Episode 44: Retention and Recognition Strategies

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Which comes first, employee retention strategy or recognition? What do employees want and why do they leave? What are the drivers of employee retention and engagement? Does the employee or new hire” Fit” with the Team? How frequently are they given meaningful coaching and feedback? How often are the recognized for their contributions to organizational success and how are they recognized? Are “problems” known to the staff and largely unknown to managers and executives? Is the culture in “denial” of the realities being faced by the people that make the organization go? It is the wise organization indeed that knows the answers to these questions. Please join us on the next Voltcast as Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and Principal Consultant Lee Hubert as they discuss retention and recognition strategies that all organizations can benefit for immediately.


Lee Hubert is a Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Keynote Speaker with Voltage Leadership in Roanoke, Virginia. He brings energy and enthusiasm to grow leaders at all levels, help managers reduce conflict and build teams that produce results. Lee has served in various human resources and leadership development roles at Fortune 500 companies including: MCI, Wisconsin Energy, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Wake Forest University Hospital, and the Hospital Corporation of America. As a public speaker, he has presented leadership development topics at management retreats and strategic planning sessions throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern USA. Lee brings over 20 years’ experience in Management Training, Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Succession Planning, Employee Relations and Conflict Resolution to bear for clients of Voltage Leadership.


Jeff: Welcome to Voltcast. This is Jeff Smith. I am happy to be back here today with Lee Hubert. Lee, how are you today?

Lee: Thank you. We are happy to have you back. 

Jeff: I have been a little bit here and there and everywhere. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Amsterdam slash Netherlands. We had a heck of it.

Lee has been very gracious to host the past few weeks. Lee, thanks for taking care of the show.

Lee: A pleasure.

Jeff: That is awesome. Thanks for joining us. Today's topic is going to be Retention and Recognition, or as Lee and I like to say, fifty ways to reward your employees.

Lee: Must be fifty ways to reward employees. There you go.

Jeff: The topic has really start to come up a lot. It kind of has not taken off but it is kind of humming along and...

We have got folks like boomers that are leaving the workforce and folks are starting to travel a little bit. We are seeing a lot more phone calls saying, 'Hey, could you come in and help us a little bit with some retention? We are struggling a little bit. We want to keep our top talent here.' We thought it was really time. We have touched a little bit on this topic in the past but we really want to concentrate on that today. Lee is going to be with me here the whole time today. We will be going through sort of case studies, ideas, etcetera on retention.

During the week, if you want to reach out to us, we can be reached at voltageleadership.com, it is probably the easiest place. If you want check out our blog or past radio shows, go to voltageleadership.com and that is where you will find us. If you want to reach out to me on the e-mail, it is jeff@voltageleadership.com or it is lee@voltageleadership.com and you will be able to connect with us and we will get back to you and get back with anything that we can help you with.

Lee: I just want to mention, it about kind of about three quarters of the way through from AHA! To All-In and yes, there you go, aha. Yes, sure sweetie. For you folks that have not done that yet, if you go to the website, you will see the link to the book that is co-authored by our CEO, Jeff Smith. Trust me, it is good reading. It is an inspirational story. The story of interactive achievement and John Hagmaier shares a lot of insights there as well. I just want to give my plug for that. If you have not done so, I highly encourage you to do so.

Jeff: We just had John on the show. It is going to be fantastic that you plug in. He will be excited to do that.

John and I just had a conversation and he is always full of energy and tips and all that. This is nice for a follow to that because he is really new to big culture relationships and being able to do that. We want to follow that up with practically how do we go about doing that? How do we reward, how do we recognize our employees? Let us say I think that is probably good enough ways to get in touch with us.

Lee, outside I know that in the workplace we get this stat pretty regularly. Somewhere between 67% to 75% just to pin it on the which survey you are looking at, are saying that they are disengaged in the workplace.

Lee: Usually this is like the Gallup Survey.

Jeff: Yes, Gallup, generally speaking. Absolutely. If you think about that, that is two thirds to three fourths of your workforce that is sort of actively disengaged.

Lee: Hello, actively disengaged is not a good thing. Today's Voltcast, we really want to drill on some of that. I guess the rhetorical question what comes first in, the engagement or retention strategy or recognition because these things do not function in isolation. To your point, there is a lot of people who have been out there, who kind of have this idea in their head that I will just wait for the economy to rebound and you would watch me make my tracks out here.

Jeff: Well, we will start from here because it is one of the questions I had. It is you got a minute, they come in and they say...

Here comes, Lee. He is coming, he is coming. Nice, thank you, well done. 'Lee, you said you wanted to meet with me for a minute?' The conversation kind of goes like this. It goes, you can tell we scripted these parts but what usually happens is let us say that Lee is a manager in this case, I would have walked in the door.

