Two Little Magic Words

Retaining employees or Hiring Talent, which one of these two is more challenging for the HR departments today? Actually both these issues are inter-related; one company is trying to hire what the other company is trying to retain. Why do employees want to leave in the first place? According to Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers. While reading his article in an e-mail forward, I couldn’t help but agree with him.

His thought provoking article made me remember a song we used to sing as school kids. (Some of you, who are of my vintage, may have sung it too!) The ditty went like this:-

“There are two little magic words that can open any door with ease

One little word is thanks and the other little word is please.”

Suddenly I experienced an epiphany, and I thought this is where our managers are going wrong, no one ever taught them to use these magic words with their subordinates.

According to some experts, employees leave because they do not get enough appreciation or recognition in their current jobs. They leave one job, hoping to find these elusive qualities in their next job, only to be disappointed again, and job-hopping continues. Some others say that it is not something as intangible as appreciation, but ‘hard cash’ that makes employees flit from job to job.

The analysis becomes complicated when even the so-called ‘competitive’ salaries fail to retain talent. By some quirky arrangement, it is always the best and the brightest who leave, leaving the ‘dead wood’ behind. It is at times like this that the practice of our magic words becomes all the more urgent.

By all means, pay the best salaries, but also learn to pat backs, say thanks and be polite. In the absence of these incentives, even the employees who stay on do not deliver their best. Ever thought of that? Without appreciation, employees don’t go that extra mile for you. They just put in enough effort to retain their jobs, and you incur incremental losses.

Is it a price worth paying for your false pride?

Some managers feel that patting their subordinates’ backs or being polite with them will make them appear ‘soft’; they want to project a ‘tough’ image. Some cite shortage of time as their excuse. Some feel that such gestures breed familiarity. What ever be your excuse, the truth is that most managers do not know how to appreciate.

We all grow up with pats from our parents and our teachers, but when we enter the corporate world we forget these little niceties. B-Schools don’t teach us how to say thank-you. They take it for granted that we have learnt all this at home! Saying ‘Thank-you’ and ‘Please’ is an art. These words must be frequent, specific and timely.

Sometimes managers keep their praises reserved for year-end-appraisals. They want the sub-ordinates to stay in suspense till then. (Such a behavior gives them a sense of power over others). They forget that recognition must be a regular feature to be effective. The possibility of recognition encourages people to do their best each day. It eggs them on.

Some managers just say a general ‘Well done! Keep it up!’ This kind of praise is ineffective. You must be specific in your appreciation. Cite instances where the person did a good job. Try, ‘That was a creative, lucid and effective presentation you made this morning’ or whatever else it is that you appreciate.

Appreciation should always be timely. Don’t wait for an appropriate time to convey it. Strike while the iron is hot. Say it right away, when the person is waiting for your response. After that its effect keeps diminishing as time passes. Any thing that is important to us (and the organization) must be done right away, otherwise it shows the value that we put on it. When we praise some behavior or deed, it is more likely to be repeated in the future as well. Thus the effects of such actions (or inactions!) are cumulative.

Remember, if your people are showing up for work, the least that you can do is appreciate their work. They will feel like staying with you longer that way.

You have tried many tested formulas in your attempt at retaining and attracting employees; now try these magic words from a forgotten Nursery Rhyme. They are bound to work!


Ms. Chitra Jha,,

Her Artcile that appeared in Today's Times Ascent

(Chandigarh Edition).

From India, Coimbatore
A eye opening article. I have personally experienced the magic of these two words recently. We appointed a accountant two months back. The state of accounts in the company was terrible as the post was vaccant for 1 month. The company balace sheet also was to be finalised by 31st October. Lot of work pressure on the accountant. He wanted to quit but a word of please from me as a HR and a pat that i trust his capablities worked as a magic spin. Our company b/s sheet was finalised before the prior date. Our accountant worked day and night for it to happen.
My second word was Thankyou to him with a letter of appreciation and ensured that my director sponsred him for profeesional classes as a reward. All this happened only yesterday.
So i strongly believe in the TWO WORDS PLEASE AND THANKYOU.
So dear friends use the words and feel the magic. Make your employees feel special.
Best wishes

From India, Bangalore
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