Showing posts with label retention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retention. Show all posts

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Re-enlistment Bonus

While many leaders lament the difficulty of recruiting new talent for their team, I often think we neglect the equally important task of retaining those we have. We tend to put so much into recruitment pitches, job fairs, job announcements, headhunters, etc. -- but we forget the people that we already have -- and watch them go out the door.

Some estimates put the cost of replacing an employee at 150% of that employee's salary (see Cost of Employee Turnover). Factors such as lost sales, recruitment costs, training, and decreased efficiency all add up -- big time. This can be even higher for management, sales, or very technical positions.

The Army recognized the importance of retention in its balanced approach to increasing troop strength to meet the demands it faces around the world. Recruitment of new troopers (see the Army Strong campaign) is critical. We must have new Soldiers committed to service and willing to join the Army at its lowest ranks. We must also have those that are already in uniform -- stay. And they must stay at a higher rate in order to meet the goals of the larger force.

How is it going? The pictures at the top are from the largest military re-enlistment ceremony in history. General David Petreaus presided over this ceremony on July 4th, 2008 at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq. Thousands of young (and some probably not so young) troopers raised their hands and said, "I'm committed to what I am doing...I want to stay."

What does it take to ensure that capable talent stays?

-- A sense of purpose. People want to be a part of something important. If we can convince them that what we are doing as a team is important...and that their contribution to the mission is valued...they will stay.

-- An opportunity for growth. Teammates want to know that their is a pathway for them to progress in the organization. They want to know that they can expect to be trained, to have opportunities for promotion and development, and that there is no limit to the potential for their advancement. If they believe it...and see it in role models around them...they will stay.

-- Good leadership. More than half of our employees will leave because they don't like their supervisors. This should be enough for all of us to strive to be the role model, the mentor, the leader that will be the reason people will stay. We must also ensure we are providing adequate training to our supervisors to help ensure they are not the reason people leave. It should be no surprise that this many troopers wanted General Petraeus to personally re-enlist them. Good leadership will make a difference...and they will stay.

-- Help people find the right fit. Many people will re-enlist if they have an opportunity for a different job. One of the options in Army re-enlistment is to select the assignment or the specialty of choice. Leaders must recognize that often we must be flexible in meeting the needs of good people. To borrow from author Jim Collins -- if they are on the right bus, but not in the right them move.

-- Use incentives. Note that I put this last in this list. Incentives are important but generally not enough to tip the scales and prevent someone from leaving. But it is something to keep in the tool kit and be able to apply for those who are close and help push them over the top. Incentives such as a re-enlistment bonus, education opportunities and benefits, considerations to help meet work/life balance, adjustments to salary, are all available and are generally going to be considerably less costly than finding and training a new hire.

While I have been pushing my HR staff to recruit new employees to meet our increased work load, I have been working this retention piece even harder. I tell my staff that it is my intention that they stay with us for the rest of their lives. I make it clear that I will never, never, never let them leave me! I will do anything I have to do to help them decide to stay. (The exception to this, of course, is if they are not worth keeping...then I will help them pack!). I believe the result of these efforts is a workforce that knows they are valued, who will work their tails off to see the organization succeed, and when faced with the decision to stay or to leave...they will stay. That's the re-enlistment bonus. And that's Leader Business.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pain at the Pump

I paid $4.50 for a gallon of gas today. Depending on where you live, and when you read this post, this may be high or low compared to your own experiences. But we can be sure of one thing: the cost of transportation to and from work is becoming an increasingly important factor to our employees. And they are making decisions accordingly. That makes it Leader Business.

A recent article in the Vancouver Sun gives some insights to the concerns of American workers. Read it here and consider that this data likely applies to your teammates, especially if your workplace is in a high cost of living area or one in which the drive to work has a major impact on quality of life.

Some of the statistics that jumped out at me included:

-- 44% of respondents to a recent survey have changed their work arrangements or commuting habits.
-- 33% have chosen to do more telecommuting
-- 30% are looking for work closer to home
-- 26% are working fewer days

I am confident that this data represents a cross-section of my own workforce. And thus nearly a third of my team may be looking for work closer to their homes! That is definitely cause for concern.

I have informed my leaders that all options for improving employee quality of life and helping employees deal with these high gas prices are on the table. I have empowered them to make decisions on alternate work arrangements, as long as it does not impact on mission accomplishment. Those decisions about win/win alternatives (win for the employee / win for the organization) are left to the supervisor.

Granted, all options regarding flexible work are not available for everyone (steelworkers won't be able to work from home, for example!), but there likely is something that can be done for every worker to improve their quality of life and lessen the impact of high fuel prices. Some of these measures include:

-- Options for telework or work from home
-- Alternate work schedules
-- Alternate work sites
-- Subsidies for mass transit
-- Scheduling shifts around rush hour to avoid wasted time in traffic
-- Ride sharing programs
-- Increasing mileage reimbursement rate
-- Increasing salaries

Know that these are the thoughts going through our employees' heads. They are talking to their friends and comparing options. Eventually they will tell us that this is important to them. We just don't want to hear it for the first time during the exit interview! At that point, the cost of hiring and training someone new will pale in comparison to what could have been done to retain a good worker during these difficult times.

Be flexible, be creative, and look for ways that accomplish the mission while taking care of the team. Look for win/win. Empower leaders to make decisions regarding these things, at their level, consistent with company policies. Be proactive and have this discussion with your employees. Let them know you are willing to listen to all reasonable options.

That's Leader Business.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fond Farewells

Teammates leave our organizations all the time. Career goals and family situations change. Passions and goals are pursued. Retirement age eventually causes everyone to change course. People move on.

What do you do when people leave? Do you turn your back on a quitter – or do you take the opportunity to thank them for their service? Do you burn the bridge behind the departees – or build a bridge that can one day bring them back? How you deal with this issue will speak volumes about your organization – and about your leadership.

Here are a few things I have been thinking about lately when we have lost people:

-- Conduct exit interviews. There is nothing like a person’s departure to learn what causes people to leave, where the organization might do better, and how you can improve as a leader.

-- Don’t miss the opportunity to ask this question: What will it take to help you stay? If there is anything that can tip the scales, it is often much cheaper than the cost of recruiting and training a replacement. Sometimes people just want to be asked, to know that they are valued.

-- Reward past accomplishments. Despite your disappointment, don’t miss the opportunity to recognize the contributions to the organization of people who leave. Options range from the Gold Watch to lunch on the boss. Treat people like you would want to be treated. Celebrate all they have done for you and for the team, and be excited about their future opportunities.

-- Manage the transition. Change is difficult. The leader’s job is to ensure that gaps are covered, that duties and responsibilities are passed along to someone else, and that the team keeps moving forward.

-- Don’t burn bridges. People change their minds. Keep those doors open and let them know they will be welcomed back. Depending on how you handle their departure, these employees can be your best recruiters – or your worst! You may also find these folks serving as consultants, suppliers, or some other extension of your team. Don’t discount the value of maintaining a positive relationship to your future bottom line.

How we manage the departure of our employees speaks loudly about our leadership. The word about how they are treated will spread throughout the organization and will either contribute to people staying – or encourage them to leave. Don’t turn your back on those who leave. And don’t take their departure personally. Usually it is not you…it is them! People move on. You (probably) did! Manage this critical period of transition. This is Leader Business.