I come in to Lee and just say, 'Hey, Lee. I hate to tell you this but I got this great job offer and I think I am going to leave. How do you handle it then? Do you try to retain, do you not try to retain? Let us start with you, what is your thinking and then we will sort of backtrack too.

Lee: Well, let us go back to management and school 101. Remember we talked about different tools that we have employ Voltage Leadership, behind managers closed door, taking time to be present, all that sort of thing. If you were just hearing for the first time from one of your stars, one of your star contributors, that this person's both feet out the door, where have been at?

Have you have been too busy? I mean, I am sorry. No, if it not a star and it is somebody that you may be thought about okay how do we re-mediate? Similar sort of thing, where have you been? You should know that as well. It just might be serendipity. Or it can be serendipitous that you are bumping into this? But not if it is a star.

Jeff: I will give you my quick take on this. It is a lot of times people say come and ask us the question? Do we retain or not? This is an urgent phone call, hey call me right now, can we talk at six o'clock tonight? I got this crazy situation and I will just tell you, you are too late. Right?

They have gone, and they have been likely they been there for a couple plus years with you, three or four or five years, and they have gone to all the trouble to get connected on LinkedIn with somebody, go to an interview process, and now they have come in. The best you are going to do is maybe six months to a year. If you are going to, let us say, they are just that critical and there were working in a project and they are the only person, sure, you can pay retention bonus, you can keep around form six months to twelve months but I encourage folks to go and start recruiting right now assuming that that person is going to leave because if they have said once that they are going to leave...

Lee: Do not temp them. You are ascribed as they say in Boston. You really are ascribed at that point. I have head-butt on the receiving end of that. My CHRDs, somebody came into the door  and says I am out of here and I have got this offer across town or across the country somewhere and I am just wondering how much money it would take to keep me? Really, they are negotiating for a raise but they do not have any intention of leaving.

I understand, and sad news is at some places today, you have to be willing to leave in order to try to get what you think you are worth. We will call you cuts both ways but we are going to share a bunch of ideas today about how to keep connected to people to retain them and then the whole recognition discussion as well.

Jeff: I am just surprised how often that comes and people are surprised. I was just talking to Jennifer, our colleague, one of their CEOs, their number two, the CEO just knocked on the door and told her last week that the number two is leaving and company came as fully surprised. This is a very good leader. I would say though we got to really watch complacency. There was probably some times where we could have done a better job in this scenario of some recognition and some shout outs over the last two three years and even if it was just an maybe an artificial time or a $1500 raise here or there. It was just those little pieces of attention that were missing the last couple of years. They allow the person to even start to look.

Lee: There is two resilient points here. Little pieces of information. Again, think about behind the manager's closed door which the thing that I am authoring the e-book on, it will be coming out there for all of you e-book fans. One of the things that are satisfiers and dissatisfiers, it really should be knowing what is going on with that. When you think you got somebody heading out the door, where were you at? There is indicators. Just like that your dashboard on your car, okay, there is a maintenance schedule, okay? Change your oil every three thousand, synthetic oil or whatever, six thousand miles but do not miss it otherwise your engine goes bad. These people are coming to you holding the owner's manual out for you to read and if you are not reading the maintenance schedule, you are making a big mistake.

Jeff: Maybe we should dig into this strategy here. There is employee retention strategy or recognition. What employees wants. Lee and I was just sort go back and forth today will be kind of all over the board a little bit. Just sharing best practices and ideas but if like to...

What time am I in? If you were to sort of say you had a client come to you, which one do you think you would propose them to do first? Would you really concentrate on retention strategy because we certainly get those phone calls saying, ‘Hey I am thinking on one particular client,” they have had a lot of turnover in their IT shop and they asked can we do over tensions strategy. We also get people sort of saying, 'Hey, can you give me some ideas on recognition?' If you were to sort of answer the question for a client, what would you have them to answer them first?

Lee: First answer is I will try to button those two things together and I will call it re-recruiting.

A community wants to court a business. They throw tax breaks at them whenever. What about all the existing businesses that are already there? What do I look like, chopped liver, right? I do not comp. Same thing with your stars and your rising stars and people that are getting it done. You function the different space in that leader chair. You are not transactional. You are in a different place and it is your role and my estimation to be cognizant of that.

Think about our deep practice here. The people that get that, they do wonderfully well. John Hagmaier, a beautiful example.

But there is others, they are either in so busy or not wired that way and all that kind of thing. You must spend some time with them and they will spend some time for you. If you cannot find the time, shame on you. Because we are in chart, right? I do the exit interviews here and we will talk about that in a second why do people leave.

