Are Managers Pivotal in Terms of Employee Retention - and What Can
Managers and Employees Both Do to Minimize Workplace Turnover?
In this continuing sluggish economy, it seems that employers - that is, managers and bosses - should go the extra mile to keep their employees, particularly their top talent. But, as this paper points out, there are signs that employee retention is not a priority for many companies, as a substantial number of workers (according to data presented) are thinking more about their next jobs than their present ones.
The purpose of this paper is to point out - through the literature and data available to the public - that corporate America needs to get a better handle on employee satisfaction, and not just customer service. The sources used for this paper include scholarly journals, periodicals, and texts written by respected authors.
The implications of this research are that American businesses - and all the bosses within those various structures of corporate workplaces - are not paying enough attention to keeping employees happy; and meanwhile, the expensive process of re-hiring and training can be, and should be, avoided.
Look at the Literature Pertaining to Management and Retention
When a powerful management consultant like Roger Herman (CIO of The Herman Group) cites several surveys indicating "that 30% to 40% of today's employees focus on their next job rather than the one they currently have" (Pay for Performance Report, 2003) it behooves managers everywhere to take a look in the mirror, take stock in their work units, and strive to develop strategies to retain - rather than lose - employees.
Herman uses the phrase "warm-chair attrition" (Pay for Performance Report, 5) in his presentations to corporate management, and it could well be taken as a warning about the storm clouds brooding on the near corporate horizon. "Employees suffering warm-chair attrition have already left their jobs, at least mentally," he states in the article. "Their physical departure only awaits the first uptick in the job market."
What are Herman's signs and signals that employees are focusing on their next job, rather than their current position? Certainly, worker absenteeism and tardiness are red flags for management to be aware of; but moreover, Herman continues, when those staff members who were once "loyal" and "dependable" now are witnessed engaging in "a marked increase in personal phone conversations," management can't ignore that forecast.
The author of an article in CIO Magazine (Santosus, 2003) which references the Herman approach, using data from surveys conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), suggests that even though a little attrition may be "a good thing," there are much larger implications for companies "when the tide turns" on the economy. "It won't be the laggards who leave," she says. "No, the first people out the door will be the folks with the most options - the best employees in your organization." And, she concludes, "Just as the work increases [in the early hours of an improving U.S. economy], just as you ramp up to meet the challenge of an expanding market, just when you really need their expertise, they'll be beating a path to the door."
Herman, meantime, says management should put "veteran performers" through a "reorientation process." Why do that? He says since stock options are not likely the magnet they once were, new ideas must come into play to keep the company an attractive place to work. "Find out what they like about their jobs, what they need in training, mentoring...[what] they aren't getting, and where they envision their careers going."
Key in developing strategies to retain workers, though, is to consider the fact, Herman concludes, that "the corporate mission may have changed markedly since [employees] first joined, and no one has bothered to let them in on where the company's going and why they should stick around to help it get there."
One strategy Herman advocates that's more pragmatic than brilliantly original is to have IT staffers "reach out to other departments." Why? This "builds relationships with other departments in the organization so that you can establish your IT employees as a resource to which they can easily turn." This can be an antidote, Herman asserts, for that "sinking feeling among IT folks that no one outside their department knows or cares about what they do."
On the subject of IT employees, an article in Business Wire (March, 2004) reports on a recent study showing that companies with a high percentage of CompTIA-certified employees on their staffs not only benefit financially and operationally, but actually are able to retain employees more effectively. "IT managers...reported lower turnover in organizations with a high percentage of CompTIA certified staff. Reduced turnover leads both directly and indirectly to reduced costs and greater productivity," the article states. Also, one can easily assume that when a non-technical employee has a glitch in a software or hardware application, that employee is going to be happier on the job if a qualified IT specialist gets the problem solved promptly and thoroughly.
Literature that stands out as extraordinarily relevant: Marcus Buckingham's Formula for Better Management Strategies
Marcus Buckingham is a high-powered guru consultant whose reputation for spreading knowledge among CEO's - vis-a-vis getting the most out of employees - is among the most sterling in the field. "He's a pioneering researcher..." (LaBarre 2001) - and his best-selling business-related books are valuable tools because they overflow with truthful, practical advice and counsel for management. Meanwhile, when asked what is basically wrong with the corporate world, according to an article in Fast Company (LaBarre 2001), he replies that of course CEOs talk about "work culture" as a rich source of competitive advantage, but then he launches into his argument.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a CEO who has much of a clue about the strength of that culture. The corporate world is appallingly bad at capitalizing on the strengths of its people," he says. His mission, then, according to LaBarre's article, is to "create a better marriage between the dreams of workers and the drive of companies to win."
It would appear that Buckingham has earned his reputation by doing his homework: in his position with Gallup ("global practice leader"), he examined databases housing over a million Gallup surveys of workers around the globe, and focused on which workplaces were truly "engaged" with employees and which were not. According to LaBarre's piece, when Buckingham crunched the numbers, he found that work units in which management was "engaged" in the process of relating to employees - and in which employees strongly agreed their strengths were well-suited and aligned with their jobs - were 50% "more likely to have lower turnover." Further, his data revealed that the above-mentioned work units were also 56% more likely to have "higher-than-average customer loyalty," 38% more likely to have productivity that is "above-average," and 27% more likely to report "higher profitability."
In his book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers do Differently (Buckingham, et al., 1999), he breaks his overall strategy down to four keys. First, he advocates that management "Select for Talent" (talent is more pivotal than brains or experience); secondly, he says "Define the Right Outcomes" (have a plan based on not over-managing but letting employees do what you hired them to do); number three is "Focus on Strengths" (which is exactly what it sounds like); and the fourth is "Find the Right Fit" (helping employees achieve success within the structure of the company).
Buckingham's latest book - Now, Discover Your Strengths - points out that, according to an article in Modern Casting (Libby, 2004), the fact that each individual "retires billions of synapses by age 15" should have plenty of "implications for managers." That is, Libby continues, paraphrasing Buckingham's latest offering, "the brain is actually focusing on a much smaller number of synapses...thus ultimately becoming that individual's most basic strengths.
This new book (co-authored with Curt Coffman) offers a way for the reader to access and then discover his or her strengths. And moreover, the book provides another set of germane and useful keys, helping managers to "understand the concept of differing strengths"; to "build teams that balance a diversity of strengths"; to "develop human resources in step with people's actual strengths"; and to "use the system to improve the performance of critical departments."
Buckingham recently spoke to delegates at the UK Institute of Leadership and Management, and he emphasized that for management to evolve from techniques used in the Industrial Age to strategies more appropriate for the IT age, a basic change in management culture must occur. "We must learn to work on people's strengths, not weaknesses" (Millar, 2003) he pointed out. "If you study the bad and then fix it, you get 'not bad' rather than 'good'."
In an article in Modern Healthcare (Sloane, 2003), it is predicted that the "chronic shortage" of "front-line healthcare workers is set to become an epidemic." The writer Sloane predicts that…