No matter what size a business is, many companies attribute their homegrown success to the elbow grease from dedicated employees who keep the organization’s heart beating. In a time when hardworking and indispensible employees are the crux of a company, what are some ways to retain, grow and empower these precious team members?
Help employees discover their talents and let them shine
Smaller companies depend on a staff that is well-versed in a number of different job duties. These employees wear wickedly diverse hats and cross-train their brain on a daily basis. Finding talent and promoting within one’s own team is an excellent way to invigorate morale, preserve employee loyalty and catapult a company’s status to that of a well-oiled machine.
“When we find somebody who is bright and interested in learning and taking on more challenges, we act on it,” said Judy Amabile, president of Polar Bottle. She would know -- she spent her formative years learning the ropes in the trenches. “Almost every employee at Polar Bottle, myself included, started on the production line.”
“I think the key is to hire excellent people and give them a chance to rise to the company goals,” said Nicole DeBoom, founder of Skirt Sports. “That is only possible through excellent communication and an open-door policy.Everyone wants to feel that they are adding value to the business and I want everyone to add value.”
Encourage employees to take risks
High-impact employees can be incredibly useful in a multitude of ways. During this current economic downturn, the only employees left at many companies are the ones who are moving the company in a forward direction.
“We ask people to stretch themselves, to do things they haven’t done before, to learn new things and to take on new responsibilities,” said Amabile.
By encouraging her employees to explore what they are interested in and what they enjoy doing, career transformation becomes an organic progression. When highly capable people drive a company, growth and evolution are inevitable. Amabile noted, “Our former production manager is now the art director, and one of our sales personnel is now the production manager.”
Just as Polar Bottle’s job duties and employee titles are malleable, their guidelines, too, are not always set in stone. “We are all learning on the job, so often times (Polar Bottle employees) can’t come to me for direction -- they have to figure it out for themselves,” said Amabile.
Likewise, the Skirt Sports culture encourages employees to push the envelope.
“We pride ourselves on being able to step outside the box and make a stand, both as a company and individually,” said DeBoom. “Without collaborative, creative thinking, we would never have gotten off the ground. This can only happen if people have the courage to make themselves vulnerable.”
Support goal-setting and nurture the discovery process
As an employee grows within a company, the only constant is change. As Skirt Sports employees grow in their role, they are encouraged to dig deep and explore their strengths.
“I sit down with each employee to discuss (his or her) goals. We talk about work goals, personal goals, fitness goals and anything else they want to discuss,” said DeBoom. “During these meetings, I get a much greater understanding of how well-rounded my team really is.”
It was during one of these meetings that DeBoom learned that one of her employees -- then a customer care manager -- was also a skilled designer. That same employee designed the 2009 line. “Employee job satisfaction is very important to me,” she added. “I want my team to be here for the long term.”
Harvard Business Review, “How to Keep Good Employees in a Bad Economy”
Blog: Rise Smart, “Will the Great Employee Exodus of 2010 Really Happen?”
Forbes.com, “How to Keep Employees Motivated”
Bruce, Anne (2006). “How to Motivate Every Employee: 24 Proven Tactics to Spark Productivity in the Workplace.” McGraw-Hill.
Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit www.oiwc.org.
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Devon Siboleis an account manager at OutsidePR, an outdoor-oriented public relations and sports marketing firm in San Francisco, Calif.