Jeff: I think, from my perspective, I think recognition is part of the retention strategy, right? Go recognize right now.

We were doing it right before the break and I did a little shout out a bit like. Lee has really covered me for the last couple weeks on the radio show. Lee, I really appreciate you stepping up and taking that opportunity to have really great guests on the show.

Lee: Either thunderstorms nor technical difficulties, he will keep us from up when it starts.

Jeff: Even today, you were I threw out a topic, you came really well prepared. It has made my life easier. Look at that. I mean that took fifteen to thirty seconds, not long.

Do not wait for a perfect retention strategy. You can start the recognition right now. But as you start to think about the retention strategy, we got that two minutes before break so we will give you a taste of it. As you start to think about the retention strategy, I really think you have to understand your own culture. It is one of the first things. What is your culture? What are the benefits of your culture? I would start from a cultural analysis of what is the right things our culture and when I look at our best people, back to Lee's point, I go interview the top talent. What do they want in our culture, what do they want for retention?

You get one thing but when I am really thinking about retention strategies, I want to know what my superstars, my top level people, that does not mean execs but top level performers, what do they need in this place? One of the first suggestion that I have had is do not get overly hung up on word like retention strategy. Go have conversations with some superstars and to Lee's earlier point, tell them why they are so successful and why you are so happy they are there so you can blend in a little recognition but just asking a questions about what do you want and we are thinking about retention and we want to make sure we have the kind of culture and workplace that you want. That is another form of recognition.

Lee: I will throw out a little initials, IR, I know we are getting ready to come up on a break so maybe we cover this more in depth on the other side of the break. But think about IR, it means inquisitive. Be inquisitive, that is part of your role sitting in the leader chair, and then once you learn things share the rationale. Merry up what you learn from being inquisitive to the rationale for doing your business. That is a beautiful path to walk on because A, you paid attention. You have been inquisitive and how you are explaining to me why.

Jeff: Well, we will come back with the IR because now it is time for a little TO, time out. We are heading to break. We will be back in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back to Voltcast. So glad you could be with us today. Lee, you know, all I can say is it is another beautiful day.

Touch warm but that is our in mode that we always find beautiful days when we record.

Lee: It is supposed to be warm, it is summer, it is Virginia, it is beautiful.

Jeff: I love it. Today, we are talking about fifty ways to recognize and reward your employees.

I do not know that we had all fifty but I want to tell you, just to keep the interaction going with us, we will throw a lot of ideas at you today, you may not catch them all. Please know that that will be up on the website. The link to the show will be there. Lee has written up a blog to this. We will have all of our show notes and information. In a few weeks, we will also have the transcript up. If you do not catch them all, we know that you are running or driving the car, you are not going get all that. Please go to the website, voltageleadership.com and you can find more information about the show there.

Lee, we have been talking about this inquisitive rationale. As we go and we ask these good questions, now we got some good information, what the heck do we do next?

Lee: Well, if you just get the information, do not act on it. It is almost worse than asking the questions.

Back to your point, what do employees want, right? Depending on what you learned, what is it about. Is it about work-life-balance? We say those words, do they mean anything? Depends on where you are. Usually, people will want to be empowered, they want meaningful work, they want growth opportunities. They want to be able to flap their professional wings depending on what stage of the career they are in. They want to feel supported and recognized. Some of the other accouterments are along for the ride. I mean it is an expectation. You are going to be paid fairly and that you are going to have somewhat of a stable environment that you are going to be treated with respect. If you are not in an organization that those things are present then you do not probably belong to that organization.

But to your point, okay, now I know. Is it important for my person, for their mojo, for their psyche, for their professional development, enhance their engagement and for our connection. Do they want to finish it advanced degree? Do they want to finish a certification? Are they just certifiable now as many of our employees are? Because you know a lot of organizations have funds to help them do that, right? I think one of the first things I get asked a lot about this is like, 'Jeff, we do not have a lot of money. Can we do retention strategy?' The answer is yes. The power of just the conversation that Lee is talking about, the fact that you brought me in and ask some questions and then if I say that you took one of my suggestions. I encourage people, go do something small. Just get it started even if it is like a book club.

Yes, it is summer time. We are rocking it here. Even if it is just book club and you buy eight people and they have to buy their own book and buy lunch, it is okay, right? If you do not have the money for that, if you can pick up a lunch even better, buy their book, even better. But just saying hey I am really curious about learning and we are going to take one of these books. Maybe AHA! To All-In, sounds like a good one to do a book op.

Being able to go have that conversation, that is a form of recognition and retention. Do not overdo this but it is not just about money, right? Money is important, we will come back to money in a little bit but what I really want you to hear is often is that is not what most people will say. When they come and they talk to you originally, they are going hey I hear someone which is making four thousand dollars more, three thousand dollars more.

