Episode 99The Best Kept Secret to Retaining Your Staff is to Care More

Shivani Gupta

Welcome to the Grow Your Business Podcast. The topic today that I want to cover is the best kept secret for retaining your best people. The thing is, as we navigated, and for some of us, we are still navigating on our people are getting COVID. For the third time, many people around me family and friends. And as we still continue to battle through our way through whatever COVID has done for us, one of the things that's happened, it's become very difficult to retain great people in our business. People's values have realigned, some people are saying - actually, I don't want to work like this anymore, I want to work like this. And they're starting to redefine what work looks like for them. For a lot of them, if the workplaces are forcing them to back into coming to workplaces five days a week, which believe it or not, many, many business owners, I know are still doing that. And then we hear about the Elon Musk's and other places which are saying, you need to be in the office.

And one of the things that's happening when we are doing that to our people is they're saying - oh, I thought you trusted me through COVID. But really, you didn't, what you really had to do was you kind of had to make that choice, because there was no other choice to get the work done. I have shown you my loyalty and productivity. And now that there is an option now you're saying actually you don't trust me, and you want me to come back, because you believe that I'll be more productive in the office. So, retaining people has become very, very difficult. And then again, we could talk about this topic for the next five hours. But in the next few minutes, what I want to do is talk to you about this one simple way that when we do this one thing, and there's different levels and depths that we can do that in, we really start to look at how we retain good people. And that down to one word is to care.

One of the things that happens is a lot of business owners when they start off a little bit smaller, they know everything about their employee, they know their employees name, their partner's name their kids, if they've got their pet's names, they know what foods they like, what they don't like, they literally have a dossier or this information on their particular employee as their businesses grow to 5-50 employees, it becomes very difficult to be able to know all of those details and retain that information about that. And as the business grows, sometimes people feel that you as a business owner may not be that caring. So how do we show more care? And how do we build that into not only who you are, but also the culture of your organization.

I wanted to take you back into a particular example, one of the businesses that I was running is was in a wellness space. And one day I discovered that one of my employees who had taken a sick day that day out of out of the blue, you know, really fantastic worker had taken a sick day and with very little notice, like her clients were actually going to be coming in seeing her within the next couple of hours. Anyway, my manager rang her and said - Oh, look, I'm really annoyed that this person hasn't come in. And also, do we understand why she hasn't come in, is she the sort of person who takes a lot of sick leave who really is not that dedicated, she seems to go the extra mile at work. So, it doesn't seem usual with a characteristic that she would be late. Anyway, I just sent her a text message to say, look, I understand you pulled a sick day, very at the very last minute. Obviously, it was a bit challenging to have to move a bunch of plants around, but just hoping that you're okay. She replied literally within the next five minutes and said - Hey, I think we need to chat. I didn't know what this meant. I thought maybe she's found another role. I didn't know what that meant.

When I spoke to her the next morning, it turns out that she was actually in a domestic violence situation. So, her partner had hit her. And she was pretty sore and very fragile, emotionally fragile , physically, and was trying to work out what her cause of action was. She had been with this partner for a while. And again, I don't want to dive into the issue of domestic violence here, which is unfortunately, still, very prevalent in our society in our homes. And you know, many women die in each of our cities and countries, despite all the work that we've done around DV, so I won’t dive into DV, particularly, but what I want to talk about this is from a perspective of caring as a business owner. So, what do you do there? When you know that this is a great person? Do you just wash your hands and go low? It's none of my business, I care for them. But it's nothing that I can get in there. She can then work out what she wants to do. And then let us know I have a business to run. And that is absolutely right from a business sense. So, I always say we always need to have our business hat on to work out how do we run that. But the other part we also need to do is use our emotional intelligence and use a heart space because often people in our businesses come to work for us not just because of the brand, not just because of what we do, but as business owners who we are, and we attract some of those people because of the fact that we care.

