People don't quit their job, they quit their boss. What can you do to avoid being that boss?
Sure, some will argue that people quit the culture, not the boss. Let's explore that briefly. Who is responsible for the culture? In larger organizations with a toxic culture, is every boss responsible? It is certainly possible that a really good boss loses employees to culture but it is also possible that a really bad boss is losing employees within a supportive culture. So, Boss, what to do?
A frequently used tool to motivate people to do something is a coveted award. Usually the reward is money, a trip, days-off, and so on. If it's used all the time, it must be effective! One of the downsides is expectation. If a person is offered a bonus for tasks completed, what's their motivation for doing tasks for no bonus?
There may be other ways to motivate people that speaks to them as a person. Understanding where and how an employee finds purpose in their work, can help a supervisor highlight that portion of the responsibility to engage the employee. Daniel Pink's work in this area is extensive.
Which of these phrases might you be more inclined to utter:
This is exactly what to do, exactly when to do it, and I'll be watching.
Here's the goal, constraints, and resources. Go to it.
These examples can be described using Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y. Those who ascribe to Theory X believe that employees will do the minimum work required to prevent getting fired. Theory Y supervisors believe that when given parameters and room to work, employees will surpass expectations and be happier at work.
Giving autonomy is not running your shop with anarchy. Autonomy allows people at the first line of understanding to make improvements and propose solutions that may very likely be the best options available, or at least lead to the best outcomes.
You know your values. You know your talents. If you are asked on a regular basis to behave counter to your values or talents, your job satisfaction is going to drop. When your job satisfaction drops, it is likely that your ability to best serve your employees drops as well. If you're not thriving, your employees will know it. If that is your case, evaluate what can change in your responsibilities to get back to your values and talents or if your values and talents would be a better fit in a different organization.
Ask Your Employees
It's a risky proposition; asking employees what they want. If they don't know you, they might think it's a trick. If they don't know what you're asking, they may say they want better health insurance or a company car. Once you've gotten to know your employees and developed a rapport with them, ask them how you can better support them.
Your role as a supervisor is about the customer. The customer is happiest when a great product is being delivered in a positive way by a happy employee. An intrinsically happy employee will last only so long without support from their boss. Your job is to support the customer by supporting your employees. You have to know them to support them. Talk with them. You're just a person, they're just people. Have a conversation and if you indicate you'll take action as a result of the conversation, do so and follow-up. Your integrity in attending to their needs will result in a happy and productive staff with low turnover and, as a by product, you all may enjoy work just a little bit more.