Roslyn KuninAmong the many challenges facing businesses today is getting and keeping enough employees.

The pandemic is often blamed for the labour shortages. Many people received income maintenance payments, sometimes exceeding their previous salaries, and no longer had to work.

Stopping the subsidies may or may not bring them back, although raising wages will help.

Others who found themselves at home and facing the existential crisis of COVID-19 decided there were better ways to spend their life than at a job they didn’t like. They quit their job or planned to, hoping to find a better job or leave the labour force if they were close to retirement age, as the baby boomers are.

Finding a sufficient number of workers is difficult enough, but finding workers with enough skills, training and experience to fill today’s ever-more-demanding jobs is even more difficult. This makes it vitally important for companies to retain whatever good staff they have.

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A primary reason why workers leave a job is a bad boss. It’s also true that many workers stay with a job even if wages and other conditions are less than ideal if they have a good boss.

Keeping a worker is always easier, faster and less expensive than having to replace one. Here are three things good bosses do – and all bosses can do – to hang onto the people they need.

Talk to staff

We all need and want recognition. It doesn’t cost anything to greet people as they come in, ideally by name, and ask after their health, family or weekend. Every friendly, casual comment throughout the day helps workers feel they belong, are needed and appreciated.

And make sure when you communicate with your valuable staff that you’re just talking. When workers in high-turnover occupations like road building were asked what would keep them in their jobs longer, some said the boss needed to stop swearing at them. Cursing and yelling at staff ensures that all those who can quit will and those who stay will be resentful and angry – not the productive workers you want.

Treat staff well

Staff need not be treated like family but they should be treated as friendly, intelligent adults.

Such treatment could be in the form of traditional little treats like a box of Timbits or pizza, which are very good investments in staff morale for the price.

At a higher level, let employees know why they and the business are there. Do the opposite of treating your staff like mushrooms, as the old expression goes: “They keep us in the dark, pour manure on us and then they can us.”

Today workers want more than just a paycheque from their work. They want the work to be meaningful. Let the staff know why the company exists beyond just making money. Tell them what good its products or services do for the people who buy them and others. Remind employees that they’re not just hauling rocks. They’re building a cathedral.

Some firms have mission and values statements to put daily work into the big picture. Other companies have culture clubs to help staff stay on top of this positive message. In small firms, it’s up to the boss to get the word out.

Train your people

It’s hard to find anybody to hire today, let alone those with the exact education, abilities and experience one might like.

Providing on-the-job training helps keep the company running smoothly, and helps keep staff as they learn what they have to do and how to do it. People aren’t mind readers. If the work is new to them, they may have to be told what’s expected of them (politely and gently) more than once.

Off-site training is attractive to employees and will not only help keep workers, it will lead them to tell their friends that this is a good place to work.

Some workers, once trained, may go off to another employer. This possibility can be reduced by advising employees that they have to reimburse the company for their training costs if they leave before a certain number of months after completing it.

Despite best efforts in talking to, treating and training your staff, problems will still arise. When they do, be the best possible boss under the circumstances. It’s simple: fix the problem, don’t lay blame.

Workers will stay with a company if they know that even when things go badly, their boss will still treat them with respect.

Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.  For interview requests, click here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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