Employee Engagement & Retention Best Practices – Learning from ‘Office Space’

Finding and keeping great talent is a never-ending task. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce takes time and effort, but it is a wise investment if you want your best employees to stay. An exchange from the classic movie ‘Office Space’ – whereby miserable office worker Peter opens up to the two Bobs – consultants brought in to help downsize the company - gives a humorous take on less than stellar corporate communications and management practices:

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy; it's that I just don't care.

Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?

Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my a** off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?

Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.

Bob Slydell: Eight?

Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

While this exchange is funny, we all know of firms that unintentionally mimic this scenario, either through personal experience, or the workplace stories of others. So what are some real-world practices that proactive, successful firms employ to keep their employees happy, motivated and continually engaged? According to several resources, enlightened organizations tend to implement the following initiatives to keep their talented professionals from ‘jumping ship’ (synopsized from '11 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy (Without a Raise)' by Nicole Fallon Taylor, Assistant Editor, Business News Daily:

  • Pay people appropriately – if you want to hire the best – you have to pay the best
  • Offer training and opportunity – people need to grow – put the pieces in place to ensure that they do, both from ongoing learning and mentoring, as well as career path possibilities
  • Provide attractive benefits – health and life insurance, tuition reimbursement and paid vacation, holidays and sick time can help retain current workers as well as attract new employees
  • Encourage open communications and input – create a weekly forum where ideas and insight are exchanged, ensuring employees that the company is open to constructive suggestions and innovation about how to do things better – both now and in the future
  • Don’t hire the plumber and tell him how to fix the pipes – people at a company were hired for a reason – so don’t micromanage – and let them do their jobs (If managers feel the need to micromanage – then the firm has the wrong employee(s) – or the wrong manager(s))

Knowing what motivates a company’s employees, and investing the time, effort and resources to meet their needs is a great retention strategy – and a personalized one too. Understanding individuals’ strengths and motivations can help both the company and the employee build upon these foundations, making for a successful and lengthy tenure.