When they come and really talk to us, what you are really saying is I never get any recognition, I worked these extra hours, I cannot tell you the last time anyone asked me about my development and he will tell you last time anyone showed interest in my development. The reason I have the same money is because that is easy and I do not have to give my boss the real truth. When someone comes and says money, I just want people to get more curious and say okay, we may or may not be able to deal with money but let us talk about what is it that really you want this culture to be what you want your development to look like and how do I help?

Lee: You are making me think of an instance where as you know onboard people all over the country, in the laboratory world, and elsewhere. I am thinking of an instance where one... I think this is out West, someplace, I cannot remember exact location. But we had a particular person who was on boarded in the first hundred days. Do you know how many one on one meetings they had with their new boss?

Zero is a good number. Let me tell you, I mean these are bright hardworking competent people and they want to do a good job.

Jeff: It must be included, the hiring company pies, that is somewhere in the forty to eighty thousand dollars to hire the person plus moving expenses, right?

Lee: All of that stuff. There are some times the rationale escapes me as to why you would have that kind of investment for a really important role and a lot of times they are hard to find. These people do not grow on trees. They are technical people, they are kind of thing, the operational people and then disappear off the radar screen. It is just counter-intuitive to me. It is like, 'Hey, I am glad you joined the company. Now I got a meeting. I will see you.'

Jeff: I do not know what is up with Lee and leaving today. I do not know what I said, I showered...

Lee: I think it is his jet lag that is going up. That is the point. It is like you cannot disappear off the radar screen.

The point we had is something we call the iceberg of ignorance.

It is similar to what we talk about the water line. This is the iceberg that you avoid. It is going to put water in your boat under the water line. Are most of the problems known only to the staff? Let that sink in for a second. In this graph I am looking at, it actually has its genesis by Shaqiri Yoshima from TQM in Japan. From 75% to 100% of the problems are only known to the front line team leaders and the staff. You are heading for an iceberg. The very top of the iceberg is visible over the waters. Only 4% were known to the execs. To your point is your culture not getting it? Are you training people to be on top of the iceberg of ignorance?

Jeff: As part of the reason that quite honestly Lee and I and Jennifer and Marissa and others have a job is often people do not completely feel completely safe going to executives and they will do that, I do not look at as a defeat when you have to bring someone from the outside and that can be outside your apartment. It can be resources, it can be a facilitator from the other part of the business, and it can be someone like us to come in but do not let ignorance be the reason you do something the right thing, the iceberg of ignorance, right? Do not let your pride get in the way, go find a facilitator and say something just does not quite feel right. Can you talk to my folks and get real specific. One of the thing that I encourage though is also it makes you that facilitator is asking what is going right too?

Often, it just comes back with all the problems but you want to know what you are doing right so you keep doing that. Sometimes I see people, they go and fix like three problems and they threw out the good stuff. Do not forget to ask the good stuff. Let me do that. This comes from our motivating engaged employees. Lee's touched on it earlier on, just make sure people have the tools, the goals and expectations. For the leaders, what are the tools that I need to do my job? Give me some clear specific measurable goals. What are the expectations I need to do in this role, what are the consequences if I do not do it well. Whether or not new to role, or newly promoted or new to the organization, I just need early.

That is not asking too much. Like they really talked about these people that come in and they will meet for the first 100 but zero one time with the new boss. I am always like oh my gosh. Next, this is where I think people get a little nervous as a leader. The next one is how do how do you make people feel on the workplace? This is part of a retention strategy. Are you doing things like encouraging? Are you offering praise, do you get some feedback? Are you providing recognition? Are you giving them opportunities to stretch themselves and you actually care about losing them.

Here is the deal, if you want the best talent you have to be, I am telling you, you have to be a leader that cares about your staff. That does not mean you have to know all about their personal problems, that does not need to be that you solve their personal problems, but you have to care for them as a human being. Because if you do not, today's workforce can go find somebody that cares about the key, that cares about their development, and it connects the dots. If you think that is not your job, then get used to revolving door at your organization. What do you think about that?

Lee: Let me add on to that because you just demonstrated passion. I am watching you as you are talking about caring for people and you are passionate about this. You also want to connect to their passions.

What do they care about? What is important to them? When people get on teams, when you just meet somebody in a networking or whatever the case is, you learn things about people. It is like oh you lived in Wisconsin like I did or whatever, you are from a large family or whatever it is. You go out of your way to find ways in which you are similar.

That is literally the bridge people need to walk across.

Jeff: Meaning you have to be inquisitive.

Lee: You have to be inquisitive. There are some management folks, I mean I get they are not wired that way, that is where we come and help with different tools that we employ but if you are going to sit them at leader chair, to my earlier point, you have to be able to navigate that space. It is not a transactional space.

