Should you care about your employees´ happiness and job satisfaction? Definitely if you´re talking about someone you want to keep. But how do you influence a staffer´s state of mind when it comes to happiness (okay, let´s knock it down a notch to contentment)? Too often we lose people and then wonder what we could´ve been doing earlier to prevent them from leaving.
Frequently, we see stories online, in print, and on television about what people can do to make sure they do what´s necessary to find a new job that´s satisfying. Online quizzes, "what if" scenarios complete with career consultant expertise, and other lessons to be learned abound. But is there something you can do in house to help people find the right job right where they are?
An easy fix might be to switch departments, but that can take longer than people generally expect. If that is an option, though, then by all means let your employees know. Imagine the unfortunate exit interview and your former-employee-to-be surprises you by describing a specific situation that inspired her to begin looking elsewhere. "Why didn´t you tell me?" you may ask, wondering, truly, how something could get so far without your knowledge.
It´s human nature to assume that your best workers are just fine, happy, and not thinking of leaving, but those are the people you should be paying attention to the most. Instead of assuming that someone likes his job, find out for sure and when you do ask let people know that you´re sincerely interested and that in your experience most people, even the most contented of employees, go through periods that have them wondering if, indeed, they should be working someplace else, a place where they might be more appreciated, recognized, valued, etc.
Sometimes managers are guilty of letting bad feelings arise and then fester like an open wound. If you suspect that an employee is having trouble with her supervisor, don´t put your head in the sand. Ask the hard questions and try to root out the problem or at the very least give your people the permission to examine the problem themselves. Clearly, it´s no fun to walk around with your stomach in knots because you´ve got a pesky personnel issue. Pretending it doesn´t exist, however, or wishing it away isn´t a good idea either.
Don´t be afraid to sit down with an employee and raise the tough issues. If you think something is going on, then ask. But be sure you let people know that a problem between two employees doesn´t necessarily mean that one of them is going to be out the door if things don´t improve. You might be surprised at how often misunderstandings, for instance, turn into full-blown confrontations because a manager simply allowed a spat between two employees grow and grow and grow.
Next time: more about what you can do to keep your best people happy (well, content"?¦)