Are you aware that your company could be harboring a virus, potentially costing you millions of dollars annually? Negative emotions can be like a stealth virus that drains both financial and human resources from your company. And unless you've safeguarded everyone by developing their emotional intelligence (EI) skills and creating a positive emotional climate, high turnover can be contagious. The key to preventing an outbreak of this virus at your company is an emotionally intelligent retention strategy. This is not about "program of the month" incentives such as "Bring Your Pet to Work Day," or "Anniversary bonuses," and it will require more than a fair compensation package. "

The High Cost of Turnover
Countless articles and books have been written about the direct and indirect costs of turnover. The cost of replacing a worker whose skills are in high demand can hit up to 1.5 times his annual salary. At minimum, the cost to replace any worker is about 20 percent of his annual salary.

Indirect costs of high turnover can be staggering, but hard to track. For example, if a supervisor is spending even part of his day conducting exit interviews, interviewing candidates, or posting jobs on the web, that's time away from doing his regular work. That's costly. To add to that, unhappy employees may leave only after causing immeasurable damage to relationships with clients, leading to lost customers as a result of subtle sabotage. And now the company must spend extra time and money trying to woo those customers back.

What Do Workers Really Want?
As the war for talent heats up, many HR professionals say that retaining workers means figuring out what employees want. They suggest customizing job descriptions and perks for each worker so that they will say, "No thanks," when recruiters call them. The thought of figuring out what perks each individual wants from telecommuting to on-site massage therapy, can be daunting. Also, it's the wrong place to start. Trying to cater to each employee's unique wants and needs creates plenty of stress for supervisors, managers and human resource professionals and can be overwhelming. And even if you give workers what you think they want, they may bail on you anyway. Underneath it all, employees want the same thing.

Every employee, whether he or she is able to put it into words or not, wants to feel certain things:
• They want to feel secure (if they perform well, they will keep their job).
• They want to feel appreciated for their contributions.
• They want to feel that their immediate boss cares about them as a person.
• They want to feel fulfilled in the work they do.

The foundation upon which to build a successful employee retention strategy is that of creating a positive emotional environment - creating, through the behaviors of every manager and supervisor, an emotional climate that makes people want to work at your company. They want an emotionally intelligent employer, and in particular, an emotionally intelligent leader to guide them.

A positive emotional climate is not one in which everyone always pretends to be happy and problems are ignored, nor is it one where there are no conflicts or stresses. But it is one that when problems arise, they are dealt with in a fair and respectful way, a way that allows people to disagree and still demonstrate sincere care for one another.

Sounds great, right? But just how do you create a positive emotional climate that increases employee satisfaction and employee loyalty, which leads to better retention?

Where Do You Start?
Start at the top. The behavior and attitudes of top leaders directly affect employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. These, in turn, directly affect customer satisfaction, loyalty and profitability. How employees are treated, first by their immediate boss, and second by other leaders in the organization, directly drives employee satisfaction. And job satisfaction is about attitudes and emotions - how employees feel.

OK, so I'm a supervisor or manager or executive. And I'm supposed to behave in a way that's caring and positive toward my people. I guess I'm supposed to be immune to the pressure and stress of leading? No!

You have feelings and emotions, too! So what should you do? You should enhance what is known as your Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills. EI is your ability to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others to help you make decisions about what to say or do. An emotionally intelligent person has developed skills in five basic competencies: emotional self-awareness, emotional self-regulation, emotional self-motivation, empathy and nurturing relationships.

These competencies, when developed and practiced, can safeguard an individual and an organization against the virus of negative emotions that can cause dissatisfaction and turnover. They can help an organization retain its most valuable resource - its people!

Copyright 2008, Byron Stock

Author's Bio: 

Byron Stock, a former engineer and director of corporate education, guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills as a powerful tool to achieve strategic objectives, lead change and create resilient, high performing organizational cultures. Learn about Byron's quick, easy, proven techniques to harness the power of your Emotional Intelligence in his new book, SMART EMOTIONS for Busy Business People available through his website