Retaining and Engaging Talented Team Members

What drives employees to leave a company? Conversely, what motivates them to stay? The answer to both questions lies at the intersection of engagement and culture.

As a Human Resources professional, I’ve seen firsthand that building loyalty with your key team members is the best way to retain them when the competition heats up. Right now, the job market is a lukewarm pot, and we may not feel the heat rising just yet, but now is the time to act before the boiling begins.

As I’ve gotten to know the people I’ve recruited, I learned most of them weren’t primarily motivated by money. Regardless of salary, it takes a lot to make valuable team members move if they believe in what they’re doing, feel competent at it, are growing and developing, and like the people they work with. This is especially true if they’ve felt that way for a long time, and it’s not “too little, too late.” Below I’ve compiled a few employee retention strategies and guidelines of how to keep and engage loyal team members.

What is True Engagement?

Engagement involves people interacting well with each other and in alignment with the organization’s purpose. It implies shared commitment, focus and productivity along with no small amount of passion thrown into the mix. When mechanical gears disengage, there’s slippage. When people disengage, the same thing happens.

People disengage for many reasons, including the relationships they have with others. The good news is that a lot of organizations have figured out how to engage their team members, including Noble Studios. The bad news is that too many organizations still resist doing what’s needed to thrive in a changing world.

The industrial age required people to work differently, as cogs in a bigger process or assembly line, owning only a small part of the end result and conforming to the ‘way’ things were done. The information age requires different rules of engagement. In many industries, workers are now “talent.” They expect to contribute meaningful results, have autonomy and accountability and always be learning and growing. If you’re chalking that up to generational differences and “entitlement,” then some tenets of this post may frustrate you, but I invite you to explore the future of work in a digital age.

So, what gets and keeps people engaged?

Create a Compelling Work Environment

It’s been said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, meaning no matter what your strategy, culture drives the outcomes. To create a compelling work environment, we must be intentional about culture and strategies and keep them in alignment. Great leaders know they need to instill some DNA in their organization very early on. But cultures aren’t carved in stone. They’re living, breathing, evolving and organic. Culture is affected by who you hire, the language you use, what and how you reward and much more.

First, be intentional about your culture and respect its importance. Then engage people in considering why it matters to them individually. If it doesn’t matter to them, no amount of perks and benefits will help. If it does matter, then the perks and benefits will become much less important.

Noble Studios is one of the best companies I’ve worked for. Why? In my mind, the key ingredients are:

  • Passion: For the business, the team members and the customers.
  • Talent: A stunningly talented, knowledgeable and capable team of individuals has been drawn to Noble Studios.
  • Diversity: Each team member brings his/her own brand and contribution to the culture, resulting in surprising, innovative and fun results every day.

Noble Studios founders and team members live and breathe a set of values people can connect to. Customers connect to them, and so do team members.


Define your Culture

Recently at an Inc. 500/5000 regional council event hosted by the CEO and COO of Noble Studios, I had the pleasure of meeting David “Doc” Vik. Doc has coached and helped implement culture for the likes of Google and Zappos.

Doc makes a compelling case for purpose-driven leadership. And what’s known about people is they like to do meaningful things and make a difference. As you’re examining your culture and asking, “what’s it like to work here,” you may find there’s room in your culture for more “human” activities like community involvement: giving back, involving employees in volunteerism, etc.

People are unique. I won’t say they’re like snowflakes (makes me too depressed after the third dry winter at Tahoe). But people are complex, messy organisms full of opinions and perspectives and values and stuff.

Sometimes people will surprise you when you apply the Platinum Rule, instead of the Golden Rule. While the Golden Rule states that you should “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” the Platinum Rule encourages people to “do unto others as they would do unto themselves.”

Have you ever felt frustrated that someone didn’t appreciate something offered to them? They should have been grateful, but they weren’t. Why? Very possibly because someone else used the Golden Rule, and not the Platinum Rule. Wouldn’t it be better, if the goal is to retain people, to figure out what people would value and give that to them instead?

Let’s be clear, though. Creating a great culture isn’t about making employees happy. Or being like Google. Google is awesome, but its culture is unique to its business model and values. The goal is engagement. Alignment. Passion for the organization’s purpose. A sense that the work being done is meaningful work that aligns to personal values. Any organization can have a compelling culture if it works on it. It may not be cool, or fun, or goofy, or have “beer thirty” like ad agencies often do. But that’s not the point.

I do what I do as a professional and volunteer because I believe people have an essential need to do meaningful, rewarding work and enjoy it intrinsically, and that working as a group is much more productive when everyone is committed to the same purpose. It also happens to be more sustainable. Human energy is a renewable resource, but the conditions we work in are directly related to the amount and type of energy we bring to our work and how quickly that energy renews.

Speaking of, Noble Studios is growing and we’re always on the lookout for intelligent, driven people to join our team of digital originals. If you have a high tolerance for Nerf gun wars and a knack for scrappy solutions, we want to meet you. See our current openings.