Talent Retention T-Day: Expectations are Everything

In my Google perks research, one of the best lines of website copy I saw anywhere was on Google's actual benefits disclosure page.

Tuition Reimbursement

We’ll help you pursue further education that’s relevant to what you do. You must receive grades of “B” or better. Why a “B” or better?Because we said so. Tuition reimbursement is $12,000 per calendar year.

Growing up in a house where both of my parents were teachers, you might imagine that grades kind of mattered.  A lot.  B's were the lowest grade I was ever allowed to receive without repercussions.  A C got you grounded for 9 weeks.  I never brought home a D, so I have no idea what the escalation policy on that was, I only know that it would have been very bad juju.  As a kid, you get pretty bitter about this kind of stuff, but expecting me to get good grades and reinforcing those expectations turned out to be an awesome gift from my parents.  It made me learn to not only do work, but to do work WELL. 

In a study conducted at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, two classrooms of cadets were taught by instructors who used different demeanors.  One group got the traditional approach and the other group got an instructor who kept telling them frequently that they could do it and that they were all very smart.  Do you care to place a wager on which group performed better overall?  Of course it was the group who had been told they could do it and expected them to succeed.

Google knows their people are capable of getting a B.  Heck, theirpeople are capable of getting A's while they are sleeping or twittering during class, but they give them a little wiggle room, I'm guessing because wicked smart people get bored and don't stay focused enough to always get the A.  The set a clear expectation that they know their people can meet or exceed.  In the leasing world, if I tell my leasing consultants that I want them to get 15 leases this week on a property with 200 units that is under construction or otherwise not at top presentation performance,the team will, and should, look at me like I've grown a second and third head.That isn't a goal people can meet. 

Setting expectations for people isn't always this hard hammer that people think it is.  It can be something so small as telling someone you know that reading ledgers for the first time can be frustrating, but you also know they will get it.  Having confidence in someone who isn't confident in themselves may seem like a slightly futile action, but I have seen this technique work time and time again.  We remember those who believe in us and people have a predictable habit of repaying that debt in loyalty. 

One of the easiest ways to breed loyalty in your team members doesn't cost you anything.  Just believe in them.  That's it.  Reinforce that belief with goals that they can meet or exceed and you will get a higher performance out of employees.  Not only tell them they can do it, but show them that they can do it.  We've all had a boss or a mentor who believed in us, and we've all had a boss who thought we were dumb as a sack of hair and had no hesitation in telling us so.  Think back.  Which one did you work longer for?

"Let me tell you WHY I hate my apartment."

Talent Retention T-day - What could Google's 20% do for your business?