Jeff: I know we are going to touch routine and some of you are like oh my gosh guys. It really does. This is about engagement and keeping your best routine or your top talent. People know so you have be authentic, you cannot be the fake caring either. Again, they do not have to be your best friend but you have to really take in a sincere interest. Here is what I mean, they come in for a one on one, sincere interest is coming out from behind the desk. It is sitting down and having a conversation for twenty minutes about someone's career goals and their planning. Jennifer and I just came back. We finished up at Carillion. We say outside for forty minutes, we did fifteen or twenty transactional but the last twenty minutes was about what is going right on your career, what she is trying to do, how is the coaching program going? You look in eye to eye. No Smartphones, no computer, it is just an eye to eye conversation. That to me is the type of caring.

That does not mean you just be my best friend. It was I really care about her career and gave her a really good time, energy. I listened.

Lee: Why do you say that differently? You were present, you listened, and people can sense if there is integrity in the mix.

I think when you get in front of somebody and read their body language, look them in the eyeballs and say what is going on with this person? The eyes do not lie so when you look at somebody and everybody here wants to make sure that you succeed, we are invested in your success, and at the back of your mind, you are going what? I mean there is something to that. In other verse, it is also true. If you feel that connection to the integrity then there is something else. People will walk through a wall for you when you do that. When it hits the fan, you have to be all hands on deck and you get somebody is discretionary effort. That is when it takes place.

Jeff: That is great, Lee. We are up against a break here. When we come back, let us start to dig down in some of our best practices around best ways to reward and recognize employees, alright? We will be back in two minutes and we will give you some of our best tips.


Jeff: Hey. Welcome back to Voltcast. It is Jeff Smith here today with Lee Hubert. Thanks for being here with us. We have been talking a lot about retention strategies, recognition, and so we are going to get sort of practical now, some of our best practices around reward and recognition. What I think is important is that when you think about retention strategies, is asking employees where they want and then trying to put some ways on it. It does not mean you will have to do the job completely. Some of the best practices I have seen is where there is a group and they call it different things like work improvement groups, morale groups, best practices. Lee and I have done some together at Carillion and other place. You may have done some of these too.

When you hear this, that does not mean it is all you. It is your job to make sure that there is a space where retention can be discussed and it is your job to allow time to meet with employees to have conversations. That is your job. 30:58 can help implement, brainstorm ideas, coordinate events, and reach out to the colleges to a variety of things. But it is your job to allow the discussions to happen. Lee, what do you think?

Lee: This is like being on the golf course. Do not overthink it, do not get too mechanical, allow it to happen. I can think of a time when I was in Carolina when I was an employment manager of a large academic teaching hospital there. Some of their recognition program was candid off the shelf. You put yourself in this employee's shoes for a second. They get an e-mail. At the bottom it says, 'Thank you so much for your dedication and your hard work.' Right? At the bottom of the e-mail in hypertext, not even in a machine language, in plain old text, it says, 'Monetary value is zero.' Yes, right, that is what I did. I am like, 'Really, thanks for the recognition.' I changed the monetary value is zero to ten million dollars and I put it in this person's inbox.

When I got there, I think it was a Monday or Tuesday, I heard this shriek from a cubicle down the hall and this person comes running up the hall into my door and said, 'I am leaving. I am given notice.' 'Why are you doing that?' I just gotten million dollars and she got it. That little thing that you are truly craving about made a huge difference to her because you cannot let that slide by.

Jeff: Some of your best ideas. I think that we have got things like lunch with the boss. Lunch with the boss, is that is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Lee: It depends. Depends on who is looking or what do they think of it, right?

Jeff: I do think it is important in these types of things. When we offer these ideas, make sure your intent is good. I have gone with lunch with the boss where it was a so called reward and then it ends up being a grill session, right? Sometimes I can also tell you that I have gone and really one my opinions where it felt like the right thing. Generally speaking, this should be about recognition and the boss, if you are the boss and you take someone else to lunch, you should know why they were successful and find time at lunch to highlight that.

It should be about them, not about how do we clean up the business. What is opportunities? That can happen at another place. Make this about them and their success.

Lee: It has to be absolutely on the positive side of the leisure. It is not you are not screwing up as badly as you did last month so you thanks a lot for the for the lunch there and then there are those people that just do not think in those terms but to your point I am going to think about frequency and quality. Here is some of the ideas, lunch with the boss is a good one. Another one that I think is really under-utilized is peer to peer recognition.

