Are You A Giver? How Reciprocity Results In Employee Retention

As we enter the holiday season, you’ll see messaging about gratitude and giving. For me, these are two vital cornerstones for not just my personal life, but for my businesses too. 

When I started my first business, I think I was pretty focused on the numbers end of things—cash flow, sales, marketing, more marketing, quarterly goals, budgeting—you get the gist. But when I went from a solo small business owner to one who had a couple of employees, I realized I had new responsibilities that came with that. 

They weren’t machines or data; they were real people. After years of jobs in corporations that treated people like a number at best, I decided that my company could have even bigger successes than the big guys if I created a community of employees who felt valued and considered and received recognition and professional support.  

Then my team started to grow, which meant I had even more responsibility, so I began to check myself and what kind of boss I was. Through extensive research, I discovered and implemented what has felt like a workplace revolution. 

The Reciprocity Revolution In The Workplace 

If you want to keep your employees from looking elsewhere (and they are looking, especially now), you must engage them—and thoughtfully. The way you and your employees interact, collaborate, and support each other can significantly impact an organization’s ability to thrive. A vital element that transforms companies for the better and encourages people to stay is reciprocity. It’s more than salaries and bonuses. You can pay someone all they want and still end up with a disloyal employee who watches the clock, doesn’t share your values, and has one foot out the door. 

Understanding Reciprocity At Work And Why They Stay 

At its core, reciprocity is about mutual exchange and support. In your business, it’s a give-and-take dynamic that fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility within the organization, resulting in not only better business but better retention of your team. 

Benefits For Employees – And Your Business 

  • Increased job satisfaction – Employees who know their efforts are recognized and reciprocated experience higher job satisfaction. A culture of reciprocity makes them feel valued and appreciated, leading to higher productivity and fierce protection of your brand, reputation, and each other. 
  • Enhanced collaboration – Reciprocity encourages employees to work together and share knowledge. When employees know that their colleagues will reciprocate help, they are more likely to collaborate effectively. 
  • Reduced stress – The knowledge that support is available creates a less stressful work environment. Employees can rely on each other for assistance, which reduces the burden on individual team members. 
  • Professional growth – When you and your team are open to helping and mentoring each other, it fosters a culture of learning and growth. This benefits both individual employees and the organization as a whole. 

Benefits For The Boss 

  • Employee retention – Employees are more likely to stay with an organization that values and nurtures a culture of reciprocity. This reduces the massive disruption of turnover and the associated recruitment costs. 
  • Team cohesion – Reciprocity strengthens the bonds among team members, making it easier for leaders to manage a unified and motivated workforce. 
  • Productivity – A culture of reciprocity can boost productivity as employees collaborate more effectively, share knowledge, and streamline processes. And you know I love processes! 
  • Innovation – Reciprocity encourages the sharing of ideas and feedback, fostering a culture of innovation that can drive the organization forward. 

Fostering Reciprocity At Work 

  • Lead by example – Walk that walk. Swagger if you have to. Leaders should exemplify the values of reciprocity by offering help and support to employees and encouraging it within teams. We talk about our business as well as personal goals during our huddles so that we can find ways to best support each other. 
  • Clear communication – Encourage open and honest communication to ensure that employees feel comfortable asking for help and reciprocating when necessary. 
  • Recognition and appreciation – Recognize and appreciate acts of reciprocity, whether big or small. Celebrate individuals and teams that embody the spirit of mutual support. One of our weekly meetings includes “shoutouts.” This is such an easy way to give someone credit and recognition in front of their peers. “Hey, Amy! Thank you for helping me with my question about our systems!” 
  • Training and development – Don’t forget this one! Provide opportunities for employees to enhance their skills and knowledge, enabling them to contribute more effectively to the culture of reciprocity. It’s also esteem-building when you offer developmental and growth opportunities. 

The Bottom Line 

If you want employees who are so dedicated to your business that they work and act like your partner, simple steps toward reciprocity will get you there. Your homework? Implement some of the steps and then tell me about your results. 

You’re the owner of your business. What better opportunity to lead a revolution? 

Wishing you health and wealth always – Mike 

Mike Michalowicz is the entrepreneur behind three multimillion-dollar companies and is the author of several business books, including Profit First, Clockwork, Get Different, Fix This Next, The Pumpkin Plan, Surge, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, and his newest book, All In. Mike is a former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal and business makeover expert for MSNBC. He regularly travels the globe as an entrepreneurial advocate and keynote speaker.



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