Could ‘grounding’ provide some of the answers to employee retention?

There’s been a lot of debate around how to both recruit and retain valued staff in our workplaces, when people seem to jump from job to job with barely a backward glance.  

Managers may not even have made their first coffee in a day before someone says their job is boring, or lacks meaning, or progression isn’t fast enough or there isn’t enough remote working allowed so they are resigning and going in search of something better. 

Do people know what they want? 

All of this job hopping presupposes of course that most people actually know what they want and what will make them happy. My experience of 30+ years in the workplace is that  not even people in their 50’s or 60’s have sometimes cracked that nut!  

Could ‘Grounding’ provide some of the answers to Employee Retention

A different approach

But rather than battle against this barrage of work ‘dissatisfaction’ that so often results in a resignation, in a world where Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc all too often create unrealistic expectations of the world of work, how about we come at the challenge of retention from a different direction? 

Could we instead focus on better educating and informing our employees about what makes us happy and what makes a satisfying career, so we get just a little bit less of this chasing unobtainable rainbows. How amazing would it be if everyone learnt to value what they have right now rather than bemoan what they don’t yet have? 

How I ground myself 

I’m just as guilty as the next person at times of chasing rainbows, although across my childhood, early adulthood and the 30+ years of my career I’ve been educated and informed about happiness through the voluntary and humanitarian work I’ve done. Barely a year has gone by when I haven’t done something… working with those who are elderly, refugees, homeless, young adults with learning difficulties, schools, women and girls across the globe and disadvantaged adults and families wanting to become financially self-sufficient etc. 

The common themes I encounter through this volunteering and humanitarian work are poverty, loneliness/isolation, low self-esteem or confidence, poor mental and/or physical health, low status in society affecting everything from education to health and struggles to become financially independent. What stands out for me though is that whatever I do, I always walk away feeling grounded and back in touch with reality. I also regularly see that wealth, status, job title, physical health etc are often not the drivers of happiness. When life is tough people seem to often find happiness in relationships, in the little wins, in little kindnesses, in waking up each morning!  

The real world is messy, jumbly, imperfect, hard, complicated, challenging, but quite often amazing and rewarding too … and when I engage with people who are outside my day-to-day circle of friends, colleagues and family, I am invariably enriched, reminded that it’s not all about what I want, it’s not all about everything needing to be perfect, it’s not all about arguing some petty point or getting dissatisfied with something that isn’t quite going as I would want it to.  

Grounding, happiness and satisfaction – 5 steps to help crack the nut in the workplace

Step 1 – a top line approach 

Bring back strategic decision making that is holistic, considered, and informed/educated. Too many snap decisions have been made on things like place of work, hours of work, country of work, dress codes, meeting etiquette etc, resulting in the loss of clear boundaries and understanding of what is professional. Whilst many will say they want freedom from control, full flexibility, an individual approach when it comes to being managed etc there is plenty of research that teaches us that structure and clarity around the rules/expectations actually make many of us happier. A lack of clarity of focus/vision/culture etc often makes people unhappy.  

Make sure you are clear on the values and principles within your culture – if one of these is encouragement of open and honest feedback, be clear that this means that people can both give it, but equally need to be mature enough to receive it too.  

If you have inter-generational frustrations around respect or etiquette, get the different groups together to talk about their different expectations and values. Educate each other with a view to everyone compromising.  

Step 2  – a focus on communication 

Say no – as often as you can when ‘no’ is the answer. Skirting around an issue or hoping they get the message is pointless. Let’s all learn to say no more often!  

Hold your head up and be confident to give negative/challenging feedback when someone is ungrounded or expecting way too much. Make negative or challenging feedback just as normal as giving positive feedback. 

Talk regularly with all employees about how we generally feel uncomfortable with things outside our comfort zone  – do whatever you can to normalise the discomfort of trying new things. It’s okay to feel the fear, its okay to feel anxious and in fact if we never step out of our comfort zones we simply don’t grow and develop. 

Have a social media policy that is widely shared and discussed. Talk about the importance of never putting anything in writing you wouldn’t say to someone’s face – unless of course they are happy with a passive aggressive approach to life. Passive aggressive is not an accountable or adult way to behave so educate people so they know what behaviours are accountable and if they struggle to say how they feel, run training courses for that.  

Step 3 – personal growth and development  

Reward and praise up those who face down difficult stuff. Talk about their courage and what they learnt during the process. Encourage them to share this with others. 

Talk about how unrealistic ‘perfection’ is and how we are all utterly imperfect human beings therefore expecting perfection in others when we ourselves are not perfect is unrealistic and nonsensical. It just causes stress and frustration.   

Let people fail – it’s okay to fail – ask any entrepreneur! (n.b. This is only possible if you ensure you don’t have a blame/toxic culture). Focus on the learning that comes out of failure.  

Step 4 – provide regular sense checks, encourage adult behaviours 

Regularly remind everyone that every job has boring bits and that that is normal! Ask them how they deal with the ‘normal boring stuff’ in their lives outside of work. Then ask them how they intend to deal with the ‘normal boring stuff’ in the workplace. Never be tempted to over glamourise a job.  

Don’t allow your employees to be victims. If they are upset or offended talk them through how they are going to resolve that issue themselves rather than expect HR or a manager to step in to fight their corner.  

Don’t allow the finger pointing or blame games. If someone doesn’t like something, what are they going to do about it, rather than whinging or finger pointing in the hope that someone else will deal with it.  

Step 5 – bring CSR and giving back into the workplace – it’s not just valuable for PR! 

Make your community/giving activities an integral part of what you do, not just a process of handing money over to a charity. Get your staff involved. Get them meeting people outside their usual circle of acquaintances, to see aspects of life they don’t normally see, to help people put their struggles and frustrations into perspective after seeing the real-world problems of others.  

And finally…. 

There are a lot of things that have resulted in many of us becoming ‘ungrounded’ in recent years and of course social media plays a massive part in the this. But being ungrounded doesn’t just result in resignations and unrealistic expectations of salaries, jobs etc it also makes our staff unhappy and dissatisfied. I believe that any small actions you can take to bring some of that grounding back may be time and/or money well spent.  

And of course, I would love you and some of your team to get involved with the community challenges we do. We continue to work with Afghani women and girls and are exploring community opportunities in Nepal and Ghana too. I promise you that no one walks away from one of our challenges without learning and a renewed perspective on life. All great for grounding! Please do ask.  

How Jaluch can help…

If you think ‘grounding’ could be a benefit to your business, community challenges are built into our leadership programme, and can be built into our team building training. If you want to talk to us about the topics covered in this article, or for anything else HR or training related, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.



Helen Jamieson

Jaluch MD

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