I’m Taken, Sorry: My Experience as a Retained Employee

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Samin Saadat
Executive Director

Everything related to employee retention; onboarding, continued training, mentorship, feedback, rewards, challenges, job crafting, time management, benefits, degree of independence, promotions, motivation, raises, budget allocation, the direction of the company and my place in it, all align through regular, honest communication. What is that like? Let me share my perspective.

That’s me on the right, on casual Friday. I have the freedom to self-impose dress code at Jalapeño!

First, in some ways, I fit the characteristic millennial. I’m at the start of my career so I’m not highly specialized. I’m in a good position to take on various roles and would much rather quit my job for another company than stagnate for 40 years or even 1 year at one. Why? I strongly value opportunity for growth.

Fortunately, being a startup, Jalapeño feels like a brand new company almost every 2–3 months and there are plenty of different needs requiring many different hats. The changing environment brings diversity of experience and I get to play a direct part in growth through my role in Business Development. As the company grows, I grow. Win-win.

Align what’s best for the business and what’s ideal for you

Unfortunately, it’s not such a simple win-win. There are intermediate steps that each need alignment between what work is best for the business and what work is best for me to do:

What’s best for the business <- 1 -> What’s immediately necessary <- 2 -> What you actually do <- 3 -> What’s ideal for you

How in the world do you align what’s best for the business and what would be most engaging given your goals and skills you want to build? Keep in mind many people don’t a very strong direction in life which would clarify what work is ideal for them. Also, what’s best for the business is far from obvious even to the business owner.

At Jalapeño, transparent communication has been the key to aligning what’s best for the business and what work is ideal for me and therefore kept me at Jalapeño.

To be honest, I have to be honest.

It turns out that Jalapeño Employee Engagement, a company that specializes in helping other organizations improve their culture has amazing culture. Who would have thought? We have three values at Jalapeño:

  1. Action
  2. Transparency
  3. Individual Responsibility

To touch on the values: analytics without action actually make employee engagement worse, transparency is the crux of communication and while many attempts to improve culture focus on operational and managerial factors, the environment to any particular employee is also composed of all the other employees. Jalapeño recognises engagement is 50% managerial responsibility and 50% individual responsibility.

How do these values relate to the communication necessary for my retention?

Trust is so important because it lets me know where the company is at and lets my manager know how I’m really doing. Without that knowledge, aligning what’s best for the business and for me is impossible. Trust facilitates the transparency that’s necessary for that alignment.

Like engagement more broadly, a conversation is a two-way street. It’s 50% my responsibility and 50% my boss’ responsibility. We need to be willing to share openly and listen intently. I have to be honest with her to build that trust.

Jalapeño’s Approach

What does our communication look like? We have a modified version of a scrum that we do every day. We encourage honesty. Throughout the day I feel comfortable discussing things such as whether or not I’m tired or feel stuffy in our office space. I’m writing this right now in day time work hours from a cafe just around the corner just for the change of environment. I feel comfortable saying if I’m overloaded and I know I can comfortably discuss mistakes.

In our smaller team, despite the lack of many voices, it feels like it’s a marketplace for free ideas. We’re very open to trying new things to test and see how it goes. Ironically action is emphasized more than sluggish research into every possible decision even though academic research is exactly where Jalapeño started.

What if something that needs to get done doesn’t align with my goals? My first instinct would be to simply get it done. Not everything will be enthralling! Alternatively, my manager could handle it or we could outsource. This coordination would require me to admit when I’m overwhelmed or if something needs a second set of eyes, requiring quality communication yet again.

When it comes to employee retention, onboarding is emphasized quite a bit. This makes sense since about a third of new employees leave a company within a year. Then there’s an emphasis on exit interviews. Combined they give a before and after of someone’s job experience. That’s great if you’re collecting data but not if you want to retain your employees. Why are there not “staying interviews”? Annual reviews neither have the openness of exit interviews nor the emphasis on company-employee fit like hiring interviews.

In conclusion,

To a business owner, employee engagement could be a competitive advantage, saving them on turnover costs and could propel the business forward. But what is it like to be on the receiving end? Employee engagement respects the employee’s dignity as a human being that is lacking from the mindset of Humans as a Resource. It acknowledges the fact an employee spends 50% of their waking hours working for the company with the knowledge that working might be necessary but not necessarily working for you. You feel gratitude when your boss simply gets it.

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Luc Briedé-Cooper is responsible for Marketing and Business Development at Jalapeño Employee Engagement in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He has a BSc. in Physics from the University of British Columbia.

Jalapeño is bringing their vision of a better workplace to life by pairing their diagnostic platform with full service consulting to foundationally transform employee retention, productivity and engagement. Learn more here.