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How to Keep Great Employees (and keep them accountable)

hand huddleAt the end of June, the national unemployment rate was 4% and every business owner I spoke with was in a talent crunch.

There are few industries today that aren’t experiencing a significant talent shortage. Additionally, every leader I met with struggled with some lack of accountability in their organization among current employees.

It creates an interesting conundrum that is keeping many a business owner awake at night…

What do you do when you can’t find quality talent? How can you hold existing talent accountable without losing them to greener pastures?

The key…is getting to know your people…at every level. You need to truly understand their motivations for working at your organization. Better yet, how about really understanding why they need the job?

What are their personal goals (now, this year, the next three years)? This isn’t a useless HR exercise to check the box for the completion of an annual performance review. 

Here are the facts: in today’s economy, talented people can find jobs in technology, engineering, sales, recruiting, nursing, fast food, etc., within a week, probably faster. You can bet they’ll have multiple offers for more money than you are paying them.

Honestly, You Need Them More Than They Need You

Yet creating organizational and individual accountability is vital to growth and success – both for your business, and for your employee!

The reality for most people is that unless they win the Lotto or inherit serious cash, they need to work to live. They have a mortgage, groceries to buy, and ever-increasing healthcare costs to cover. Hopefully they want to save for retirement. But maybe they want to visit Aruba or re-do their patio. It doesn’t matter.

Everybody Wants Something Different, But They All Want Something

Your most important job as a leader or business owner is to help your team members achieve their professional and personal goals. When the team members achieve their goals, then the organization achieves its goals.

It isn’t 1960 anymore: you are serving them, they are not serving you. 

Top-performing companies take the time to really get to know their people. Not because they have to, but because they care about the people on the team and want the best for them. 

So, when a leader takes the time to truly understand somebody’s motivation and they discuss it frequently, you build trust. Trust is the first step in holding them accountable.

When you build trust and people know that you have their best interest in mind, they will allow you to have honest, truthful conversations about the things that they need to do to improve or drive performance.

How to Build Accountability with Employees: The Personal Plus Professional Approach

One approach is to have your team member create a list of three professional goals and two personal goals. These goals should be accomplished before their next meeting with you.

It is their responsibility to create the list.

Let’s start with the professional goals. These should align with the activities that benefit the company. The end result should be revenue generation, gross margin, number of service agreements or other bottom line impacts.

Some examples of goals could be number of new client meetings, sales, contracts executed, contract extensions, or calls. The accomplishment of these goals will help the team member work towards meeting their annual goals (Aruba, 401K savings). 

The personal goals are exactly that: What do they want or need to accomplish before your next meeting?

Examples might include working out 4 out of 7 nights, buying a new dishwasher, painting the baby’s room.

The beauty of this approach is that you are mixing both professional and personal goals. You as the leader are holding the team member accountable to accomplishing ALL of the goals – not just the ones that impact you as the leader.

When they meet their goals? They’ll have themselves – and you – to thank. Do you think a team member who is regularly achieving their goals is going to leave for another job? Not likely.

This approach takes more time. But if it is done genuinely, it creates high levels of engagement, accountability, and results across the entire team.


Join the author of this blog, John Ninkovich, on an upcoming webinar 'Overcoming Barriers to Growth' on Tuesday, December 18 at 1pm ET.  This webinar is provided at no cost!



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