6 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees at Your Church

I’m a baseball fan. I love the game.

You know what every baseball fan hates? The Yankees. Well, that is unless you’re a Yankees fan.

retain_employees_yankees

Do you know what I hate about the Yankees? They always steal the best young players! My favorite team, the Detroit Tigers, develops a great young talent through their farm system, calls them up to the big leagues, and just when that young player begin to shine, the Yankees buy them up. I hate losing young talented players. It’s the worst.

As a leader, I worry about the same thing with my best employees. I worry about losing my best people to new opportunities. Don’t leave! We need you!

I’m guessing you feel the same way. So, what can we do to keep our best people? How do we ensure that our rock stars don’t leave for the Yankees? I have a few ideas.

1. INVEST IN THEM

One of the leading reasons that young and talented employees leave is because they don’t feel valued. They feel like a cog in the machine. In order to avoid this danger, we must invest in our people. Here are three ways to invest in them.

  1. Invest in them relationally. Even at work, everyone is searching to belong. Make sure someone is pouring into your best people. Focus on community. Consider connecting your star employees with a great mentor.
  2. Invest in their development. What can you do to grow your best people in their skills? Could you send them to a conference, pay for a class or possibly even a master’s degree?
  3. Invest in them through proximity with key leaders. Sometimes providing young leaders with proximity with the executive or senior pastor makes that person feel valued and important.

The key is to invest in your rock stars. Take tangible steps to show them that you want them around and that you value who they are, not just what they do.

2. INVITE THEM TO INNOVATE

Another reason talented employees leave is because they get bored. A great employee needs to be challenged. One of the ways to keep things interesting and challenging is to invite talented employees to innovate. Instead of sticking with the mundane, give them a problem to solve or a new initiative to lead.

Inviting employees to innovate in order to solve problems and overcome challenges helps keep them engaged and also provides them with opportunities to be recognized for great work. Both of these results help retain talented employees.

3. LISTEN TO THEM

Everyone needs a voice, especially people who are driven. They want to know that what they think matters. Employees who believe that their ideas and opinions matter are much for likely to stick around in your church.

How do you do this? In our church, our senior leaders regularly create environments in which dialogue is encouraged. This practice helps ensure that key leaders are listening to employees.

One thing to be careful about here is that listening without acting will destroy staff morale very quickly. If you aren’t open to changing your opinions and plans, don’t bother asking. It will actually make things worse.

Listening without acting destroys a staff’s morale.

4. GIVE THEM FEEDBACK

This may sound counter-intuitive, but your best people, the ones you want around for years and years, actually want to be corrected. No seriously. Your best people want to do great work and intuitively know that they aren’t perfect. Great employees want accurate feedback.

If you want to become serious about keeping your best people, you’ll need to create regular and accurate feedback loops. I would suggest including both positive and negative constructive feedback in weekly one-on-ones and formalizing bi-annual performance reviews.

5. DON’T BE FAIR

Here’s a phrase to watch out for, “But that’s not fair!” Let me illustrate with a story that one of my mentors regularly shares with me.

not_fair_car

Imagine a car dealership. The owner has a deal with his sales team that they can drive any used car at no cost. However, there is one employee who always gets to drive a new car… and it’s not a cheap one. The other employees regularly say, “But that’s not fair!” But here’s the thing: That employee, the one with the fancy new car, he sells four times as many cars as any other employee, and he’s been doing this for 10 years! He’s a rock star and the thing about rock stars is that they get rock star treatment.

My point is this: If you have a rock star, a real high performer, their compensation should be different than your typical employees. Sure, it isn’t “fair” but would you rather have rock star employees who stay with your church for years or would you rather have communism? Your call.

Ok that was a little excessive. But seriously, how do you pull this off without making everyone jealous and angry? One simple way is through bonuses. Have you ever received a good bonus because of high performance or going above and beyond? I’m telling you, there’s not much that feels better than:

“Hey, we noticed your outstanding work in this area. We really appreciate you. Here’s $1000.”

That conversation makes you feel like a rock star! It’s a very easy and tangible way to communicate value to your best people.

6. REMOVE THE DEAD WEIGHT

Ok, one more idea and this one is uncomfortable but also incredibly true. One of the leading reasons that we lose our best employees is our unwillingness to do anything about our worst employees.

I know it sounds harsh but low performing and toxic employees slow down the entire team. They create unnecessary stress because… you know who ends up doing their work? The rock stars! Why? Because rock stars can’t stand to lose or underperform.

But here’s what I’ve learned: They’ll only do it for so long before they go play for the Yankees.

One of the smartest things you can do to keep your high performing people is to address the issues being created by your low performing people. I’m not suggesting that you fire them necessarily, but I am saying that addressing underperformance communicates to our high performers that you actually care about performance and team morale.

Addressing underperformance communicates that you care about performance and team morale.

Pick One

So, how do you keep your best employees from joining the Yankees? I’ve shared 6 ideas that I believe will help. If you want to improve at keeping rock star employees, I would suggest focusing on just one of these ideas. Improve that one area and then consider moving on to another.

We’d love to hear your ideas for how to keep rock star employees. Feel free to share ideas and reactions in the comments below.

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