If you want to poach your business, start by creating the kind of culture that people thrive in.
Staff poaching is one of the harsh realities of the tech world. Competitors want to grow their business quickly and your employees are talented experts who are already fully trained. Poaching is actually a super annoying form of flattery – your competitors want your staff because they are great.
The problem is, you’ve invested thousands of dollars and hours in that awesomeness, so it’s not something you want to share.
The value of retaining employees is much more than the cost of replacing them. When an employee is poached, you lose knowledge, skills and potential value. You also rearrange existing working relationships and according to a 2018 Gallup Pollthat can affect everything from productivity to engagement to the overall wellbeing of employees.
“There’s far too much focus on finding new people and not nearly enough on keeping the ones you have,” said Anthony Koochew, founder and CEO of Microsoft Cloud Experts Azure†
The fact is, you’ve probably caught a few employees of your own now and then, but it still hurts when it happens to you. So the question is, what should you do to make your business viscous?
Koochew recently shared his top tips for retaining staff at Startup Daily’s From Idea to Unicorn event series. Here’s what this veteran executive, who says “working with good people” was one of his main goals when starting a business, had to say.
1. Invest in retention
Koochew recommends that the recruiting side of your company spend half of their time finding new people and the other half keeping them. This means that there are open and regular channels of communication that are reliable and sincere.
If you want to create a viscous culture, find out where the bottlenecks are, what works well and what your employees would change if they could. Then take action to make it right.
2. Act quickly and decisively – remove obstacles quickly
It’s not enough to listen to your staff’s feedback, you have to act on it. For Koochew, this is often most effectively accomplished by taking immediate action at a simple show of hands.
“One of the things I’m trying to do is if it’s something we can do now… act on it immediately,” he said. “If it’s something small, just fix it, do it there. And then if it’s something bigger, make a plan, go for it, and then take immediate action.”
3. Removing Barriers to Work
“This is easy,” Koochew said. “I want my sellers to sell. I want my engineers to engineer. I want my advisors to consult. It’s a very simple idea. I try to get rid of anything that gets in the way.”
That doesn’t mean you’ll hit perfection on all features right away.
“I’m going to make the job as good as I can, but I can easily try to make it as bad as I can, if you know what I mean.”
4. Realize There Is No Such Thing As “Business Or Personal”
“I hate it because to me it’s kind of, well, you can be a sociopath between the hours of nine and five, but other than that, ‘I’m a really nice guy,'” Koochew laughed. “That doesn’t suit me.”
Koochew talks about carrying personal integrity in everything a company does. “When we talk about culture and alignment of values, people need to know that you walk, you talk about what you say.”
Every company should reflect the values and aspirations as the people who own it and the people who work for it. That means that when you say you are an ‘environmentally friendly company’, you get your raw materials from sustainable sources, for example, and that you minimize all the waste your company produces and dispose of it responsibly. If you are a ‘socially responsible’ company, you pay a fair living wage and advocate social change towards increasing your stakeholder value.
“When I started the company, I promised that if it never suited me, if I did something that really made me change my values, I would walk away.”
5. Personalize KPIs (or remove them altogether)
In general, Koochew is not a big fan of KPIs, as they are not a particularly good measure of the value an employee provides. They’re notoriously difficult to align with company values, leaving employees focused on things that don’t have the overall impact you’re looking for. They are also often complex, vague and difficult to measure.
That is why he sticks to assigning a maximum of three KPIs, if he assigns them at all. “It’s super hard because you always want to give people more, but three is measurable,” he said. “And then I make sure whatever they can do, they’re achievable.”
The KPIs Koochew sets are more flexible goals that can be stretched as the employee achieves them.
5. Don’t worry about the little things
Koochew is not a fan of micromanaging his staff. He believes that if he has to look over people’s shoulders to make sure the work is done, they probably shouldn’t be there at all.
It cuts both ways. A Learn LinkedIn survey named “micromanagement” as the second most annoying trait in a boss*.
Micromanaging shows an employee that a boss doesn’t trust him and doesn’t judge him. That’s no way to poach your business – in fact, micro-managed employees are more chance to jump off the ship than any other kind.
In addition, over time, employees learn to: depend on micromanaged and give up ownership of their own work, leading to reduced productivity and diversity of inputs. Not to mention the heightened stress this puts on the manager himself. Micromanagement is exhausting.
*Since you asked, having unclear expectations has been a manager’s biggest frustrating trait.
6. Hire smart
That leads Koochew to a salient point: hire people you don’t need to micromanage in the first place. “We can train people on capabilities, but you can’t train fit.
“It’s much easier to find the right person and train them than to take the wrong person and try to make them fit.”
The right cultural fit means hiring people based on a high probability that their personal core values and behavior align with your company’s values and goals. Diversity in people and opinions is very important, but if you have a good grasp of your company culture and you are clear about this during the job interview, you will quickly know whether a potential candidate fits your organization.
7. Acknowledge great work (and even just good work)
Once you’ve found the right people, it’s a critical step to notice when they’re doing things right to make them feel valued. “It’s about being thoughtful, it’s about being serious,” Koochew noted. “Don’t just say, hey, here’s a gift card, thank you… It’s about being really specific, calling someone, shouting what they really did… hey, what you did there was really awesome.”
As Koochew says, feeling good at your job isn’t just about money and benefits, it’s about recognition. It’s your boss who notices when you’ve gone one step further. Or when they take a moment to check in on how things are going. It’s really about being seen and knowing that your efforts matter.
8. Manage expectations
If Koochew ever got a tattoo, he would use these two words: manage expectations. “It’s incredibly important. Manage expectations with customers, employees, whatever you do when you come into our company, the first thing you will know is what you are going to do.
He is also going to tell you what failure looks like and what success will mean. In other words, his employees know exactly what the baseline looks like and within which boundaries they operate. Being clear about expectations helps employees stay focused, accountable and engaged.
9. Lead from the front
If you’ve read this far, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Koochew is leading from the front. He calls it an “oldie, but a goodie” because it just makes sense.
He’s played every role in his business — from doing accounts to logging forms to having calls — so that gives him a “certain amount of authority.” He never asked anyone to do something he didn’t do himself.
It also gives him a degree of understanding and empathy for everyone who does the job. He is realistic about what he can expect from his employees and he is also realistic about what they can achieve in any role. He is happy to take on any job that he thinks is too much to ask of an employee.
10. Staying humble
“I consider humility a superpower,” Koochew said. “Because what it allows me to do and what it allows my team to do is get feedback from anywhere, anytime.”
Koochew invites feedback in every aspect of his business. He then calmly assesses it for correctness and implements it where it makes sense. Staying humble before Koochew means being objective about the feedback he receives – from customers, suppliers and, most importantly, staff. It’s about being open to the opinions of others and less valuable to your own.
“The last thing you want is to get in your way,” he said.
For more information about Anthony and Azured’s specialized Microsoft Cloud services for businesses, go to azured.com.au†
Watch Anthony’s From Idea to Unicorn session here:
Idea for Unicorn
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with Azured.
Feature image: Anthony Koochew, Founder and CEO of Azured at From Idea to Unicorn.