Really encourage that. If you are on team and for whatever reason the team needs to deliver and you are in the leader space, ask people. I want you to recognize somebody, somebody who has been help to you in the past week. Now, if you have to squirm and grimaced to come up with an idea, why is that? Another idea is, I will say this is the indoor food truck, I can think of the time when I was working a Carillion here in Virginia and we were having a pretty busy day and this guy comes down the hall pushing like this car wearing a Captain Crunch hat made out of paper maché.

It was like can I buy you a soda or do you want a snack? It was the most ridiculous looking thing you have ever seen in your life and you thought this guy must be really comfortable in his own skin and then just walked in my door and said can I buy you a soda? I just paused for a second. After I got done laughing, I thought you know what that completely took the edge off of everything.

Jeff: I have been going from Carilion. We do a lot of work with them as a client and we are very blessed to have them in ten years. I walk in still at that same office and people still say, 'Hey, do you still treat soda and all?' It has been over ten years.

I did not do that often. I did it probably twice a month, maybe some three times a month. During Thursday or Friday afternoon, just touching base and saying thank you. Lee is repeating it and again I have not seen some of these people ten years. I walk in, they are like, 'Hey, did you bring a soda?' They come and give me a hug and just little things like that.

I think it is my favorite. When I, kind of having now the habit of quite honestly I need you back, just a hand written note, 'Hey, job well done.' I will give you another one, a handwritten note. In some busy times, we have done this as well. A handwritten note to someone significant other and sent to the house to say we know it has been a crazy time. We used to do this a lot in HR when we have benefit open enrollment. It is always a crazy season. if it is over. It is always a crazy season. We would send a gift card like Applebee's or something to say, 'Hey, we really appreciate you letting us barrow,' we will use Beth in my case, my wife Beth just to run benefits.

We would send a note to home and say, 'Hey, have dinner on us. She has done a fantastic job and we did a lot of hard work and we know it has impacted you guys but we want to let you know how much we appreciate how great Beth is and letting us borrow her. Have dinner on us.' It is recognition for Beth, it strikes up a conversation around the family but it is also they get to go have a dinner. I mean, you can say well we cannot afford that. Well, then just the note. But I will tell you sit in to that with a dinner, oh my gosh, people still talk about that kind of stuff.

Lee: That is really smart because remember your employees, unless they are single, are not functioning in isolation.

They do have family concerns. One of my favorite things has always been the traveling trophy.

We have the thinker, the statue of the thinker. On that thinker, it was a gold statue. I actually had a couple of them. Gave them to one of the nurses who was... Look at this, Jeff just hold out the award here of the gold statue. I gave it to one of my nurses and she was a thinker. I said as you finish your undergraduate and go on to your graduate degree of nursing, let this inspire you. Every time you look at it, I want you to think of me and I want you to get off your butt and start thinking. Other ways to use it would be to say okay who got best idea this week because it was about the thinker, meaning innovation.

If their people just sit in there like a bump on a log just doing their job, that is not engagement.

Jeff: Similarly, we had a piñata that we pass... Lee is still laughing that I had the trophy pulled out of the closet. We had a routine piñata and it was for the Best Success of the Week and so we filled up with candy. The folks that got it, it was not about the candy. Most times they would not take the candy. It was the piñata that is saying we had the best week.

Again, passing around, doing the recognition. Another one that we have used a good bit has been sort of the poster board of what was the success posted in the cafeteria and be able to have people come up and talk about it during the lunch break and say why they got the an award. We buy lunch for them but we also put a poster up so they can teach others write about why they get recognized.

In general, people love to brag about what to do. They get a free lunch out of it and the rest of the company hears about some innovation or something is going on. Then what they want is like how do I get a poster board? I want you to answer that question.

Lee: Well, there you go, how do you get your own poster board to being a poster child. You should get your own poster board.

Jeff: You can see that he has been too much wanted in a postal service or something.

Lee: I am going to add something to that called misdirection. This is a true story in my CA days. I got a really flattering letter about some caregiver, service giver, who went way above and behind. It was tear jerking to read this letter. Now, it was so well done, right? Here it is, I am HR, it is Friday afternoon, about 2:30. I am milking this for all it is worth. I called up the department. I said everybody down there better be there at three o'clock sharp and this means you. I am thinking oh my gosh, should I bring a box?

We have course right to Friday afternoon. I gathered everybody in the room and I said these two people, they better be there and now they are all flipping outgoing oh my God, what is going to happen. Is the hammer coming down? Then I read this letter word for word out loud and embarrass the daylights out of them. We gave them a gift certificate. I said thank you, you are exemplary. The mis-direction was this, these people want from this place of abject fear to just admiration. There is something to that. They said you took the time to do this and it was not what we thought this is. It is like get rid of the negative anticipation.

