“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do that.”
Client Charles Asks: I have a real problem with attrition. I ask my team if there’s anything wrong. They all say everything is fine. But then then resign and leave for another job. The cost of training new hires is just killing me. I have to find out how to retain my employees. Can you help?
Coach Joel Answers: Charlie, I’m pleased that you have several things right. You are aware of the high cost of replacing good workers. Not just the cost of hiring and training, but also the cost of lost productivity while the new employees learn.
And you are looking for a real solution to the problem of employee retention. It’s often hard for employees to feel free to open up about a problem. Here are some reasons workers might not be free to share concerns or problems with the company.
The company culture does not encourage free speaking. It might be that any criticism of the company is met with repression.
- The boss may not really encourage criticism or negativity. If employees have an issue with the leadership style of the boss, it’s unlikely they will be forthcoming with reasons why they are leaving.
- Co-workers or other leaders may be caustic and unhealthy for workers and it’s easier to leave than try to change the system.
Charles, since you have not had success with asking your employees for honest feedback, try asking those that are leaving. Many companies have success with a survey about employee retention after their resignation.
Here are some ways to do that.
1. Create a written survey. First, you want to set a program in place. You can’t just say, “Jack, on your way out the door, do you want to tell me why you’re going?” Talk to HR. Make a list of questions you’d like answered. You want your questions to be easy to answer and to invite an honest response. They might be something like this.
- What motivated you to seek a different job?
- What elements of our company or team could be improved upon?
- What changes might have encouraged you to stay?
- If you had been the manager, what would you have done differently?
- What three (or more) things would you recommend to create happier employees?
2. Hold an exit interview. Second, after the resignation, you need to structure time for an exit interview. I would recommend giving the employee the retention survey before meeting with him.
And I suggest reviewing it and having a little time between seeing the survey and talking to the employee. Criticism is always tough to take. Your initial reaction will likely be defensive. This is not productive.
If you want to solve your retention problem, you need to find out why your employees are resigning. The purpose of this exit interview is to find out more. Do the answers to the survey leave you needing more information?
Suppose Jack says, “Everyone was so negative” Wouldn’t you like to know who “everyone” is and how that negativity was demonstrated?
3. Collate results. Just because Jack says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. But if several of your departing employees mention a problem, you have some answers to your retention problem.
Charles, you will not solve this problem overnight. But if you survey employees about their retention after their resignation, you are more likely to get truthful answers. Even if the results are uncomfortable, you have a starting point to change and improve.
Are you struggling with employee retention? Executive coaching can change organizational dynamics and make great changes in productivity. Email Joel to see if coaching might be an answer to your team’s attrition.
Talkback: Have you ever used a survey for employees after their resignation? How has it helped you to retain your workers?
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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
~ Helen Keller ~
Client Stephanie asks: I’m really disappointed! I paid a lot of money for a business career development program. It promised to give me all the knowledge I needed to really move my career forward. Then I invested all this time and effort. And I really haven’t seen any results at all. I feel cheated.
What should I look for in career development programs, so I can really see my business career take off?
Coach Joel Answers: First, you need to set realistic expectations for all business career development programs. They are not the be all and end all of career advancement. They can play a key role in growing your skills and knowledge, but they have limits.
Typically they give you knowledge and skill sets, but they don’t always tailor the class to your needs. Nor do they analyze your progress in a real-job way or give you opportunities to implement what you’ve learned.
Even after the course you need to practice implementation, gain visibility and influence, and work with your boss to find places to put your new skills into practice.
Assuming you are doing everything right, here are some valuable keys to uncover strong business development programs– programs which might help with your career growth.
1. Not all programs address the same thing. Some focus on new graduates and helping them find jobs or learn about career opportunities in different businesses. So if you’re just out of college, these may be great programs for you.
If you are further down the experience path, these programs will not move your career along. So as you investigate a program, ask who its intended participants are. What are the specific skills, knowledge, abilities they will teach?
2. Evaluate your own career goals. Stephanie, look at the current skills you have and the areas you need to improve. Will this particular business program address the weak areas you want to strengthen?
Don’t hesitate to call the school or company offering it and ask in depth questions. This is your time and money. You need to see that it profits you.
3. Will you get knowledge or application? Simple book learning or even audio or video learning can only take you so far. Do you have a chance to apply what you learn? Do you have interaction with other employees, role playing, modeling and other ways to practice your new found skills?
4. How much feedback will you get? Sometimes we cannot see our weaknesses. We might think we are being direct. Others may see it as an attack. Will your business career development program give you the kind of feedback that will be meaningful to you?
Stephanie, you may find your career needs more individual attention than a career development program can give you. At times you’ll get more rapid advancement through a mentoring program or a coaching program.
Your business may also have a strong career development program you are not familiar with. It may let you try out different areas in the company. It may help you work on new skills, find new opportunities to grow, and give you frequent feedback. Check with your boss or HR department.
5. Look at the credentials of the business offering the program. Do they have a history of success? Can you talk to other graduates and learn the strengths and shortcomings they found in the program? Are they well known?
Do they have books, articles, or other resources you can review for free? Then you can see their philosophy, teaching style, and content. You can see if it will be a comfortable fit for you.
Stephanie, I know it hurts to feel you’ve wasted your money. However, every experience can be a learning experience. Now you know what to look for in strong business career development programs.
