3 Pointers to Recruiting and Retaining Good Staff
Recently a senior executive of a good sized company (300+ employees) commented to me that they had a difficulty retaining their best trainees after they qualified. It seems as though too many of the ones they want to keep go on to other employers within about a year of qualifying.
Let’s consider a "for instance":
"Harry" started his training in one division of a well known company and, after 3 years, was transferred to another division. He finished his apprenticeship (a 4 year process in total) in June 2011. He was immediately nominated for advanced training and, over the last 10 months, has completed 25 additional courses that enhance his knowledge and employability. All these courses have been paid for by his employer. Harry absolutely loves his work and is nominated by his manager as the best technician in the division. As a result he gets most of the challenging work and he has a record of completing jobs on time, within budget, and to a very high quality standard.
But Harry's boss in this division fits the PPM (Piss Poor Management) profile. Harry answers to a foreman, who answers to a controller, who answers to a manager, who answers to a general manager. Until recently the controller was the foreman and the manager was fully aware of the constant concerns by Harry and the other techs about their foreman allowing new apprentices to follow questionable work practices and of taking short cuts in repair work rather than doing a job properly the first time. Eventually their frustration forced the manager to act - so he promoted the foreman! To the relief of Harry and the other techs, one of their peers - a person they respected and trusted - was then appointed foreman. Now, everyone hoped, things would improve. They haven't. No matter how much the new foreman tries to have things done the way they should be, he is stymied by the controller and the manager.
The General Manager and, above him, the Group CEO, should be aware of this issue. But, if they are aware, they're doing nothing. They see the division reaping the benefits from the quality and quantity of work done by Harry and his fellow techs - but they ignore immoral (and sometimes illegal) behaviour of the manager and controller. They are oblivious to the frustration felt and expressed by the foreman, Harry, and the other techs. The result? Harry, the foreman, all the other qualified techs, and the top 3 apprentices are seeking other jobs.
Harry and his colleagues are leaving because this division of their organisation doesn't have a culture that encourages high performance by everyone. They've had their fill of PPM.
Now I don't know the situation in the company represented by the person I was talking with recently - we haven't got to any detailed chatting yet - but I do know that poor leadership is one of the key factors in organisations losing good staff - especially younger people. Good people don't work for bad bosses.
Many years ago I did my PhD research on the issue of labour turnover – why do people leave companies and what are the costs of replacing them? One of my key findings was that almost always the problem was one of management quality!
So, what are some clues for keeping good staff?
1. Have a good recruitment and selection process.
Most people who leave their organisation within the first 12 months do so because either the person or the company realises that there’s not a good fit. No matter what you do, you’ll never totally eliminate this issue because (surprise! surprise!) both recruiters and prospective employees sometimes say what they think the other wants to hear rather than what is actually the truth.
Some critical aspects of a good recruitment and selection process are:
- Have an up-to-date position description that makes it clear what the person will actually be doing. If possible, get the current incumbent to help prepare this document.
- Focus on the competencies required in order to do what is to be done and explore the potential to develop future required competencies.
- Tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about your organisation and expect to receive the same back from your applicant. Probe for truth when necessary – and expect to receive probing back in return.
- Be very clear about the actual values practiced in your organisation (as opposed to those that are espoused then largely neglected) and check for real compatibility between these and the values held by your applicant – the closer these are, the higher the likelihood that you will be able to work together effectively.
- Always sight the originals of any documentation even if “certified copies” are presented.
- Especially when dealing with more than one applicant, have and use a standard set of questions and a check list for the interview process.
- Be timely in your decision process – the employee you want is probably wanted by other prospective employers, too!
When any new person starts with your organisation, set them on the right path from the outset. No matter how busy you may be, spending adequate time (in their view not yours!) with a new employee right at the start of their employment (like, immediately they get there!) will be the most important investment you can make in that person.
- Have a check list of everything that needs to be covered and give a copy of this to the new employee.
- Ensure all key policies are provided in writing as well as explained verbally.
- Walk the new employee around the organisation so that they are familiar with its geography. Introduce him or her to everyone.
- Make your performance expectations very clear and also make it clear how assessment will be done against these performance standards. Remember that no matter how qualified and experienced the new person may be, there will be some things in your organisation that are done differently from what happens elsewhere.
- Clearly explain your employee development program and show how the induction process fits in to this. Agree an initial personal development program with your new employee and agree on how this will be monitored and updated.
- Walk your talk!
In too many organisations, individual performance success is a random variable. It is always a tragedy when people can only succeed despite their managers and leaders.
When you employ someone, you are investing in them or, if you aren’t the business owner, you are making an investment on behalf of the owners. And all owners want a return on their investments.
The characteristics of leaders who retain staff and who run high performing units and/or organisations are really quite simple:
- they focus on both quality and quantity of performance without micro managing – they seek to empower rather than to control
- they understand their job and they do it properly
- they engage with others as individuals rather than seeking to obtain obedience or compliance
- they are collaborative and facilitative
- they encourage growth and self directed learning by everyone
- they respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return
- they invite questions and genuine discussion
- they ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions
- they listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions
- they are totally non discriminatory in thought, word and action
- emotionally safe
- unconditionally respected
- believed in as individuals
- listened to
The organisation Harry works for was very good on the first 2 of these. He’s leaving because the division in which he works has really screwed up on the third.
If you want to retain your best people, start by getting rid of PPM and develop the right organisational culture. Only good management and good leadership at every level and in every location will retain the best people in the long term.