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5 Rules to Retain a Quality Staff

There’s an important distinction between a contrived atmosphere and a cultivated workspace forged naturally


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Within your company, you want to see culture develop organically. A harmonious environment is a byproduct of who you hire, your customers and the work you accomplish.

As a leader, it’s best not to force culture – it can feel inauthentic if not given time to shape itself amidst your employees and their dynamics. There’s an important distinction between a contrived atmosphere and a cultivated workspace that’s forged naturally.

Adding a ping-pong table will not make you workspace hip; having an office dog will not make it laid back; installing a kegerator will not make your culture fun. I’ve worked in an office that had all three – and bragged at the time – but the culture was a toxic, secretive mess of employee dissatisfaction. I looked around and observed, even with those perks, most of my coworkers were unhappy.

I remember early in my career I worked for an organization with a glass-walled conference room situated in the center of the office. It felt like every day upper- and middle-management gathered in plain sight before of the rest of the workforce. We'd see, but could not hear our bosses get worked up over some unknown issue or huddle secretively around the big table. When anyone would ask, he'd be told to focus on his work and not worry. But worry we did. A sense of dread and paranoia pervaded the office. My colleagues and I spent more time gossiping and speculating than we did working. Attrition was high. Morale was low. Management was clueless.   

Create an environment where trust and respect are valued at all levels of your organization, and a positive culture will emerge genuinely.

Here’s how to accomplish this:

EMPHASIZE ACCOUNTABILITY

Everyone in the organization should know exactly what they're responsible for – shared accountability leads to failure, finger pointing and whataboutism. Do not micromanage. If an employee needs micromanagement, that's a sign that he or she is not the right person for job, and if a manager feels the need to micromanage, that's a sign that he or she is failing to develop trust and respect within the team. Allowing people to rise to challenges shows trust and promotes ownership.

TREAT EACH OTHER’S TIME AS PRECIOUS

This is especially true for internal meetings. You can limit them, structure them, rate them. Ensure that everyone has time, not just for their careers, but also for their personal and family lives. You can treat PTO as sacrosanct and not expect those on vacation to work. Valuing the time of your employees – in and out of the office – is a sign of respect.

BE IN A CONSTANT STATE OF COLLABORATIVE SELF-EVALUATION

Always measure outcomes, and share the results with your whole team. Recognize wins loudly and consistently – don't limit your definition of a win to just the big stuff. A win could be closing a million dollar deal or celebrating an employee who grabs a shovel and clears the snow off the sidewalk in fron of the office before clients arrive. This applies to harder realities, too: Face problems head on and  with full disclosure. Don’t sugar-coat or cover up failures.

PRACTICE GRACE UNDER PRESSURE

Heated debate can be productive, and promote positive change and a greater sense of cohesion. The line is drawn at tantrums, threats and passive aggressive behavior.

DO NOT LET POOR PERFORMERS LINGER

Asking your good performers to carry your poor performers is a recipe for resentment and disfunction. Every quarter, we evaluate every employee, including the CEO, on three criterion: 1. Does the employee understand their job?

2. Does the employee want their job?

3. Does the employee have the capacity to do their job?

If the answer is no to any of those questions, it's time to let that employee go.

BE TRANSPARENT WITH THE STATE OF THE COMPANY

Never stop communicating your company's vision and goals. Equally important – let your team know how the company is tracking against its goals and vision. Every quarter we review P&L, progress on initiatives and financial health with the entire company.


Matt Jaffe wanted to create and grow his own business ​after riding the dot-com boom and bust . In 2006, he and Stefan Ramsbott launched 303 Software. Since opening shop, Jaffe has led the company’s vision, strategy, culture and growth, and 303 Software has grown into a tech consultancy with 31 employees, solving complex problems and continuing to develop technology solutions for businesses, government and startups, among others.

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