May 25, 2022

Retrievers and Retention

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Our first golden retriever, Shaq, would make a break for it every time there was an open door, a gate left ajar, or a gap in the fence. He was a fantastic dog, but he wanted to get out more than he wanted to stay home. In fact, Shaq wanted out so bad, even an electric fence would not hold him. Shaq gladly paid the price of a mild electric shock to be able to run and roam through the neighborhood. My wife once said, she could see the look on his face before he broke the barrier saying “this is totally going to be worth it” as he charged full steam ahead to “freedom!”   

I wrote off all that activity as, that’s just how male golden retrievers are made — until recently. You see, my family talked me into another golden retriever. This dog, named Cole, does not try to run away at every opportunity, in fact, while he loves to run and play, he never runs far. If we accidentally leave the gate open to the back yard, he may get out, but he usually just goes to the front door and jumps up to say “let me in! 

What makes one dog run away at every opening and what makes another dog stay may have a lot to teach us about retention in the workplace. You see, when we had our first dog, Shaq, we were mostly gone from the house busily working with other activities. Then, we had babies and were appropriately concerned with our babies more than the dog. Our words and actions to Shaq mostly said, “see you later”, “no”, “stop”, and “drop that.”  Shaq did not feel valued or appreciated, so he ran away. 

With Cole, there have been six humans to play with him, rub his head, groom him, feed him, take him on walks, and play games with him. We have a lively home, and, more often than not, someone wants to spend time with Cole. When he jumps out of his kennel in the morning, he refuses to go outside until he stretches out his six feet length at someone's feet to be rubbed head to toe. There is a great value exchange between the person who rubs and the dog being rubbed. When a dog knows they are valued, they stay at home. 

Of course, all dogs are different and some will never be satisfied anywhere, but others will look for reasons to stay. The same is true for people. Yet, we can learn from this golden retriever case about retention, or more importantly, how to value people.  There is much for us to learn about valuing people and creating an environment where others want to be — by learning from the reciprocity of head rubs, giving room for growth, and being part of a team in a caring and trusting home.

Retention Is Not Enough 

The workplace has been turned upside down since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Much has been written about The Great Attrition where over 5 million people left the workforce. Where we work is changing too, as people are also relocating in record amounts. In a recent article on Bloomberg, Matthew Boyle and Olivia Rockeman put it this way,

“Since 2020, about 2.4% of Americans, or 4.9 million people, say they’ve moved because of remote work, according to surveys from freelance marketplace Upwork. Its recent polling shows the migration is poised to continue: Almost 1 in 10 Americans plan to move to work remotely. Since January 2020 in the US, monthly remote job postings have tripled, according to Tecna, a tech industry trade group association, and they’ve more than quintupled for tech roles such as software developers.” – Bloomberg, Compensation Is Becoming an Even Bigger Headache in the Remote-Work Era. The challenge is clear. There are less people working and those who are working are making their decisions about where to live and where to work based on the lifestyle they want to live. Leaders now need to create a place where people want to work on site, virtually, and in hybrid environments. 

Create A Place To Be 

As leaders, we must create places and spaces where the people we serve are highly valued. “The people are the point. Employees, rather than customers or shareholders, are the most important stakeholders in your organization.” – Harvard Business Review, Designing Work that People Love. Another point from this HBR article is “One size fits one” which means we should value others as unique individuals with specific loves, interests, gifts, backgrounds, needs, and ideas about the future. Organizations can create a desired place to be by valuing their employees in these three key areas.

Matching individuals gifts to the needs of the organization – Each person has something unique to offer and appreciates the reciprocity of a value exchange. Making a difference inspires people to want to contribute even further. A leader should always be thinking about how to better align each individual's gifts to better serve the organization and the needs of their customers. When a new project becomes available, the leader should be able to quickly know who will be excited to work on it. 

Room For Growth – People want to be able to grow. For many that will be career growth, for others that may mean growth in flexibility at work and ability to grow their life outside of work. Most individuals will want to grow simultaneously at both life and work. Leaders need to know what their teammates want and need, and create development plans to help them reach their goals. 

A Trusting Caring Team – People want to belong to a trusting and caring team. A trusting team looks for the good in people's intentions as they share their ideas about how to improve work. A caring team looks out for each other and genuinely knows each other's needs and preferences. Leaders need to foster an environment where ideas can be honestly vetted for their merits and people are safe to express their opinions while being respected as individuals. 

One Place Is Perfect 

The kingdom of heaven, which is coming and is now here (Luke 17:20-21), is available for our full participation. Jesus designed each of us uniquely (Psalm 139:13) and values us by calling us to bring our gifts and talents to the needs of the world (Matthew 28:18). Jesus' growth plan for us is unlimited and he cares for us perfectly. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30. 

When we know and trust Jesus, we are in the perfect place. When we know that we are in Christ, we are free to create environments that allow others to thrive and to know how much they are valued. 

