When you asked your three-year-old to put their own shoes on, what did they say in return…? It was very likely… “WHY?” Even at that young age, their human need to understand the purpose of doing something was their reflexive response. This three-year-old can teach us a simple lesson about retaining and developing great employees.

For many decades, supervisors and managers simply told their employees WHAT to do. In my earliest jobs, when my drill instructor (Army) or my shift supervisor (manufacturing) told me to jump, my only responsibility was to ask, “How high?” I would have never even considered asking them, WHY? Or if I responded with, “What was the purpose of jumping,” “How will I know if I jumped correctly,” and “What will be the positive effect of my jumping,” I would have been met with swift rebuke and even scorn. My job was to do what I was told and leave the thinking to my supervisor.

You may be quietly smiling to yourself reading my example because it would be inconceivable to think of treating an employee that way today. So, what changed?

The change I have just described is the result of the two newest generations in the workforce (millennials and Gen Z) having had access to the combined knowledge of the history of the world available to them in 15 seconds since they were very young. These generations didn’t need to wait for the leader (teacher in school, parent at home, or manager at work) to tell them WHY… They simply looked it up themselves. Unlimited and immediate access to information has changed everything in the relationship between worker and supervisor. So how do we begin engaging and developing employees? Don’t tell them WHAT to do… tell them WHY the task is important to the success of them and their peers.

“Move that pallet” transforms into: “Please move that pallet away from the employee walkway because it blocks the view of the hanging safety mirror, and moving it will decrease the chances that a tow motor will hit one of your coworkers.” This short 7 second change turns the task from an order to be followed into an effort of safety significance that directly affects their peers and coworkers. While this is a simple example, it extrapolates into participation on safety, quality, and productivity teams.

Explaining WHY to employees not only engages them, but has them running to the internet to find best practices and benchmarks from around the world to improve your operation. Your employees can make a living being told WHAT to do at a dozen different companies… but engaging them with WHY empowers them into seeing the larger picture. And empowering them gives them the opportunity to show you they are ready to grow.

If you are looking for insight or specific action steps to grow a process within your organization to Win the War for Talent, please reach out. It’s my passion to help companies solve their talent issues, whether that is finding the right talent or retaining and developing that talent. With the right processes in place, your organization can grow and thrive even more!

Get In Touch

Whether you’re looking for help trying to find and retain the best talent, or looking for a dynamic, thought-provoking, and entertaining speaker, we want to hear from you!  

Fill out the form below, OR you can  directly email us at contact@chrisczarnik.com.