The Truth About Employee Retention

Hey Business Leaders…so you’ve decided that employee retention is an issue. Here’s not news… It’s your fault. Well, not entirely, but you can do more than anyone else to solve it.

It’s true that retention is an issue. You should already know these facts: The job market for those looking to switch is excellent. 10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily, and replacing them with less experienced people is creating huge problems. Your HR people will tell you statistically that employee turnover is way too high. Add the costs and time of finding someone new, training them and getting them to the point where they’re adding the amount of value that you just lost, and you’ll cringe. I’ll bet you already know that. Add up the costs anyway… it will drive you harder to do something about it.  This article is about doing the right things.

You’ve also likely heard that the number one reason people leave is because of their bosses. That’s you. You may be in denial, or you may be an awesome leader and suspect it’s something else. Either way, YOU are the key person that can improve the situation.

Here are a list of things others suggest that are nice, but won’t solve the problem: pay more, add a bonus program, host a few days out, enable employees to volunteer somewhere on company time, increase employee recognition during meetings, provide more training, have cookouts.

Here’s what does work:

  1. You need to be a real person.
  2. They need a worthy cause that they believe in. One that they work on all day, every day. Their job must contribute to a worthy cause.

Both “real person” and “worthy cause” are related, both are important, and you have a key role in both. I won’t touch the “real person” issue here… but I will share some “worthy cause” insight.

  • Employees spend a huge percentage of their waking hours at work. If they feel they are wasting their time, you’ll either have retention problems, or if they stay, you’ll have morale problems.
  • The “worthy cause” needs to be something about their regular, full-time job that THEY care about, not what you care about.
  • “Making the quarter” is a piss-off factor for most who aren’t on a bonus plan. It’s also not much of a retention factor for those who are on a plan. Further, other companies will pay more, and you’ll lose your workers if that’s all you’ve got.
  • It’s YOUR job to identify, discuss, remind, support and THANK people for helping those worthy causes succeed. Words and ACTIONS matter here.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “worthy cause”, please note:  I’ve been motivated (and retained) because of many “worthy causes” shared during my career. Here are some REAL ones from the mouths of my leaders:

  • “What’s the right thing to do for the customer?” – John McDermott, Rockwell Automation. (I’ll back doing the right thing & helping my customer all day long)
  • “There are 200+ people and their families working here that count on us to get it right, so that the business stays healthy.” – Chirag Dua, Rexnord. (I’m all for keeping hard-working people employed)
  • “This has never been done before” – Steve Biegacki, Rockwell Automation & Belden. (I love new challenges, and Steve knew this was a key motivator for me).

These kinds of “worthy causes”, shared often by excellent leaders and backed with their support and actions, have made my jobs the best. Retention solved.

Brian Oulton is President and Founder of Business Sense LLC. His company helps automation and technology leaders maximize their marketing & sales investments.  He has over 30 years of industrial automation experience working with Rockwell Automation, Cisco, Belden/Hirschmann, Rexnord, and many others.

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