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Howard Graham
Howard Graham
Executive Director

Our first golden retriever, Shaq, would make a break for it every time there was an open door, a gate left ajar, or a gap in the fence. He was a fantastic dog, but he wanted to get out more than he wanted to stay home. In fact, Shaq wanted out so bad, even an electric fence would not hold him. Shaq gladly paid the price of a mild electric shock to be able to run and roam through the neighborhood. My wife once said, she could see the look on his face before he broke the barrier saying “this is totally going to be worth it” as he charged full steam ahead to “freedom!”   

I wrote off all that activity as, that’s just how male golden retrievers are made — until recently. You see, my family talked me into another golden retriever. This dog, named Cole, does not try to run away at every opportunity, in fact, while he loves to run and play, he never runs far. If we accidentally leave the gate open to the back yard, he may get out, but he usually just goes to the front door and jumps up to say “let me in! 

What makes one dog run away at every opening and what makes another dog stay may have a lot to teach us about retention in the workplace. You see, when we had our first dog, Shaq, we were mostly gone from the house busily working with other activities. Then, we had babies and were appropriately concerned with our babies more than the dog. Our words and actions to Shaq mostly said, “see you later”, “no”, “stop”, and “drop that.”  Shaq did not feel valued or appreciated, so he ran away. 

With Cole, there have been six humans to play with him, rub his head, groom him, feed him, take him on walks, and play games with him. We have a lively home, and, more often than not, someone wants to spend time with Cole. When he jumps out of his kennel in the morning, he refuses to go outside until he stretches out his six feet length at someone's feet to be rubbed head to toe. There is a great value exchange between the person who rubs and the dog being rubbed. When a dog knows they are valued, they stay at home. 

Of course, all dogs are different and some will never be satisfied anywhere, but others will look for reasons to stay. The same is true for people. Yet, we can learn from this golden retriever case about retention, or more importantly, how to value people.  There is much for us to learn about valuing people and creating an environment where others want to be — by learning from the reciprocity of head rubs, giving room for growth, and being part of a team in a caring and trusting home.

Retention Is Not Enough 

The workplace has been turned upside down since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Much has been written about The Great Attrition where over 5 million people left the workforce. Where we work is changing too, as people are also relocating in record amounts. In a recent article on Bloomberg, Matthew Boyle and Olivia Rockeman put it this way,

“Since 2020, about 2.4% of Americans, or 4.9 million people, say they’ve moved because of remote work, according to surveys from freelance marketplace Upwork. Its recent polling shows the migration is poised to continue: Almost 1 in 10 Americans plan to move to work remotely. Since January 2020 in the US, monthly remote job postings have tripled, according to Tecna, a tech industry trade group association, and they’ve more than quintupled for tech roles such as software developers.” – Bloomberg, Compensation Is Becoming an Even Bigger Headache in the Remote-Work Era. The challenge is clear. There are less people working and those who are working are making their decisions about where to live and where to work based on the lifestyle they want to live. Leaders now need to create a place where people want to work on site, virtually, and in hybrid environments. 

Create A Place To Be 

As leaders, we must create places and spaces where the people we serve are highly valued. “The people are the point. Employees, rather than customers or shareholders, are the most important stakeholders in your organization.” – Harvard Business Review, Designing Work that People Love. Another point from this HBR article is “One size fits one” which means we should value others as unique individuals with specific loves, interests, gifts, backgrounds, needs, and ideas about the future. Organizations can create a desired place to be by valuing their employees in these three key areas.

Matching individuals gifts to the needs of the organization – Each person has something unique to offer and appreciates the reciprocity of a value exchange. Making a difference inspires people to want to contribute even further. A leader should always be thinking about how to better align each individual's gifts to better serve the organization and the needs of their customers. When a new project becomes available, the leader should be able to quickly know who will be excited to work on it. 

Room For Growth – People want to be able to grow. For many that will be career growth, for others that may mean growth in flexibility at work and ability to grow their life outside of work. Most individuals will want to grow simultaneously at both life and work. Leaders need to know what their teammates want and need, and create development plans to help them reach their goals. 

A Trusting Caring Team – People want to belong to a trusting and caring team. A trusting team looks for the good in people's intentions as they share their ideas about how to improve work. A caring team looks out for each other and genuinely knows each other's needs and preferences. Leaders need to foster an environment where ideas can be honestly vetted for their merits and people are safe to express their opinions while being respected as individuals. 

One Place Is Perfect 

The kingdom of heaven, which is coming and is now here (Luke 17:20-21), is available for our full participation. Jesus designed each of us uniquely (Psalm 139:13) and values us by calling us to bring our gifts and talents to the needs of the world (Matthew 28:18). Jesus' growth plan for us is unlimited and he cares for us perfectly. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30. 

When we know and trust Jesus, we are in the perfect place. When we know that we are in Christ, we are free to create environments that allow others to thrive and to know how much they are valued. 

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