaul, but it is necessary if you want to retain your best employees.
Here are four key elements to consider when implementing a feedback-centered culture at your company:
1. Timely feedback
Provide feedback to your employees shortly after they complete a task. By providing timely feedback, the activity is top of mind for both you and your employee, so you will both be primed to discuss.
2. Specific feedback
Specific feedback centers on what exactly the employee did that was beneficial (or detrimental) for the company or the department. Rather than a simple “good job,” addressing exactly how the employee’s approach to the task worked will help them understand how to repeat and improve on those results in the future. On the other side, specific feedback about something that didn’t work, and a suggestions about how they might go about it differently, will give your employee an understanding of how to modify their approach going forward.
3. Meaningful feedback
Meaningful feedback helps employees feel engaged in the company and the work process. This feedback may come in the form of giving your employees credit for ideas or bringing them into important meetings when they have done key work on a project. This type of feedback demonstrates to your employees that you’re excited about the good work they are doing, and that you want to share it with others.
4. Honest feedback
Honest feedback can refer to both positive and negative feedback. Oftentimes, employers are nervous about giving honest feedback when it’s negative or critical because it feels like it might create conflict. However, being critical and honest in your feedback is an opportunity for you to express to your employees the values of your company. You don’t have to be ‘negative’ when someone does something wrong. On the contrary, honest criticism, expressed with a positive attitude can be one of the most effective ways to help an employee understand exactly what to do next time.
How does great feedback help retain your best employees
Timely, specific, meaningful, and honest ongoing feedback is at the core of how people get better at their jobs. It’s also at the core of why people want to stick around. All else equal, why would someone want to go somewhere else, where they will be less involved, develop more slowly, and feel less valuable.
By incorporating a never-ending cycle of feedback at every level of your organization, you can communicate exactly how you want your employees to behave and think. You can proactively develop a culture of communication and teamwork, while fostering a community built on respect for ideas and each other.
Doesn’t that sound nice?
The hardest part of retaining your best employees
Well, in order to retain your best employees, the hard part for most organizations is undoing the years of minimalist thinking when it comes to the feedback culture.
Every executive and every manager needs to believe that there is literally nothing more important to retaining your employees than giving excellent feedback on a regular basis.
From an employee’s perspective, receiving constructive feedback from their superiors will start to transform their hearts and minds. It won’t be long before they start to feel more valued, and buy-in to what the organization is trying to do.
If employee feedback isn’t a major part of your organizational culture, it’s time for some honest criticism. Let’s have a chat and strategize some ways to get the feedback flowing at your company.