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Five Truths of Employee Retention

By Dr. Jim Harris  Posted 5 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, 6 days, 10 hours, 50 minutes ago.  

Of the many challenges facing business owners today, few are more imperative than employee retention. Within an ever more competitive labor market, it is essential that managers at all levels of the organization be both educated and trained on how to retain great people. To start your retention training, I encourage you to begin with embracing these five essential truths.

Retention Truth #1: If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys! “You get what you pay for” is an old expression that rings true for employee retention. Yet today’s best-run companies do not get into bidding wars for talent, even though they understand they need to pay slightly above industry standard to better attract and retain the best. It is ridiculous to think you will get world-class customer service you pay below-average wages. To get above-average service and productivity, you must consider pay grades that are above average for your competitors in your area.

Retention Truth #2: People may join a company, but they leave a boss. Whenever I ask management teams “What is the No. 1 reason people leave? I inevitably get the same responses, including no recognition, no promotion opportunities, no training, work not appreciated, lousy benefits, too much stress, overworked, and of course the most popular, a better opportunity and more money. While every one of these is a legitimate reason for someone to leave, they are seldom the main reasons people leave. The No. 1 reason most good people leave is lousy supervision. If the basic supervisor-employee
relationship is good, then top talent is more likely to stay. If the basic supervisor-employee relationship is bad, great people will leave—and leave fast…which leads us to Truth No. 3.

Retention Truth #3: Lousy companies condone lousy manager - Great companies fix lousy managers. Executives and owners often confide in me, “Jim, it’s not that easy. So-and-so (the lousy manager) doesn’t mean any harm…he’s been with our company since it was dirt. And on top of that, he’s my brother-in-law!” Loyalty is one thing, but if you have a manager or supervisor who consistently runs off top talent, you have two choices: fix him (that is, put him through lots of training and self-development now) or get him out of management!

Retention Truth #4: Some people need to go away! Can you think of someone working with you for whom, if you could, you would fill out his application at another company…and then offer to drive him to the interview? Whenever I am asked, “What is the fastest way to turn around low morale,” my first
response is always “Get rid of the turkeys!” Your eagles do not want to hand around and be dragged down by turkeys. My second response to the fastest way to turn around morale is, “Find more eagles.”

Retention Truth #5: Retention is a leadership problem—not a human resources problem. Leadership, whether strong or weak, ultimately determines the overall retention rate of your company. Retaining great employees is far too important to completely delegate to mid-level line managers or your human resources managers. (Hey – I used to be a mid-level HR manager in my early business life). Employee retention must be front and center within every strategic initiative, expansion plan, or turnaround situation you face.

Pay attention to these five truths and address them in your overall plan and you will stay ahead of your competition in the retention of top talent.


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