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The Number One Attraction and Retention Tool? A Strong Management Culture | Bruce Tulgan

By: Bruce Tulgan, founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc.

As unemployment has plummeted and wages increased, employers in every industry have been struggling to define what reliably attracts and retains the best talent today. The nature of work has changed from long-term due’s paying to short-term, transactional arrangements. Employees have equal, if not more, negotiating power than employer’s do, and they’re not afraid to use that power to demand more in terms of pay and benefits.

Of course, the problem is that the majority of employer’s are working with a limited amount of resources with which to compensate their people, whether financial or non-financial. Sometimes their hands are tied by red tape. While a bidding war for talent may work for a little while, it’s simply not sustainable. How are these employers supposed to keep up with today’s talent wars?

The best thing any organization can do is build a strong culture of highly-engaged management among their leaders. Highly-engaged management is the key to unlocking the true potential of your employees, and that means those people will have increased ability to earn more for themselves and their families.

Too often, managers forget the huge amount of influence they hold over their team members’ careers, present and future. Managers are responsible for providing the coaching, feedback, guidance, direction, and support necessary for their direct reports to achieve success and improve. If managers aren’t creating the conditions employees need to do their best, it is much, much more difficult for those employees to earn the recognition and rewards they deserve for their hard work.

A strong management culture lets potential employees know that your organization is a place they will be able to add real value, continuously learn and improve, and therefore gain valuable experience that will help them achieve more in their careers. In today’s new normal of constant improvement, that guarantee is pretty hard for other employers to beat. Having a strong, highly-engaged management culture also has the added benefit of improving productivity and quality throughout the organization as a whole, improving the bottom line for everyone.

At this point you’re probably wondering, what does a highly-engaged management culture look like?

Highly-engaged management can be broken down into eight fundamental steps:

  1. Manage every day.  We usually suggest managers dedicate one hour to managing every single day. Whether they are engaging in one-on-ones with their direct reports, documenting performance, or resource planning, management must be a daily habit.
  2. Talk like a performance coach.  Managers who use describing language, that is, describing the specific behaviors they are observing compared to the specific behaviors they would like to see, have a much easier time improving employee performance. The more managers can avoid naming language – simply calling someone’s work “sloppy” or “slow” – without describing concrete ways the employee can improve, the better.
  3. Take it one person at a time.  Every person is different. Managers must customize their approach accordingly. But the only way to successfully customize to every person is to figure out what works best for each person by engaging in regular, ongoing, one-on-one dialogues with every employee.
  4. Make accountability a process, not a slogan.  Spell out clear expectations up front, in advance, and then tie employee actions to rewards or consequences in a concrete way.
  5. Tell people what to do and how to do it.  Don’t let people sink or swim on a new or unfamiliar task. Allowing people to “learn by doing” or “take a crack at it” for the sake of experience, when there is an established best practice already in place, does nothing but slow everyone down and reduce morale. Support learning in a proactive way.
  6. Track performance every step of the way.  Whatever system works best for you, make sure that it is simple and easy to reference. If the system is cumbersome, managers will never be able to stick to it.
  7. Solve small problems before they turn into big ones.  Managers cannot wait until there is a huge problem for them to fix before providing course correction. Of course, this only works if managers are in the habit of managing daily. It may seem like a large investment of time and energy, but so much time and energy will be saved in the long run.
  8. Do more for some people and less for others based on performance.  There are limited resources at your disposal, so providing more for those who go above and beyond is what’s truly fair. Employees want to know that their performance actually matters, not just to the company’s bottom line, but to their own personal ability to earn for themselves and their families.

About the Author: 
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as, an online training solution. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009; revised and expanded 2016) and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007; revised and updated 2010). He has also written for publications including the New York Times, USA Today, the Harvard Business Review, Training Magazine, and Human Resources. Bruce also holds a sixth-degree black belt in classical Okinawan Uechi Ryu Karate Do. He lectures periodically at the Yale University School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Dr. Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning biography The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher(2006) as well as Madam: The Notorious Life and Times of Polly Adler (forthcoming).

About RainmakerThinking, Inc.:
RainmakerThinking, Inc. is a management research, training and consulting firm and the leading authority on generational issues in the workplace, founded and run by best-selling author and internationally recognized management expert Bruce Tulgan.

Since 1993, their research has included hundreds of thousands of participants from hundreds of organizations in a wide range of industries. RainmakerThinking continues to pursue three ongoing longitudinal studies: The Generational Shift in the Workforce (since 1993), Leadership/Management/and Supervision (since 1995), and Human Capital Management (since 1997).

Based on this ongoing research, RainmakerThinking has provided assessment, training, and consulting services for more than 400 different organizations ranging from the United States Armed Forces to Wal-Mart.

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