I’m the CEO of a small business with 97 regular workers with an average seven years of service, which is how long ago the company was established. I don’t have any subcontractors, temps, and agency workers as I believe in nurturing long-term work relationships with people rather than circumvent the law against “endo” hiring. It’s my own small way of helping the poor. As much as I would like to pay them above-average industry rates, I can only afford to pay the minimum wage and other statutory benefits. However, this brought me to a situation where our turnover rate increased to an unprecedented 10% this year. How do I retain the remaining employees, at least for the next three years? — Bit Frantic.
While eating at a fast food restaurant, a four-year old boy volunteered to clean his table by taking his trash to the garbage bin. He studied the lid of the receptacle for few moments and came running back to his mother and proudly announced that he knew how to spell the word “garbage.”
When asked by his mother to do so, the boy said “P-U-S-H.” His mother smiled and asked the boy to spell the word “love.” This time, the little boy admitted he could not. The mother hugged her son and told him that was how she felt about him.
Using this story as a preamble, let me borrow the advice of Richard Branson to give you my brief answer: “Train people well enough so they will leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” It’s one, basic, and simple strategy on employee retention. First of all, you must understand that your workers have certain expectations from you as their boss. Likewise, they also have expectations of what you should not do.
Of course, this varies to some extent depending on the individual worker and their personality quirks, career ambitions, family circumstances, and capacity to make their dreams happen. This means all workers do not have the same interests and dreams. But just the same, they respond to many basic and common management practices that are reasonable under the circumstances.
Therefore, you can manage your turnover rate by trying the following approaches:
One, have a work environment where everyone receives fair treatment. This means avoiding the appearance of favoritism in terms of individual relationships and the group as a whole. This includes giving equal distribution of the workload to all workers. At times, hard workers could become bitter if they’re continually being asked to do more compared to others, when they’re receiving the same pay and perks.
Two, maintain an active listening management posture to every concern. Don’t ignore any employee complaint, no matter how trivial it seems to your line supervisors and managers. Remember the wisdom of “small leaks can sink a great ship.” Create an Open Door Policy, if necessary. If a worker has some concerns about his job and the supervisor can’t solve the issue, allow people to go straight to you.
Three, establish a monthly two-way communication system with all workers. This includes presiding over a town hall meeting, hosting a birthday club, or whatever. You can go directly to the workers’ work stations or branches where you spend at least one hour presenting the company’s plans and programs. It is also a good avenue to answer questions using free online software that allows people to anonymously ask important questions.
Four, respect the workers’ opinions on how to make their jobs easy. You can only do this if you solicit their ideas and suggestions on a regular basis. You can do this by establishing a formal employee suggestion scheme or some form of quality circle. But whatever name you want to call your program, ensure that everything is resolved at the soonest possible time. If you can’t accept their ideas, be diplomatic in explaining why.
Fifth, be decisive on matters that are important to the workers. If the workers seek a decision on something, make a decision with the help of the concerned supervisor or manager. Don’t delay or make an appearance that you are delaying it in the hope they’ll forget all about it. Generally, workers lose their respect for a boss who can’t make a decision or delay it without reason. If you seek more information about an idea, simply tell the workers what’s needed.
Sixth, give proper on or off-the-job training for everyone who needs it. Check the result of the employees’ performance appraisal ratings and you will likely get an idea where to improve. Your organization need not pay for expensive programs to organize classroom training. In fact, a mentoring program with the help of supervisors or managers can go a long way.
Last, reward and recognize people based on their actual performance. And I’m not even thinking here of the Perfect Attendance Award, which I believe is the most ineffective approach to motivating people. In any case, be particular about the worker’s exceptional performance. Don’t settle for anything less than that. Give meritorious workers something they can be proud of.
In summary, create a situation where workers enjoy their work so much that they don’t have time to complain about pay. Imagine a frog telling another: “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” However, just like all other solutions, the above-stated prescription has an expiration date, not exceeding three years as you have wished for.
After three years, you need to revisit these approaches by fine-tuning them with innovative programs. Otherwise, workers may have to eventually succumb to lucrative job offers in due time. You’ll never know what happens to you until the exodus happens.
ELBONOMICS: Most of the time, what people need is plain respect for their dignity.