By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO.
Turnover is inevitable in every organization and company, large or small, public or private, for profit or not. However, why do some organizations (or divisions/teams within companies) have remarkably high turnover compared to others? This is a CRITICALLY important question to ask and examine within virtually every company, however, it’s rarely prioritized with STRATEGIC URGENCY. It’s been said by many that “a company’s greatest asset is its employees” and if that is the case, why don’t company leaders prioritize their people above everything else? I’ve worked with many CEO’s and boards, some of which have a great appreciation for their people from executives through the most junior team member. And I’ve also been exposed to many executive leaders and board members who have a less empathetic view of their people who are merely “staff” to execute on the top tier vision. Putting resources and capital towards culture, benefits, development, training, fun, and recognition is not an expense, they’re investments in the health of your company.
If someone turns over in their first year, it’s more than likely you should have never hired them in the first place and/or you should have invested more in them to ensure they were successful. And when a tenured (non-prima donna) rock star with self-sufficient performance walks out the door, you screwed up something along the way. Nothing is foolproof, but here are some clues and strategies to ensure your investments in people pay off:
Treat the Hiring Process with Respect
Hiring executives can sometimes be arrogant. It’s not ok to be 30 minutes late to the interview. It’s not ok to check your phone during an interview, especially without addressing that you did so. First impressions count. HR can be of great support in process facilitation, however, don’t have someone from HR do all of the communicating with an executive which sends the clear message “you’re not a priority to me or I’d have pinged you myself”. Of course, any candidate should be competing for an opportunity to join your company, but if they’re any good then you’re competing for their candidacy as well. Rock stars have options. Treat the interview process with a consistent balance of scrutiny coupled with ongoing courtship, and you’ll impress the candidate appropriately while also getting the most accurate reveal of who the candidate is (or isn’t). Additionally, don’t allow huge gaps in time between communication or your A-player candidates will vanish. And lastly, don’t get sketchy when it comes to offer terms and mediation. Be straightforward about what you can and can’t do, and always ensure you fully understand their motivations (besides cash) before you broker any offer, otherwise, you’re flying blind.
Set Them Up for Success Day One
First impressions count here too. When you go from a prospective employee to a team member, the love needs to continue. Have their office/cube ready, have their business cards printed and ready, have their laptop ready, have their company T-shirt or other warm welcomes ready. Have their materials ready. Have someone mentoring them the first day, ideally different people investing time with your future rock star over the course of the first week. Make whatever training they may attend organized and prepared. Have their expectations documented including agreed upon milestones and schedules. When onboarding is a success, retention success percentages skyrocket. If you’ve spent a dozen company hours interviewing this candidate (and maybe 20-50 interviewing others on the path) and are now paying salary and benefits and soaking up more internal resources’ time, why wouldn’t it be important to also ensure you increase retention success with successful onboarding processes? Seems simple, but plenty of companies don’t have much of a process. “Who has time for that?”… “but we are a startup”….so what. Get your methods and systems and direction down and implement them or you’ll be starting the interview process all over again and another 3-6 months behind. What does that cost?
Plaques, President’s Club, other awards are all great forms of recognition and are highly encouraged. Inclusion is another critical form of recognition. If you have a valuable team member, bring them under the tent. Seek out their opinions, give them projects to work on that are meaningful to the business. Provide exposure to the next tiers of management and the board, and praise them publicly at meetings or in email announcements or company news formats. Inclusion is much more appreciated than cash. Offer them performance feedback, be respectfully candid about areas they need to improve and offer ways or opportunities in which they can work on those skills. And btw, tell them when things are lean or challenging or a complete mess, they’ll appreciate being brought into the loop and thought of to help contribute towards the remedy. And for God’s sake, if they consistently perform at a high level over a tenured period of time, find a way to PROMOTE them. Give them added responsibilities, give them headcount, give them a budget or P&L. Don’t rationalize what you can’t do for them or you’ll be finding their far less proven replacement before you can blink.
Unlimited paid time off will provide your company with MORE productivity, not less. Allow flexible work schedules in general for anyone kicking butt at their position or days working from home if that’s helpful to their situation within reason. Your people have lives outside of your office which should be celebrated – enable them to attend their kid’s soccer game or school play and you’ll be building loyalty and appreciation. These same people will talk to others in the company about that cultural appreciation and that is exactly the type of water cooler chatter you want to take place! Send them to a conference for a learning or networking experience (doesn’t hurt when it’s in a nice location!). Celebrate their birthdays, go to happy hours, go bowling, play kickball, get out of the office for team building. Dress up at Halloween, have a holiday dinner party. And, yes, if you can build bonus programs tied to the team or company’s success that will absolutely drive a desire to perform for both the company and the individual.
There are many other factors that go into employee retention and satisfaction, and I’d love to hear your ideas on this subject as well! Happy hiring!