Employees don’t stick around because of money. They stick around for love.
The need for money is a given. It’s also at every job. That’s why it’s a job.
But money is not why people stick around. All jobs have money. People stick around at a job because of connection and meaning.
The human need to belong, the need to connect, the need to feel part of something bigger: that’s why people stick around.
They don’t stick around for slogans, or free t-shirts, or free gym memberships.
People stick around because of love. They stick around for love of the work. For the love of co-workers. For the love of customers served, a boss, or a team.
This may cause great discomfort to think about. And I’m sure that HR readers are now frantically emailing counterpoints to their colleagues: stay away from Feldman’s blog!
We are, after all, programmed to shy away from words like affection, friendship, and love in our factory-like work environments. We should be cogs! Cogs that are replaceable! Standardized pieces! We are human, sure, but we are human RESOURCES.
Except, cogs don’t stick around. Cogs get tired of being treated like cogs, and go somewhere else, somewhere where they are treated and valued like a human being.
If we want employees to stick around, we’re not going to treat them like cogs.
It is a terrible conundrum. We must provide connection and be exceedingly careful that we approach love, yet keep the gods of professional distance happy.
We must express. We must connect. But how can we obey, to the limit that it is possible, the tyranny of “don’t get too close to employees,” at the same time that we avoid the awful altar of cog-sacrifice?
First, let me suggest that actions speak louder than words. For those of us who want to, who must connect, who put being human in this all-too-inhuman world of work above a slavish adherence to the factory tribe’s neuroses, making declaration via action is essential. It’s small things:
- Leave someone a thank you note (handwritten, please!)
- Slow down and actively listen
- Invest in someone’s career instead of making training “this role” focused
- Invite someone to something they’re not usually invited to
- Give someone an opportunity that they wouldn’t normally get
- Introduce someone as a “co-worker” instead of as a boss or employee
Second, if you must use words instead of actions, here are the most important four words that you can ever tell a co-worker. “I’m glad you’re here.” It is the workplace-friendly equivalent of “I love you.”