Two weeks ago, the transfer window in European soccer closed with a bang: The transfer of Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea. While fans in Liverpool were furious and started burning Torres’ jerseys, soccer fans elsewhere shrugged their shoulders, mentioning that no one can expect loyalty from professional players these days – they are expected to follow the money. Full stop.
In Italy, just a little more than one week after the Torres transfer, US Palermo played away at Lecce. On the Palermo team: Striker Fabrizio Miccoli, who was born in the province of Lecce. Seconds before half time, Palermo, by then down 1-0, get a free kick 20 meters in front of the goal. Miccoli takes it and hammers the ball into the upper left corner. Instead of celebrating the goal, he hangs his head and nearly starts to cry, because he scored against his home team, the site he supported as a fan from his childhood on (he never actually played for Lecce). In the locker room at half time, he sat quietly and depressed in a corner. His coach realized what was going on and brought on substitute Abel Hernandez (born and raised in Uruguay, not Lecce) to replace Miccoli. Palermo went on to win the match 4-2.
Some called Miccoli romantic and sayd that his behavior wouldn’t fit into today’ time anymore. However the comparison between Miccoli and Torres (don’t want to blame Torres, he’s just one example for hundreds of others) shows me one thing: The decision who people work for does not have to be an unemotional one. Just imagine Miccoli was playing for Lecce – can you believe he would ever take the decision to leave for another team?
With the economic crisis being over, the labor market is picking up a lot of steam. Some companies just start to realize or will start to realize soon that the “War for Talent” they had to read about for the past ten years is finally becoming a reality.
Recruiting talented new employees is becoming more and more difficult. In turn, retaining your talented employees should be a high priority even though you don’t read too much about it in the papers. And emotion plays an important role in this.
Over the past few years, I’ve talked to a lot of friends and colleagues who considered switching companies, and I’m sure you have had these kinds of conversations as well. Interestingly, in most cases they didn’t take the decision based purely on economic factors like salary vs. cost of living, etc. They also considered what they liked about their old work place: They knew what they had and what was expected from them. They had an idea how to tackle their colleagues and enjoyed their degrees of freedom.
The decision whom to work for is not only based on the salary. People will always find a place where they can earn more than at their current company. But if the gap in salary is not too big, emotional factors will be the key to retaining talented colleagues.
Based on studies that I read and my own experiences, I would group these into three clusters: Recognition, freedom and colleagueship.
Recognition means that people love to receive positive feedback on good work. However, in many companies the only feedback people get is negative feedback on their not so good work. That’s wrong. The absence of criticism is not enough praise! Why don’t we all get off our high horses and start appreciating what others do. And tell them.
Freedom means giving the autonomy and resources to create. This is the opposite of control freaks. In complicated, distributed work environments, the time of the gurus that know everything and have the best solution for everything is over. For being successful, it is vital to have trust in your people. Trust and recognition are close relatives.
Colleagueship refers to how we interact with each other. What’s so hard in being nice to each other? Why does it seem like smiling is forbidden in many companies? Why can we not accept it when people have joy in their work and in the interaction with their colleagues? Spending time to talk to each other – maybe not even about job related stuff – to some seems like a few minutes wasted. To me it seems like creating a human work environment that will make the people working there enjoy what they do and appreciate those they work with.
Recognition, freedom and colleagueship do not sound tough or cool, but they create reasons for everybody to stay in your company. And that pays.