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Trust and recognition necessary to keeping employees

By Gabrielle Piché

Good management and a positive corporate culture are key factors in keeping your best employees around, according to two business advisors.

Dawn McCooey and Tanja Halsall led a session on how to retain good employees during a Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada virtual symposium.

“Why do they stay? Leadership, leadership, leadership, leadership,” said McCooey, an entrepreneur in residence at Women’s Enterprise Centre.

The main reason people leave is because they’re unhappy with their supervisor, she said. A high employee turnover rate is costly — up to 40 per cent of a business’s gross profit can be taken when they’re constantly losing employees and training new ones, McCooey said.

There are hundreds of things managers can do to increase employee engagement and retention, she said.

Anastasia Pasieczka has worked in the food industry for three years. She said having a trusting relationship with her manager is important — it keeps her with the company.

“Without that trust, I just feel micromanaged,” Pasieczka said. “I can’t deal with that because I know my abilities. If they can’t trust me to do what they hired me to do, then I absolutely hate it there.” 

Trust is the number one way to engage employees, according to Tanja Halsall, the chief people officer at Potentia HR.

Telling the truth fosters a trusting environment, Halsall said. However, managers shouldn’t be the only ones telling the truth — all employees should have a chance to speak.

“True leadership is collaborative,” Halsall said. “Make sure your people have a voice.”

Leaders should ask their employees thoughtful questions, Halsall said. They should explain the reasoning behind their decisions and ensure their actions match their words.

“I think it’s really important that we walk the walk.”

Trustworthy leaders demonstrate competence and humility, Halsall said. Vulnerability can be an asset too — bosses who admit they don’t have all the answers actually gain trust, she said.

The first step to creating a positive work environment is to recognize and honour people’s contributions.

“I would encourage you every day to wake up and recognize at least five people in your world,” Halsall said.

She suggested putting five dice in your pocket. When the dice rattle, you can think of five people who contribute to your life.

Recognition doesn’t need to be monetary, Halsall said.

“You thank them for what they did, you let them know how that was meaningful and the difference that was made because of their actions.”

Entrepreneurs who want to create a positive company atmosphere can do so, McCooey said. It won’t come overnight, and it won’t be automatic.

“You have to be very intentional and very transparent as a leader,” she said.