So it wasn't that we did, you know, 100 things for her over the course of the next few weeks and a couple of months. But it was about, for example, giving her some space and time off. Knowing that we had a bit of a backup for somebody just in case something else happened. It was also about connecting her into a couple of contacts that I have around being able to look at some housing, some support. At the end of the day, there was this very fine line between being an employer versus a family or friend, and not crossing that line in my perspective. But I wanted to use that as an example that when those opportunities come as business owners, for us to care for our employees, if we really want to retain them, and we don't just want to do it for the bottom line of retention, we want to genuinely care for our people, it shows and we end up retaining them.

In this particular example, this staff member really appreciated the support and care that we gave her, they knew, she said - Look, you kept repeating to me what a great worker I am, my self-esteem was so low that I just kept thinking, I'm letting everybody down I’m useless. And I'm a terrible person. And you know, one of the things that also happens in that particular case was at least she felt empowered financially. And when she's empowered financially, she can also make other decisions. And I was very, very much aware of that as a business owner. So, showing that you care and going that little bit of an extra mile, not delving into their business. But in those cases where they need that is really, really important.

The other example of care doesn't need to be such an extreme situation around domestic violence, it could be simply that you've got some male and female staff, who really need some more space, and time and also the flexibility because they have children. Now these children might be young children, they might be teenagers, they might have aging parents, but they've got some family responsibility, which means that it becomes really difficult for them to be able to be consistently there all the time just in case that kid or that parent is sick, and how do we actually show some of that caring? And again, that conversation isn't about I'll do whatever you need, so that you can stay in the business for a really good performance. It's about being able to say, look, I do have a business to run. I do know, for example, that you have young children, let's talk about what would work, what would work for you what would work for me, let's talk about how that roster would work. Perhaps there's a half a day or a day that you can work from home, depending on the type of business. For some of you, your people will be all remote in terms of being able to do that. But just having that empathy, not sympathy. I'm a big believer that sympathy is kind of feeling sorry for people empathy is having and putting yourself in their shoes, and actually having some space in there to be able to say, well, what can I change? What can I actually make a difference to? And how can I show that little bit more level of care and understanding, even if I don't have the solutions to be able to say that, and sometimes I would say to my staff that I don't have a solution for that. You know, I remember one of my staff saying expanding I love working here, but I also want to get some more experience and that experience we can offer in our business that was not our core business. So, I couldn't really help her in the area that she wanted to get more experience. And, and I said but I love the fact that you want to expand, and grow is the answer one or the other, could it be, working for us as well as working for the other business part time or independent a part time role. She's said Shivani, I've never thought of that. That would be a fantastic solution. Like if I could do between two and three days for you while I'm learning the other. And that'll take me 12 or 18 months to really learn that. But just so you know, I don't want to let you down. But in that 12 or 18 months’ time I will be switching over.

I was so happy to make that decision and show that I cared and I cared about her learning and I cared about where her career trajectory was and where she wanted to be over the next two to five years, she eventually wanted to be able to run her own wellness business. And I said that's fantastic. That's a great goal. So again, as business owners, rather than look at that, as competitor, you're going to this other thing, then why not. And she was able to stay with me for another 18 months, as a result of that showing that care, having that conversation and working out what you can do.

So, the question for you as a business owner is, how many staff do you have? How well is your retention then, if you have lost a lot of people, and that's simply just looking at how many people might have left? So, if you've got a team of five, and you've had one person that you've replaced? Well, that's one over five and your turnover speed 20%. But if you've had team of 50, and you've had 20 people, well, then that's you know, 40% turnover. So, it's really important to look at your turnover and start to say, what are some of the practices? What are some of the secrets that I can learn in terms of being able to retain that, and especially for those key people that need some more care that needs some more empathy that need a different solution. How can I help find that solution? And how can I create some strategies and policies that allow for those people to be able to still be in my business? See and be able to learn from them and get them to be able to perform that.

Thanks for listening, I hope you got some good idea in terms of how to retain your best people and how to show that little bit more care and empathy towards people that may be having extra challenges.