Jeff: We got this one about time off coupons. Some of you guys work in big companies, some of you are in small companies. Smaller you are, the less policies and procedures you have, God bless you. What I would say about that is give some people some time because maybe you cannot afford to give them extra pay but you can give and throw some time. When someone has done a really good job, let them go.

Lee: Let them participate.

Jeff: Be able to say ‘hey look I know how crazy it has been. If there is any way possible on Friday, I do not want to see you past lunch’.

Now here is the thing. Beth and I both had a boss that we do sometimes and they come like Friday at lunch time, which is hard because sometimes I still got two or three things I want to do and now I have missed my opportunity. But maybe coming on Monday and saying hey I have seen how crazy it has been, if you can get out here early on Thursday or Friday, take one of those half days on us and hey thanks for a job well done. If you cannot do it next week, find a way to do a next week and make sure you tell me what you went and did.

Lee: Do not use it. Make sure you use the time.

Jeff: That is one of those that does not cost you anything. Same boss would tell us in December, we know it was a busy season for us, we are doing a lot of recruiting and crazy things like that, he said, 'Here is what I want you to do. I want you to take a Friday afternoon off and go get your Christmas shopping done.' He came to us right at Thanksgiving and he said, 'I want some Friday in December that you would only half day, get all your Christmas shopping done.' What a great gift.

It was an example of it was a little bit of our control, but I will tell you, I was always used to the first one so it was hanging out in my head the whole month. It is amazing how much you can get done in from a 1 to 5, uninterrupted and no one else is out there. It was a great gift.

Lee: Let me add on to that thought. As you know, we are going to be coming up in a break in a little bit. Some people, it just goes back to behind the door and you being inquisitive and tying a lot of these things together. If you know your people and you are going to know things about them. People have passion. Some people are animal rescuers, others are JMU football fans. That is the national champion dukes by the way for you guys that are uninformed. Right here with JMU Jeff so they can hear it in front of me. If you know things about them, allow them to either participate in the community service of that, and do it on company time.

Let people know that you are doing it. Let us say you are investing in your community and these folks are still getting paid their wage or whatever but you are participating with them because you already know what is important for them.

Jeff: What is important now is it is time for another break. Let us come back in two minutes and we will come back with our best ideas throughout the show.

Lee: We will comeback in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back to Voltcast. We got Lee Hubert here today with me, Jeff Smith.

I am so happy to be with you. We have been kind of moving around, talking about motivation and engaging employees. How to retain them, how to recognize them? It has been a kind of a fast moving motivation show.

Lee: I recognize you.

Jeff: I have been gone on a resting and enjoying and creating wonderful memories with my family. That is probably a good place to jump in.

Lee would say I think always done pretty well though. The work life balances incorporate that into my world. When someone is gone, let them be gone. A great retention strategy is if they are on vacation, do not pound them with a bunch of emails, do not pound them. With all the things that they need, they have worked hard for you. Let them get out office for that half day or for that week or whatever it is and do the best you can to not interrupt and let them enjoy the time away to rest and recharge because when they come back, they will come back more committed. If they get ping the whole vacation, I know we talked about this a few weeks ago in our show I know, but really having just come back from a vacation I can tell you how beneficial it was to know that things were handled for me and that I was not getting this constant ping so thank you to our customers too for recognizing hey this is kind of once in a lifetime family trip.

I knew that some people needed a couple things, they appropriately did it but again a form of recognition or retention is honoring when people are away and then when they come back, give them a moment to catch their breath to get back into the stream.

Lee: What you are saying is that while you were away, your email server or your smartphone did not have a lounge chair next to yours which is a good thing.

Jeff: It did not. Lee, other ideas? From my perspective, I will give one or two more than when you come back. I like this idea of maybe it is a work from home day. Being able to let people catch up and be able to do what they want. When I was writing performance reviews, the best place for me to write them was from my back porch. It was also though knowing that I had a boss the trusted me enough to be able to work the way I want to work and not feel like I had to be all face time and for me to be able to occasionally come in at ten o'clock in the morning and having a couple hours at home, taking a child to school and then knock out some work so that by time that I got into the workplace, I got in to the stream of all those meetings, it was great that they trusted me enough.

Are you able to sort of say, 'Hey, I trust. You do what you need to do.' I know some people like well that will not work in our environment, I do not know. Maybe it could, could you try?

Lee: Let me add to that thought. I could name up probably a dozen people off the top of my head who work in organizations and they will swear that you have to be seen to be productive. This is like a scene out of a bad movie. Okay, I am going to go to some site with a commute. I may or may not be jazzed about being there and truthfully I may have a better use of my time someplace else. But so long as I am being contained or observed, therefore I am productive, right? Which is completely the opposite of what people would like. When we do the exit interviews, I have them over the years, one of the things you hear, 'We did not feel like we had a voice, we did not feel like we were respected,' and to your point, 'We were not trusted.' I mean give me a break, okay? You are hiring me, I am here to do this. I do not think people are lazy or bums by nature enough so you do not know that eventually and manage them all.

