Employee Retention Rule #1: Structure, Clarity, Focus


Language is one of the most effective change agents in any organization.  Sometimes having just the right words makes all the difference in getting groups of people to change their mindset.

What we have learned is that for people to be effective at their job, they must have Structure, Clarity and Focus.  It is the responsibility of the organization’s leadership to create a work environment that is constantly improving in these three areas.  The result will be a significant increase in the engagement of your employees.

But first, let us provide a bit more detail on each of these pillars:


Structure is organizing the company in a way that supports the success of the company, is independent of the specific individuals, and can be maintained over time.  There are many ways to improve structure within your organization.  Here are two methods we’ve used to add Structure to a company:

  • Create an Organizational Chart – Companies need an Organization Chart to help communicate to those within the organization how departments and teams interact with each other. As a leader, forcing yourself to put down on paper the design of the organization also helps you identify areas that are unclear.

    We suggest you start with a “Functional Org Chart” – a Functional Org Chart does not have names on it, only departments, teams and roles. If you’ve never created an Org Chart, start at the top with the Owner/CEO, and have three main boxes below that – Business Development (with Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service), Operations (with a box for each Operational department), and Finance (with boxes for other types of support services like HR, Accounting, IT). We recommend using Microsoft PowerPoint to create your chart; it has a built-in Organization Chart creator that is very easy to use.

    Even if your company only has a few people, it’s worth the time to create this type of organizational chart. In addition to adding structure to the organization, we’ve also found it helpful to anticipate what roles we would need to add to the team as we grew.

  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities – This is a critical concept, “You need to organize the work before you organize the people who do the work.” Many companies look first at the people they have, and then find some work to give to them. This approach does not create enduring structures for your employees.

    First, you must organize the work being performed. Start by defining Tasks. These are grouped together into Types of Work. Multiple Types of Work are grouped into Roles. And finally, a Position will have several Roles.

    As an example, the Project Manager position in a construction company may have multiple Roles -- Client Management, Project Management, and Sub-Contractor Management. Within the Client Management type of work is Client Communication. Finally, Client Communication is comprised of specific tasks, including communicating during the project startup, sending weekly emails, and project wrap-up.

These two methods of creating Structure in your company also supports the other two requirements – Clarity and Focus.


Clarity is the absence of ambiguity and uncertainty.  The clearer an employee is on their roles and the expectations of them, the more they are enabled to perform their role in a successful manner. 

One way to create Clarity in an organization is with well-reasoned job titles.  As an example, we renamed the positions in our Operations Department to be: Jr. Associate, Associate, and Sr. Associate and Team Lead.  Each of these positions had clearly defined roles associated with them.  We were amazed at how eliminated a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity from the department and resulted in dramatic improvements in productivity and department morale.  As a bonus, the new titles created a clear path for advancement in the department as employees now could see what it would take to be promoted. 

For a construction company, delineating the positions like Project Manager, Site Supervisor, and Estimator will provide clarity to a team that is somewhat sharing all of these responsibilities.  Depending on the size of your company, some individuals might even have to wear multiple position “hats”.  But seeing their job as having these distinct hats bring clarity to them and positions the company to understand what role that needs to be filled with the next employee hired. 

As a leader, you are forced to work with ambiguity and the lack of clarity throughout your day.  Your employees are not you; they crave more clarity in their daily roles.


Focus allows energy to be used on the highest priority tasks.  A lack of focus means the organization's efforts are scattered across too many priorities.  This causes progress to be hampered and deliverables missed. 

Your employees need to be provided Focus because they don’t know for sure what is the highest priority.  You and your management team must help employees know what to prioritize because it’s the management level of a business that has this knowledge. 

An unfocused employee is a scattered employee who does not feel they are making the progress needed to show they are good at their job.  Often their performance is being graded by areas they did not even know were important.  Interact with your employees so you know what they are working on and adjust the priorities as necessary, so they can focus on the tasks you need them to successfully perform.

Our Challenge To YOu

Today, write these words on your whiteboard.  Repeat them to yourself throughout the day.  As you walk around your workplace, ask yourself, how can we create more structure, clarity and focus in each department and team. 

When you are working with your management team, listen to their challenges in light of these three words.  You will begin to see that many are symptoms of a lack of structure, clarity or focus. Speak these words to your team and help them know that you desire to provide more of these characteristics to their work.  Ask them where they need more of these characteristics.

It is your responsibility as a leader to provide Structure, Clarity, and Focus to your organization.  When you do, your employees will be engaged and engaged employees experience more success!



This blog is part of a 4-part series inspired by the webinar, Stop Losing Good Employees.

See also: Current Trends That Make it Difficult to Retain Employees, Employee Retention Rule #2: Invest In Your People, Employee Retention Rule #3: Make Employees Part of Something Bigger

EmployeeMatthew Pohl