Merge's Blog

How to keep your best people? Give sincere praise, often

How do I keep my best people from walking out the door? This question comes up quite often in my practice from leaders in client organizations, particularly when the economy is on the upswing. Despite the current economic climate in which the prevailing point of view is that many countries, industries and sectors are currently on a downturn, this question is still one that should be burning a hole in every leader’s mind. If your business environment is currently in a slump, then now is actually the best time to focus on keeping your top-notch employees. Because if you take the time to build loyalty and commitment when times are tough, this same allegiance will carry over to when the economy is booming and your competitors come calling to get your stars to jump ship. Business Meeting: Professional Successful Team; Managing DirectoIf you’ve built an environment in which your best people truly want to work at your company, then your competitors’ enticing promises to your top performers will carry far less appeal than they otherwise might. So what is the answer to “How to keep your best people?” Today I am starting a short series on specific ideas to answer this very question, with one idea today, and two more posts coming next week.

Here’s the first idea. Give sincere praise, often. Praise is a powerful motivator, and the best part, it’s zero-cost. But in order for praise to be effective, it must be S-S-I praise. S-S-I is an acronym for Specific, Sincere and Immediate. In order for praise to be specific, it must explicitly identify the situation or circumstance. So “Great job on the presentation to the sales team”, “I heard you stayed late this past week to help us test our new inventory system, thank you”, and “Congratulations on exceeding our call volume targets this month” are specific. “Thanks for doing a good (unspecified) job”, “Great having you in the department, keep up the good work” and “I hear you’ve been doing fantastic work” are not. When you are specific, your perceived sincerity will increase as well since the employee receiving the praise understands the context. And what do I mean by immediate? My definition leaves no room for ambiguity. When I say immediate, I mean within 48 hours of you becoming aware of the situation.

Next week I’ll share two more ideas on how to stop your best people from walking out the door? But for now, what do you think of this first one? Is it easy to give sincere praise, often? What are some of the challenges? Let’s get a discussion going.

P.S. For a very cool experiment to test how often you praise your employees, check this post about the ten-penny experiment that I wrote a few years ago.

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