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When a business owner comes to me with a seemingly intractable problem, I know with near certainty before the conversation begins that the issue at hand boils down to a break down in relations: with customers, clients, or staff.

Yes, staff. Bad morale and employee turnover is a cancer that can ruin even the best of business plans. Problems in staff relations may generate fewer headlines than the others but are no less a threat to business health than terrible front-line customer service.

Gallup research shows that 13% of employees are actively disengaged at work, “indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” Although in recent years, the number of engaged workers has increased to 34%, 53% of workers are in the "not engaged" category. They may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.

Those numbers are likely more favorable here because there’s more flexibility in our job market: disgruntled and disengaged employees have more opportunities to leave, and it’s not just the problem children exiting the building. Talented, eager, productive employees with much to offer will not stay in a workplace riddled with these issues:

Little or no opportunity — Once an employee begins to think, “There’s nothing left here for me to do…” she’s already mentally moving on. She will be putting less focus on her current organization and more on figuring out where she can go to find growth and opportunity.

Inflexibility — More than half of employees define a successful career as having positive work/life balance, rather than a high salary, according to a report by Accenture. Younger workers, in particular, are just not willing to be welded to a desk in a fixed location for a fixed set of hours five days a week. Not every organization can offer the same level of flexibility, but to attract and retain quality staff, all must stay nimble and responsive within practical parameters.

No validation — A star player tackles a big project and carries it through to successful completion while implementing a shift in approach that led to greater efficiencies. His manager focuses on the unexpected change in procedure, wondering why it was necessary, creating a frustrating feedback loop for the employee.

Poor communication — “Why is this happening?” “What’s going on?” “What are the priorities?” “What should I focus on?” When employees are spending the day asking these kind of questions, productively suffers. Weak internal communication discourages and confuses staff.

Unfocused strategy – Even the lowest level employees can sense when a company’s strategy is reactive. Constantly shifting priorities produces a state of constant crisis. We can’t play offense all the time, but organizations that cannot internally communicate a clear, viable, focused strategy certainly won’t successfully demonstrate their value proposition externally either.

Investing time and resources into organizational development, a focus of ours here at Sandler Training / Peak Sales Performance, is not only effective but critical. Sandler helps businesses optimize skills, staff, structure, and strategy, creating satisfied employees who want to do their very best to produce favorable outcomes.


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