Do you know how to retain the linchpin?

November 15, 2018

So we’ve talked about the importance of attracting the right staff – namely the ‘linchpins’, as coined by Seth Godin. You know, those team members who are totally invested in playing their part in your team. But once you’ve got them – how do you make sure they’ll want to stay?

The importance of environment

Think about different workplaces you’ve experienced. Were they conducive to productivity, new ideas and good morale? Or were they places of negativity, high staff turnover and low morale? I’m betting you know the difference between a good work environment and a bad one, but how can you make sure that yours is one people want to work in?

Creating the right environment is critical in triggering the behaviours you want from your staff, and you will only do this via a deliberate strategy and design. This fundamental step is crucial in not only attracting linchpins, but also retaining them. It will also allow you to ‘grow your own’ talent too.  So how do you actually do this?

Watch for the cues

Environment is made up of many factors. Yes it’s the physical stuff, but perhaps more pervasive than that are the accepted norms and cues that exist in any workplace.

As an employer, when was the last time you considered what cues your environment is sending to your team? Are they conducive to creativity and productivity, and to attracting the best of the best?

I get it, this isn’t simple. Many factors create a great environment, particularly in the context of attracting and developing bright talent. They can be:

Extrinsic – such as pay and benefits

Intrinsic – such as having meaningful and challenging work

Physical – such as ambience, light, space and comfort

Cultural – which goes straight to the heart of how you do things

Some of these things are easy to nail. You’ve attracted your staff through the pay and benefits you offer, and have created a space full of fresh flowers, light and comfy works spaces, but there is much more to it than that.

What messages or cues is this environment sending? What cues are there that reward or validate certain behaviours? For example:

Meetings – Are these infrequent, concise and inclusive? Or prolonged, too frequent and one-way?

Communication – Is this regular, two-way and clear? Or is it lacking and unclear?

Emails – Are they used instead of face-to-face conversation, and causing ‘busywork’?

Individualism – Does your team work collectively, or as individuals? Do team members pitch in to help one another, or utter phrases such as ‘not my job’?

Behaviours – what behaviours are tolerated, promoted and rewarded?

So with this in mind, consider this - What are the cues that your team get as they walk in the door? Is it a team environment, conducive to immediate engagement with others – or do people wordlessly head straight to their cubicles? Are emails there waiting, lurking for them to mindlessly click on?

All these things send strong messages to your staff to prompt mindless behavior and individualistic attitudes. At best, this is frustrating to those who want more from their career and at worst will actually send them out the door looking for another place to work.

Think about these ingrained behaviours as largely subliminal. They might not be obvious or overt at first glance, but people are picking up on the vibe - even if they don’t realise it right away.

Like attracts like

You know how dogs pick up on high pitched frequencies? Well, humans are no different. Think of it as the frequencies that talented individuals pick up - they are detecting the warning signs of a bureaucratic and old school ‘factory culture’ from a mile away, and will travel as far to avoid it. Conversely, bad workplace culture spreads like wildfire and can actually attract similar individuals your way.  

The importance of culture

If you only get one thing right, a good workplace culture is absolutely where it’s at, and it starts with you and your very first staff member. So ask yourself these questions:

• What are your accepted norms and expectations of your staff, in terms of attitude, performance and latitude?

• What is your approach to discipline – ‘carrot’ or ‘big stick’?

• How do you value staff – do you recognise and reward excellence, and encourage improvement? Or do you accept mediocrity as OK?

• What is your approach to management – do you believe your organisation will be more successful if your people are more obedient? And that giving your staff more rules is easier than hiring people with good judgement?

• Do you micromanage? Or do you trust your staff to do their job, and think outside the box?

Your answers to these questions will – without question – fundamentally impact the culture you create in your workplace, and on your ability to attract and retain linchpin employees.

Top Tips

• Workplace culture will make your business sink or swim.

• Your attitude and approach is crucial to getting this right – and will send strong signals to the market.

• "Not my job" - these three words can kill an organisation, but does your workplace environment encourage it?

• If you want to have a team of nothing but A-listers, then you need to deliberately design a strategy to attract, develop and retain them.

Need help? I’ve got your back!

If you need help:

• Creating a positive workplace culture;

• Retaining your ‘a-list’ employees; and

• Understanding how to trigger the behaviours you want from your team -

Click on the link below to book in a free 15 minute Discovery Call with me!

PS, if you have a burning question or a problem that needs a solution, contact us with the details and we will be in touch. Every fortnight we will answer a question for a reader as part of our case study series.  Leave a message on Facebook or contact

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