Sample Chapter from Chapter 2:
Buck: It Stops HereI think my manager actually could have kept me. But I don't think he ever saw it as his job.
When we ask supervisors and managers how they keep good people, many immediately respond, "With money." Research suggests that 89 percent of managers truly believe it's largely about the money.1 These managers put the responsibility for keeping key people squarely in the hands of senior management. They blame organizational policies or pay scales for the loss of talent.
Well, the truth is, you matter most. If you are a manager at any level, a front-line supervisor or a project leader, you actually have more power than anyone else to keep your best employees. Why? Because the factors that drive employee satisfaction and commitment are largely within your control. And the factors that satisfy employees are the ones that keep them on your team. Those factors haven't changed much over the past 25 years. Many researchers2 who have studied retention agree on what satisfies people and therefore influences them to stay: meaningful, challenging work, a chance to learn and grow, fair compensation, a good work environment, recognition and respect. Don't you want that?
It's Up to You
A good boss who cares about employees will help talented people find those things in their work. We're not saying you travel this road alone. Senior management and your organization's policies, systems and culture have an impact on your ability to keep talented people. You may have human resources professionals who can help support your efforts. And yet, because of what research tells us about why people leave their jobs and organizations, you still have the greatest power (and responsibility) for keeping your talented employees.
There's nothing I can do about our brain drain. The competition is offering more money and better perks. We don't stand a chance.
-Manager, retail pharmacy
You do stand a chance. Your relationship with employees is key to their satisfaction and decisions to stay or leave. One study found that 50 percent of worklife satisfaction is determined by the relationship a worker has with his or her immediate boss.3 In other words, you matter.
Insofar as employee commitment exists, it is to the boss, to the team, and to the project. That's different from loyalty, which previously was to the name on the building or to the brand. Therefore, any retention strategy must be driven by individual managers and supervisors, not just the folks in human resources.
-President of Aon Consulting Institute
On the Line
Most of you are in charge of certain assets. You are held accountable for protecting those assets and for growing them. Today, your most critical assets are people, not property. Outstanding people give you and your organization a competitive advantage. Regardless of the job market, you no doubt want to hold on to your best. How are you doing that?
Are you responsible for selecting and keeping talented people? We heard of a CEO who charged $30,000 to a manager's operating budget because he needlessly lost a talented person. The buck really did stop there! We're not suggesting that managers be punished when their people are promoted or move on to learn something new. You will inevitably lose some talented employees occasionally, especially as they pursue their career dreams. But we do recommend that managers be held accountable for being good managers and for creating a retention culture where people feel motivated, cared about and rewarded.
Calling All Managers of Managers
If managers report to you, do you hold them accountable for the team they manage? How? You've probably heard the maxim that busy people do what is inspected not necessarily what is expected. Honest efforts to keep good people should be expected because those people build your business. If you do manage others, you may need to invent some inspection or accountability mechanisms. Here are some options.
TO DO . . .
Devise a Retention Commitment Process
- List all 26 strategies in this book (use Table of Contents for summary) on a paper or electronic form. Or have your team narrow the 26 down to 10 or so that it thinks are the most appropriate for your culture.
- Ask each of your managers or supervisors to commit to two that they are willing to implement within the next six months. Have them circle and initial those two and return a copy of the form to you.
- Six months later, ask them to return their retention commitment forms to you with a description of what they did for each of the strategies they committed to.
TO DO . . .
Create a Retention Appraisal
- List all chapter headings from this book on a form. (Or limit it to the ones you select, as above.)
- Ask each of your managers to rate themselves on each strategy, using a one-to-five scale.
- Then (if you dare . . . and if they dare) ask them to distribute blank forms to their direct reports. Let their direct reports tell it like it is by rating them on a one-to-five scale.
- Reward those who get serious, and have a chat with those who don't.
Want one more?
TO DO . . .
- Send the following memo (edit it to your liking) to your direct reports. Tape it to the front of this book. Hold a meeting in two weeks, and talk about their reactions.
From: Your Manager
RE: Retaining the Talented People on Our Team
This memo is written to everyone who manages people. I need your help. I am concerned about the war for talent that I have been reading about and how it affects our work group. We want to be the best at what we do. We want not only to survive but to thrive in the coming years. Our success depends on our ability to recruit and retain the very finest people. Our talent is our competitive edge.
I think your role is critical. While pay, perks, and benefits do matter, people stay or leave based on other factors, many of which are actually in your hands.
So here is my request. Read this book. As you read it, think about what you are currently doing to retain the talent on your team. Pick just one retention strategy from the A-Z list provided in this book. Give it a try. See what happens. I want to know about it.
I'm calling a series of monthly meetings. We'll all talk about the strategies that work and those that don't. Read the "ALAS" stories too. I think we'll have some of our own to add to the list. Let's talk about why they happened-and how to prevent more of them.
First meeting: Conference Room A at 8:30.
If you're not a manager of managers, hold yourself accountable. Look at the talented people you are responsible for leading and for keeping in the organization. Decide which strategies in this book you could use right away to increase the odds that they will stay.
So They Go
So what? Can't you just replace them? You might be able to replace your key people, but at what cost? Multiple research studies suggest that the cost of replacing key people runs between 70 and 200 percent of the person's annual salary. One study found that the top three reasons for implementing retention programs in organizations are:4
Losing an employee costs between 6 and 18 months' pay.
Hi-tech workers, professionals and managers cost twice as much as other employees to replace.
Many hidden costs are incurred through lost sales and lost customers.
Even if you can afford to replace them, will you be able to find talented replacements? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 151 million jobs by the year 2006 and 141 million people employed. Many of those workers will be working two jobs.5 Alan Greenspan declared in February 1999 that the limiting factor to the U.S. continued economic growth is people. He said that there are simply not enough people to feed the economic machine.
Meanwhile we read about Amazon.com and other organizations being sued for talent theft. The message is clear. Talented people are scarce and will continue to be scarce. If you have them working on your team, you had better try your best to keep them.
TO DO . . .
- Pay attention to the research about what keeps people. Note that most of the proven strategies are within your control.
- If you manage managers, hold them accountable for hiring and keeping good people in the organization. Establish clear expectations and measure results. People will do what is inspected more than what is expected.
- Do just one thing. Choose a chapter in this book and try a strategy. See how it works. Modify and adapt it to fit your needs. Then try another.
The buck really does stop here. You have the power to greatly influence your talented employees' decisions about staying on your team. Show that you care about them and their needs. Remember them. Notice them. Listen to them. Thank them. Love them or lose them.