Retaining employee talent in Kosovo: is training employees a lost investment?

Often we hear in Kosovo the usual phrase and attitude of managers,when employees underperform or are under-motivated: “if you’re not satisfied with work conditions, there are thousands out there who would be happy to have your job”. It’s true that the unemployment rate in Kosovo is high and you might find employees easily; but at what cost? What if your best employee resigned since he/she felt that there is no professional and personal growth within your company? How much would it cost to find, hire, train and get that replacement up to speed with the level of your best employee? Most likely it would cost a lot – in time and money.

If your employees feel that they are just a number, the overall morale and motivation in the company will be low; hence, the quality of production and services you offer will be low.

These questions drive us back to the very core of human nature: would you rather do something which you really want to or which you have to?

The employee who fulfils his/her tasks because he/she has to it’s not a long term motivation, since when an individual has to do something – means it has no choice. The wanting part is something that spurs that level of energy of making things happen and go the extra mile. You want those people to work with you, since they are the energy which drives your business towards your vision.

There are three main reasons which are perceived as obstacles in Kosovo for effective employee training:

The first obstacle is that frequently employers believe that the investment in employees is not safe – in a sense – employees might leave so the investment is gone. I guess we have all heard the famous reply “what if you don’t invest in employees and they stay!” When the employee feels that he/she is just a number in the organisation and the company is not concerned about his/her professional growth and wellbeing, they will leave at the first opportunity, since they are not invested personally in the company. The feeling of being “stuck” within a company which does not promote growth, leads to sabotage in indirect ways, by: badmouthing the image of the company externally, but as well sabotaging the overall moral within the company e.g. “don’t work too hard, do you think they will give you a medal”. So at the end, you will end up with low motivated employees, who do the bare minimum.

The second obstacle is the composition of companies in Kosovo being mainly family run, so frequently the training is provided only to the family members who are working in the company or to a very low number of managers. Somehow is viewed that only managers need training, while the first line employees – not so much. Your first line employees are as important as your managers, maybe even more, since they are the face of your organisation.

The third obstacle which is prevalent and makes employers “refrain themselves” in training their employees is: the legal infrastructure. Maybe it’s always easier in Kosovo to blame the legal infrastructure, since it is still in the stage of reform in accordance to the EU Laws; however, it is no valid argument. Even if you invest in your employees with higher education investment, you can always secure your investment with a clause in the contract of sponsorship i.e. by stipulating that if the employee leaves the company in, let’s say in 3 years’ time from the training, will be obliged to return the investment.

Since training is one of the reasons which boosts level of motivation in employees, it is extremely important to understand what creates one’s level of high motivation, and also, how to shift and nurture motivation. Below you will find easy, yet very effective measures, to increase employee motivation:

Honour and respect your employees: Regardless their position, all your employees are important, and deserve your respect. Never underestimate your employees based on the job that they do. Saying this, it reminds me of the short brilliant story of President John F. Kennedy visit to the NASA space center in 1962. He noticed a janitor and walked over to him and said:

“Hi, what is that you do in this organisation?”

“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Find what motivates them: Now don’t take this to the extreme, since if you have 500 employees you will not be able to know their needs, but at least focus on your direct reports. As a leader, you are the one who sets the tone and culture of organisation. How you interact with your managers will be reflected in their interaction with their direct reports. As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, your employees might be at different levels, but you as the leader are encouraged to understand their need. If you don’t know what they need – ask them! Ask them what they need to outdo themselves. Once they realize that you genuinely care, they will perform their tasks beyond satisfactory level. However, be aware of the ones who are driven only by money incentives – there might be underlying issues with their values.

Stretch their mental stimulus: Firstly it is very important to surround yourself with like-minded people and with the ones with whom you share same values. Stretching your employee’s mental stimulus is an important factor in motivating them. When their job becomes routine you as a leader need to give them an incentive to stretch their brain muscle. By stretching their brain muscle they will be present in the moment, become creative and alert for future short-term and long-term goals, which has a ripple effect on other areas of performance. There is the saying that “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”. Even if you have talented employees, stretching their talent is crucial – but with cautiousness of not overstretching, since it creates burnout.

Empower them: If you are a true leader, you are not afraid to create other leaders. Frequently quasi-leaders empower their subordinates with the “clutch method” – as soon that their quasi leadership is shaken by a potentially ambitious subordinate, they press the clutch and won’t change gears in empowering them. If you are a true leader you don’t need a clutch. As much as you are surrounded with able, agile and motivated employees, that much you are successful.

Acknowledge and validate their work: The basic thing that you can do is to validate and acknowledge a good job done. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple “Thank you! You did an excellent job”. You are their leader and whatever they do, regardless their position, they need that “pat on the back”. It shows that you care; it shows that you notice, and it shows that you are there for them.

Whatever you do as a leader, strive to make them believe in your vision – after all, as Eisenhower said: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he/she wants to do it”!

Published in AMCHAM Horizon

“Horizon” is the official magazine of American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo


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