Following on from my recent blog on recruitment ("Getting Great People") is the issue of retaining those people and encouraging their growth as they help you grow your business. It's most often referred to as "engagement".


We talk about engagement, but often, I fear, don't full grasp what is involved. Statistics out of the U.S. and Europe (I am not aware of any such surveys having been conducted in Australia) show that only around 30% of employees are fully engaged, 50% are unengaged, while the remaining 20% are actively disengaged.


"Actively disengaged" means that they are so dissatisfied that they are looking for alternative positions and are probably a disrupting influence in the workplace. "Unengaged" means that they just turn up for the pay packet, are disinterested and make no positive contribution to the business. On the other hand "engaged" employees do make a positive contribution and have the best interests of the business at heart.


These statistics are damning. Too many employers blame the employee; but who employed them? And, having done so, who has tolerated their substandard performance? And why does the employee feel and act this way?


Just as the recruitment process is long and ongoing, so is that of engaging with employees. Yes, it's about communication, but it's also far more than that. Having taken the great time and effort to get the right people, the employer should have developed a relationship that deserves nurturing. People react positively to being granted a degree of autonomy in decision-making, otherwise known as trust. (The opposite scenario is called micro-managing.)


They also need to have the confidence that they can speak with freedom and to express opinions that will not be ridiculed. It is the job of the business owner to ensure there is a forum that welcomes such discussion. Much has been written about creating an harmonious workplace; but is an environment where everyone thinks the same (usually blindly following opinions that the owner has expressed) a good thing? Innovation, creativity and growth come from a diversity of opinions and, with the proviso that all ideas, no matter how whacky, are received with respect, this diversity should be encouraged.


Personal growth is another aspect that has shown to be a basis for staff retention and this means placing a great emphasis on training. More educated employees is not only good for them, it's also good for business. Training at the Container Store in the U.S. - voted one of the best places to work in that country for many years running – first year, includes full-time employees receiving 263 hours of formal training compared to industry average of 8 hours. It works!


Employees spend around 30% of their lives at work. Doesn't stand to reason that they want to enjoy that time? As such, they want to feel they are secure, that they have a caring workplace environment; that they are a valuable part of a team; that they can grow within the business; that their contributions are respected and rewarded appropriately and that they are part of the growth of the organisation.


It is the job - maybe the most important part of the job - of the employer to ensure such an environment exists, is maintained and is further developed. Again, it's great for the employees and it's also great for business.

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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