These people are generally want to do a good job. If you give them the freedom, Gloria Wood mentioned this on our diversity and inclusion show the other week, if you give people the freedom to be who they are, watch what happens. Some people have quirks in their personalities. They just leave, we celebrate. Yes, we have there over a lot of times, I have noticed, when we celebrate the differences. Understand that one title act of giving somebody some freedom, trusting them that you say by my act of trusting you, you are going to show up. Huge retention issues.

Jeff: To sort of summarize, lots good ideas here. If you can be giving people regular feedback on a consistent basis, you asked for input, that is the retention strategy. Do not get hung up then ask me the perfect retention strategy. Ask questions on the workforce, look at what the culture needs for you, empower some people in your team to come back to you with how do we put the retention strategy in place, have some measurement around its effectiveness, is it effective, are what we are trying to do effective? Seek feedback, if it does not work the first time that does not mean it was not the right idea. Sometimes it may be just the wrong time or it got busy this week. Go back and make sure that you are asking questions. You try some things that will work miracles. Give a little feedback, some recognition and care about employees. What do you got, Lee?

Lee: Here is a key question. All you leaders listening should ask from time to time either in a one on one mode or around the team table. That question is what should we be doing differently and then just be quiet and let people fill in the airspace for you because nobody gets asked that or not nobody but a lot of times people do not get asked that question. People do not want to hear that there is an issue. Remember just a moment ago, before the break, we talked about the iceberg of ignorance.

If your culture is one where you want to be on the very tip of the iceberg and you are floating along bobbing in the ocean and everything is happy, you have no idea what is taking place below the water line and you are going to start a leak in the water. Your hole is going to be popping. Guess what? People, after a certain point, get weary of not being heard. If you tell me hey what should be doing differently? You should listen to it and then better still in the times I have actually done this with teams, I got a nuclear med team I did this with, I will come back to them and say have you noticed anything different? Because I picked off their dissatisfiers, aka I gave them a reason to stay, I re-recruited them.

Jeff: That is right where I was going before I summarize the show, it was re-recruiting. We work so hard to get people in and we work so hard to get a superstar in and then we ignore them.

Lee: That is a retention strategy. A lot of organizations that is their retention strategy.

Jeff: Just take time with a superstar and then go have a conversation today. Go do a little bit recognition and thanking them for a job well done. One of things I suggest to a lot of my clients is just keep a thing in your desk where you get things like there is a few gifts certificates, there is the ability to write a handwritten note, have it available at your desk so that when you see it there is no barrier to get in the way. Just have the address, go get it done and stop and thank them.

Lee: I am going to add one thought on to this. You are particularly good at this, do you know their birthday?

It is simple little thing like. Some people do not want you to recognize their birthday because they are repetitively 29 years old.

However, those are the kind of things that bond people, okay? You are a little work family, you know things about each other. The more commonality if people feel that, to my earlier point that is more than just lip service.

Jeff: Lee, it has been awesome to be back with you here. He really slammed the door and left four times today.

Lee: Give me three steps.

Jeff: Thanks for being here. Each and every week, we really appreciate. Next week on the show, we are going to have Tiffany Quivers on the show. Tiffany and I, we are together back in the day. We are going to be sharing some lessons for leaders to be able to say how do I go about giving feedback, how do I deal with the high potentials, how do I really keep them in check and we will just share some stories in the past. Upcoming in a few weeks, we will have Joanne Loce. We are going to talking about succession planning. We are going to have Alan Schlechter and Dan Lerner in. They wrote the book U Thrive. We are going talk about ways that people can thrive in their daily lives and do with purpose and meaning. I am really excited to have them on the show.

Lee: Awesome.

Jeff: Again, if you are looking for information about us, go to VoltageLeadership.com. You can also find the book that Jon Hagmaier and I wrote together with Bill Long. That information is out there. If you need something during the week, please sign up for a blog. It is a nice little reminder of suggestions, comes in sort of bite sized pieces for you to have a chance to learn. If you are trying to reach Lee, you can reach him at lee@voltageleadership.com. If you need a speaker, facilitator, he is fantastic. If you are just looking for us to help you, we would love to do it. You can find us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership or again at VoltageLeadership.com. Thanks for joining us each and every week. Lee, it has been a joy to be with you.


Lee: Alright, I will see you all next week.

Jeff: Lee is gone. He is just took all his self and we appreciate that you all reach out to us. Create a great week and we look forward to talking to you next week. Take care.