If You Want People Who Love Their Jobs, Love Your People

Peanuts For Elephants

I now know that I’m of an advanced generation, because I remember things like circuses.  You know, Lion Tamers, Acrobats, and Animals of all kinds that come to town on a train or in big trucks to amaze us with their talents.

Well, back in the days of the Greatest Show on Earth, my favorites were the elephants.  After all, Midwestern kids in small town America didn’t get to see things like that every day.  I can remember how massive they seemed, how smart they were, and how incredible it was that they could dance and do tricks.

In addition to being a center ring attraction, the elephants were also a major part of the setup and tear down process.  They could lift heavy poles and pull giant ropes that secured the tents in place.  And the amazing thing was that they did it all for peanuts.  I don’t mean for low wages, I mean literally peanuts.

The people who work in our companies are often the same way.  They do the hard work and heavy lifting.  They grind it day in and day out.  In fact, without these dedicated folks, there would be no company.  And, just like my favorite titans of the big top, all they want most days is a peanut.

Peanuts are things like saying, “Thank you,” even though you don’t have to.  They can be as simple as acknowledging them and letting them know it’s nice to see them today.  The phrase, “I appreciate all you do,” has raised many a corporate circus tent.

Focusing On Retention

“I wish I had time to focus on retention.”  How many times have you said or heard that one?  The truth is that you’re probably never going to get the opportunity to focus on retaining your employees.  Retention is more like guerrilla warfare.  It’s affected through occasional remembrances and seemingly random acts of thoughtfulness.

One of my clients is a childcare center and they understand better than anyone I know the value of peanut retention.  Every other week, when the paychecks come out, the owner distributes them along with a “Pay Day Treat.”  It’s not anything elaborate, just  something small and thoughtful with a quirky little saying to let each staff member know she’s appreciated.

I’ve been told that many of the employees have saved every note and keep them somewhere special.  And, nearly all of them will tell you that they’ve never worked anywhere like it before.  Believe it or not, in an industry where the average stay of a team member is measured in months, some of their staff have been with them for a decade!

Change Your Preposition

One of the things that I have found helpful over the years when advising business owners and managers is to change their preposition.  Instead of thinking that your employees work for you, starting seeing them as working with  you.  It sems like a small thing, but if you trade that one little word for the other when you speak, soon you’ll change the way you think.

It’s easier to appreciate someone who works with you.  He or she is no longer a servant below you, but a partner who looks you in the eye.  If you want to create an “In it together,” mentality,  you have to get things started.  And changing your preposition can be a great first step.

So the next time you’re feeling the frustration of your company’s poor retention, look for a way to give out peanuts.  I’ll bet you’ll find that one idea leads to another, and, before you know it, your a rentention machine.

Remember: Many times, a leader is simply someone who is willing to go first.