Written by Chris Butsch
As a leader, you’re probably already aware of the countless ways to improve your culture and inspire loyalty. But who has the time? As a friend and director of purchasing recently put it: “How am I supposed to build a great culture when I don’t even have time for lunch?”
Luckily, small tweaks can make a big difference in employee retention rate. To create a culture of retention, you don’t need to hire a resident yoga instructor named Artesia, or pay to send your whole team to learn fire-walking in Bali. Rather, by applying some clever positive psychology, you can improve your culture and boost retention in 10 minutes or less. Here are three ways to increase employee retention:
1. Show Some Extra Gratitude
According to the World Health Organization, burnout occurs when effort outstrips reward, relaxation, and recognition (source). So to keep your best people, you need to give them more money, more time off, or curiously, more thanks. Will saying “thank you” really make a difference? Researchers from Harvard and Wharton found that when employees of a fundraiser were simply thanked for their hard work, their outward call volume increased by 50%. The researchers also found that when thanked, people are twice as likely to offer help to a colleague (source).
Gratitude releases a cocktail of neurochemicals increasing emotional intelligence and reversing stress (source). When you thank an employee, you’re giving them an espresso shot of joy and motivation. So to reap the benefits, consider starting your next meeting sharing 5-10 minutes of sincere gratitude for your employees. In your expressions of gratitude, be sure to use “because” to illustrate impact. For example: “Melissa; I sincerely appreciate how you took initiative to reach out to our upset client because you alone might’ve saved the account!”
2. Start Meetings with Deep Breathing
Purchasing demands lead to stress, stress leads to burnout, and burnout leads to turnover. Demands are inevitable, but you can prevent your best employees from burning out by helping them nip stress in the bud. Luckily, one of the most effective ways known to science takes just 2 minutes. When stressed, you subconsciously take short, shallow breaths. Problem is, “thoracic breathing” for hours doesn’t provide your brain with enough oxygen; performance suffers, and stress increases.
Help your team break the cycle with 2 minutes of deep breathing. When you deliberately fill your lungs with air, oxygen and nutrients rush to the brain, increasing performance, creativity, and calm. Furthermore, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found that consistent deep breathing practice helps permanently improve calm and productivity (source).
To reduce your team’s stress, try starting your next meeting by asking everyone to perform ten deep breaths from the abdomen; 4 seconds in, 4 second hold, 4 seconds out. Watch how stress melts away; did you notice a difference in the mood and tempo of the meeting?
3. Share Your “Why”
Millennials are the canaries of the corporate coal mine; if something’s “off”, they’re generally the first to go. As a result, the ability to retain top young talent is a hallmark of a strong culture.
So what’s missing?
According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey, in most organizations it’s a sense of purpose. “Millennials believe a business’ sense of purpose should be far greater than is currently the case.” (source). Retention is achieved “when employers demonstrate a strong sense of company purpose beyond financial success.” You may think purpose is easy to cultivate when you’re saving the rainforest or performing open-heart surgery. But how do you cultivate purpose in the purchasing world, and moreover, how do you do it in less than 10 minutes?
Ask yourself: who do we help? How do we help them? What suppliers, manufacturers, or patrons’ lives are improved by our work? How can I share their story with my employees? A 10-minute story via email or during a meeting illustrating how your team’s work impacted the greater good is an essential ingredient in a positive work culture. Find a way to share your “why” with your team and you’ll be giving them a zero-cost, high-ROI driver to stay loyal and hardworking.
In an ideal world, you’d have countless hours to devote to improving work culture, employee engagement, and retention. In the high-stress reality of purchasing, however, spare time is measured in minutes. But if you can fill those cracks in the calendar with gratitude, purpose, and a few minutes of deep breathing, you’ll quickly improve company culture and inspire your best people to continue happily working hard for you.
Chris Butsch is a professional speaker and business author helping companies slash disengagement and turnover by keeping their best people happy.