‘Common Sense Retention’

There are many facets in regards to the all-important issue of employee retention, but perhaps none makes as much sense as the one that we’ll explore in this article.

The reason?

Because it benefits you in ways that go beyond simply retaining your best employees. (And that, all by itself, would be enough.)
There is a crucial mistake that many companies make when they’re delegating tasks to their employees, and even when they’re considering which ones to promote and how to promote them. That mistake is tied to a golden rule of corporate productivity, which is this:
Make sure that everybody in the organization does what they do best.
Simple, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how easily “simple” becomes “complicated.”

An example from The Office

Let’s use an example from the hit television show The Office to illustrate this point. The show is a “mockumentary” about a paper company by the name of Dunder-Mifflin, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The manager at this particular branch is Michael Scott. Prior to becoming manager, Michael was a salesman at the Scranton branch. In fact, he was the top salesman at the branch, which is the main reason he was promoted to manager.

That, in a nutshell, was a mistake. Anybody who has seen the show can attest to that. What the Dunder-Mifflin brass did is something that’s actually quite common in the corporate world: they put Michael in a position that does not play to his strengths. What he does best is sell, not manage. Their attempt to “reward” Michael with a promotion clearly backfired. However, Michael occasionally turns his attention away from managing to sales, and when he does, he enjoys success.

Michael Scott should have been promoted to a sales manager position, if he was promoted at all. That would have been best for him and also best for the company, especially his co-workers. Many times within a company, a key employee is moved from what they do best to something else they don’t do nearly as well, and this is often the result of a promotion. It even happens when a candidate is first hired.

Because the candidate has an expanded skill set (and there are more than one openings available), the company might be tempted to bring them in for a position that’s outside their range of expertise, a position that’s perhaps more managerial in nature. Unless this is truly an exemplary individual, the strategy is almost certain to backfire. Below are the two main reasons why it will:

• As a general rule, what people do best they enjoy the most. If the employee is not able to pursue their passion, they will eventually become disenchanted.

• The company is hurt on two different levels. First, the employee isn’t doing what they do best, so the company loses productivity. Second, the employee is becoming disenchanted, which means they’ll lose their drive and motivation, further causing productivity to suffer.

The silver lining

Despite all the doom and gloom portrayed to this point, there is a silver lining. By ensuring that everybody within the organization is doing what they do best and playing to their strengths, you can raise your retention rate drastically. When a person is doing what they do best—what they truly love to do and have a passion for—there’s practically no way to tear them away from it. Even money won’t do the trick, unless they can be convinced that the new situation will be identical in every way to their current one.

And this is a classic “two-for-one” bargain, because it also means that these employees will be infinitely more productive, as well. So not only will your retention rate increase, the company will make more profit and continue to grow for the foreseeable future, since your best candidates are locked in, happily doing what they love to do. That truly is the best of both worlds.

This type of “common sense retention” falls under the category of “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome, and some of you might be saying to yourself, “Of course that’s the best way to retain employees!” However, the hustle and bustle of the corporate world has a way of clouding even the best of intentions, to the point of distraction. So review every member of your team, and make sure that you can identify the one thing that they do better than anything else. Once you’ve done that, then make certain that their role within the company fully embraces that one thing.

Because as funny as Michael Scott might be—intentionally or not—his situation is better left to television and not the real world.
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Building the Best ‘Before-and-After’ Experience

In our previous post about retention, we discussed the importance of helping your best employees to grow, mainly by giving them the proper amount of attention. This provides them with the experience they crave, thereby increasing your rate of retention. In this, our next article in the retention series, we’re going to take a small step backward for the purpose of going forward.

That small step involves what the candidate hears during the interview process vs. what they experience after accepting the offer and starting their employment. This “before-and-after” dynamic is crucial to the overall retention experience, and it’s all the more crucial because many employers don’t take the time to examine what type of experience they’re providing for their new employees. And then they wonder why they take another job after only three months.

It’s human nature

The “before-and-after” experience is a smaller component of the larger, more complex subject of onboarding, which we’ll be discussing in future articles. However, it differs from onboarding in the respect that it continues for a greater length of time after the candidate becomes an employee—for at least the three-month period mentioned above, and perhaps even longer.

What it comes down to is this: you have to pay as much attention to what you say and do both before the candidate is hired and after they’re hired as the candidate does. The fact of the matter is that the majority of company officials fail to do that. The reason? They don’t have the time to do it, or perhaps more accurately, they think they don’t have the time. Sure, everybody’s busy, but those people willing to apply energy to critical areas are the ones that will be more successful in the long run, and providing the best experience to candidates in this situation is most definitely critical.

You see, an employee is mentally comparing and contrasting what you say about the company and the position during the interview process with what they experience after they’re hired. They do this either consciously or subconsciously. (It’s human nature . . . there’s no way around it.) And if the notes they compare don’t match, then the experience you’re providing is ultimately a negative one.

