Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Keeping good staff

I was chatting with a few people at a Business Breakfast this morning when one of them, a senior executive of a good sized company (300+ employees) commented that they had a difficulty retaining their best apprentices after they qualified. It seems as though too many of the one's they want to keep go on to other employers within about a year of qualifying.

Lets consider a "for instance":

"Harry" (not his real name) finished his apprenticeship 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 company. 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 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 constant complaints by Harry and the other techs related to their foreman allowing 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 company 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 all seeking other jobs.

Now I don't know the situation in the company represented by the person I was talking with this morning - 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.

In a recent article ( I set out the characteristics of leaders who retain staff and who run high performing units and/or organisations:
  • 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
Because of these characteristics, they are able to create environments in which people feel:
  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

Harry and his colleagues are leaving because because their organisation doesn't have a culture that encourages high performance by everyone. They've had their fill of PPM.

If you want to retain your best people, start by getting rid of PPM and develop the right culture.

Do you agree? Please make your comments below.

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