I was so excited for my first job after graduation. I had a fresh master’s degree in hand and was sold an amazing vision. I was joining the ranks of a growing startup in Detroit, MI. The first few months were great — I was constantly inspired and tapped into the mission of our company. I felt like I was doing meaningful work. I was learning and growing in my role.
Then, around six months, I hit a plateau. I had stopped growing and learning in my role. I realized there wasn’t going to be a path forward for me at this job, and that the leadership at the company wasn't going to invest in me. At this point, I became very apathetic. I stopped really caring about my job in the sense that it became a means to a paycheck for me. I would go in, do what I needed to do, and go home. It killed my passion for the job, and I eventually quit. Another colleague followed me two weeks later. Faster forward to a year after my original start date and about three of the original ten employees were still with the company.
Apathy will kill your company’s culture from the inside out.
Once people become disconnected from the company’s mission and lose the passion they found in their job, they’ll start just showing up for a paycheck. This results in high employee turnover and low productivity. So, how do you prevent this feeling of apathy from forming in the first place? Here’s my take.
Invest in your employees
Make an actual investment in your employees. This will probably mean spending actual money on people. Making an actual investment in someone is the quickest and surest way to show them that you have a vested interest in their development. You’re literally putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to showing that you care. This can also be a win-win strategy for both parties. You could pay for a game-changing online course or professional certification. This helps your employee upskill within their role and shows them that they matter to you. You could also send your people to an industry conference, which could provide ample opportunities to you both. Or, maybe you set up an internal mentorship program that helps newer employees connect with more seasoned staff and learn from them.
Whatever you do, a small investment can go a long way. This shows that you care and are willing to make a tangible bet on someone’s success. It also shows that you want to make real investments to help your employees level up and perform at their best. This helps your company and your employees — creating a win-win for both.
Build-in career advancement opportunities
Your people should see a path forward for themselves within your organization. If that path doesn’t exist or is muddled, don’t be surprised when they switch to the well-groomed trail made available to them at another company. Without a clear path forward, your employees will eventually plateau within their roles. When you stand at the top of a plateau long enough, you can see the mountains growing around you pretty clearly.
Create clear paths for people to advance within the company or advance within their roles. Set tangible performance goals and pathways for employees during their onboarding, and continue to revisit through performance reviews and one-on-ones. Have a system in place for this and make sure the outcomes are tangible.
Approach them human first
This sounds like a basic cliche but is one that many organizations fail to follow. I remember our CEO changing the company-wide start time to 8:30 AM suddenly, through an email. This might seem like no big deal at first. Some of us already started before or at that time anyway. Plus what’s the big difference in a half hour or so? Huge when you consider your company as the individuals it’s made up of. I shared a car at the time and usually started at 9 AM. With that one 30 minute change in start time had to completely re-arrange my morning routine within a day. I felt bad for anyone who had to re-coordinate childcare plans.
Your small decisions have ripple effects on the people within your company. You need to consider the impact that you might have on them. What might seem like a small change to you, could cause a huge change for your employees. Take the time to get to know each person at your organization, or at least make sure their direct manager gets to know them. Set aside time for one-on-one meetings, and keep a pulse on what’s happening.