Consequently, your chances of retaining that employee decrease dramatically.

A hierarchy of needs

Okay, so what are some of the areas about which employees take (and compare) mental notes? There are a few, to be sure, but there’s also a hierarchy of importance:

• Job requirements—This is the one that can cause you the most damage. Nothing will deflate a new employee more quickly than discovering that what they were told about their new position during the interview was nothing like it actually is once they started the job.

• Company culture—Telling a candidate during the interview stage that they won’t be expected to work past 5 p.m. isn’t wise if the company culture is one that dictates—in an unwritten fashion—that longer hours are not only encouraged, but expected.

• Perks—This could include the availability of a company car, the number of holidays the company observes each year, the amount of vacation time afforded new employees, or even the details of their health insurance plan.

• Miscellaneous expectations—If the new employee has been told that they’ll meet with their immediate supervisor for an hour every week for the first four weeks of their employment, and that doesn’t happen, then their expectations were not met. This category can include a host of other things, including what equipment you’re providing the employee, the length of their lunch break, the company’s policy regarding personal phone calls, etc.

There are two measures that you can undertake to ensure that you’re providing the best “before-and-after” experience. The first is to meticulously write down what you tell candidates during the interview process and then consult the list in the weeks after the candidate begins employment. Keep an eye out for any discrepancies. The second measure is to conduct a “post-interview” with the employee and inquire as to whether or not their expectations are being met.

This is probably the more difficult of the two measures, since there’s a prevailing company mindset that stipulates new employees “must prove themselves.” (That’s why companies have a probation period.)
What many company officials fail to realize, though, is that they’re on probation, too, as is the company in general. Not only does the employee have something to prove, but in a way, you do, as well. By realizing this and addressing it in a pro-active fashion, you can enhance the experience that new employees receive and dramatically improve both their satisfaction and your overall rate of retention.

We encourage your participation and comments.

Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.

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John Bentley

Helping Your Best Employees Grow

Providing a positive experience for your employees is the best way in which to increase retention within your team, your department, or your company. In this article, we’re going to address a specific way you can provide that experience, and it involves giving your best employees the proper amount of attention.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s human nature to not pay enough attention to your best employees and top performers. Why is that? Because they’re usually self-motivated go-getters who need no prompting or anybody looking over their shoulder. As a result, managers don’t feel the need to interact with them as much, or to “check up on them,” if you will.

This gives the manager more flexibility and more freedom to tackle other issues. After all, there never seems to be enough time to get things done. If you have a select number of employees who are high achievers, people who need a minimum of supervision, it only makes sense to leave them be and let them do their jobs, right? To a certain degree, that’s correct, but if that philosophy is taken too far, it can prove disastrous in terms of retention.

The 20-80-20 rule

For superstar employees, a positive experience with the company includes the opportunity for professional growth.
If they don’t believe that they’re growing in their current position and that they’re working toward something bigger and better, than they’re going to think about leaving. Even if they like everything else about their job—including their boss—feeling as though there’s nowhere to grow will prompt them to begin contemplating whether or not the grass is really greener on the other side.

With that in mind, here’s a practical strategy for solving two problems at once. Let’s say that your team or department adheres to the standard 20-80-20 rule, meaning that 20% of your employees are superstars, 80% are competent but not spectacular, and another 20% are bringing up the rear. Instead of spending precious time and energy attempting to motivate the bottom 20%, cut them loose and upgrade their positions by replacing them with star candidates.

By doing that, you’ve already increased the overall quality of your team. In addition, you’ve created extra time for yourself, since you don’t have to devote it to your underachievers. You can now take that time and put it to better use. For example, you can focus on your top 20% and discover what their professional needs and career goals are.

Involve yourself now

This may sound a bit simplistic, but the best way in which to do this is by asking them. Not in casual conversation, of course, but behind closed doors during a formal meeting. It shouldn’t be an intensive, pressure-packed meeting, though. It should be one that fully engages the employee and makes them feel comfortable enough to broach topics they might not bring up themselves. Below is a loose blueprint for how you should conduct this meeting.
• Ask what their expectations are for their employment with the company. This type of open-ended question may prompt a response you didn’t expect, but that’s information you need to know.
• Ask what their career goals and objectives are.
• Ask what the company can do in order to help them achieve their goals.
• Begin to formulate a concrete plan based upon their responses to the above questions.
• Plan to meet on a consistent basis in the future in order to gauge progress and set additional goals.

Star employees think about their career ambitions all the time. It’s in their nature. So if that’s the case, then it makes sense to be part of their thought process and to be involved in their plans for the future.

If you don’t make sure that your company is involved now, you increase the chances that it won’t be involved down the road.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Copyright protected, all rights reserved worldwide. ©Gary Sorrell – www.NewsletterVille.com

We encourage your participation and comments.

Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.
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Follow us on twitter
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Sincerely,
John Bentley