When you search again, you will have the fundamentals necessary to make a good investment choice.
If you are uncertain whether a career development program would help you advance at this stage in your career, contact Joel. He will help you see the best path for you to use to advance your career.
Talkback: How have you invested in business career development? Have you used a program you thought was effective… or not very effective?
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“What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise — although the philosophers generally call it ‘recognition’!”
~ William James ~
Hey managers, do you remember way back when in the distant past (about five years ago) when the economy was steamrolling along. Those were good times weren’t they? Or were they? Business was booming, but at the same time, it seemed like employees were in a continuous cycle of moving from one job to the next. Unless you were some sort of managerial superstar, you likely found it difficult to hang onto good employees for very long.
Since that time the reverse has been true. In the interim, have you become content with the fact that your employees are going to stick around out of a lack of other options? Well it’s time to wake up. The economy is coming out of its long slumber and so should your efforts at keeping and rewarding your employees. Below are some ideas for rewarding your employees and keeping them motivated and loyal.
1. Offer flexible hours
Recognize that some employees have circumstances that would be greatly improved with a little flexibility on your part. Do you have an employee that needs to get their children off to school in the morning? Allowing that person to come in a little later to accommodate their schedule builds loyalty. Similarly, you could accommodate the schedules of those that typically face a long commute because of rush hour traffic.
2. Give public awards
Offering public awards for reaching specific goals is another way to keep your employees motivated and engaged in the workplace. Something as simple as a plaque or an acrylic award will be appreciated when accompanied with a sincere thank you. Make sure the awards are appropriate to the recipient. The more useful they are the better they will be appreciated as well.
3. Provide a meal
Recognize a well done team effort with food. Everybody loves to eat and socialize, so this could be a useful way to say thanks and reap the benefits of a team building experience. If you want to keep it simple have someone bring in a variety of sandwiches or desserts during a meeting or other event. Or go big and have a hot meal catered. If you want to get out of the office take the team out to dinner.
4. Give employee’s some time off
Show your appreciation for your employees by giving them some time off throughout the year aside from their sick and vacation days. Get creative. Give them time off to volunteer for their favorite charity. Or as a bonus, take an employee to lunch on Friday and then give them the rest of the afternoon off. Perhaps some would prefer to come in late on a Monday instead. These sorts of experiences will create loyalty and keep your employees less likely to jump ship when another opportunity comes along.
5. Buy into your employee’s continued success
Invest in the future success of your employee by helping them better their careers. Make room for advancement from within the organization. Help them grow, even if doing so may lead them to opportunities outside your company. An employee that feels stagnated in his position is going to eventually move on.
Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes on topics ranging from business communication, productivity, employee satisfaction, and corporate awards.
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“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
~ Vince Lombardi ~
Geoffrey’s been totally focused on doing the best job he can. He’s been very intent on making sure his job gets done, and done right. He felt sure this would help him advance his career more quickly.
But when his boss didn’t seem to value Geoffrey’s contributions, he got concerned. What did his boss really want? Why wasn’t doing his job, good enough?
His goal was executive leadership. To do that, he realized he needed to make some changes.
He needed to make sure his work corresponded with the priorities of his boss and of the CEO.
Here are four things Geoffrey did to align his views with the current executive leadership.
- Assess. Spend time thinking about what the CEO might be thinking about. Put yourself into his place. What do you think keeps him awake at night? What worries him? What are the challenges he faces? When you look through his eyes you get a sense of what his priorities are and where he’s focusing his attention.
- Interact. Communicate with other peers and listen to their sense of what is important in the company. Geoffrey needed to get beyond just his work. He needed to reach out and connect with others. As he asked their views on the top goals and values of the company he did two things.
First, he learned what to focus on to make his work valuable to his boss and move his career forward. Second he showed respect and interest in the opinions and leadership views of others. As he engaged them, they came to know and trust him as well. He widened his sphere of influence.
- Ask. Geoffrey was direct. He asked his boss and the CEO what their values and priorities were. He did this during meeting times in a public arena. He also requested weekly or monthly one-on-one feedback times. During those times, he discussed the company and CEO priorities and how he could best align his job with those priorities.
- Communicate. Based on the feedback Geoffrey got from peers and boss, he formulated a plan. He wrote down the work he needed to do and how it supported the priorities of the boss. Then he shared it with his boss—and the CEO, as in the case of Geoffrey’s small company—for their feedback.
This increased his visibility with the boss and the CEO. It showed Geoffrey was concerned about giving value to the company and making his work productive and effective. It also allowed for corrections quickly and easily if Geoffrey’s assessment was off course.
When Geoffrey started implementing this plan of action, he saw immediate results. He focused his efforts on the things that really mattered to the boss and CEO and received high praise. His interactions with his peers harvested trust and acceptance. Geoffrey is acting like an executive leader and is moving toward that leadership position.
For help on how you can step up to executive leadership in your work and capabilities contact Joel.
Talkback: What have you done to insure your work is aligned with the priorities of your boss or CEO?
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“It is within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO.”
~ Martha Stewart ~
Lindsey is frustrated. She’s been with her company for several years now and she feels stuck. She’s not assigned to work on her department’s high visibility projects. Her boss ignores her in staff meetings. She is beginning to lose her edge. She’s considering looking for another position, but the job market is a scary place right now. Is there a way she can turn the job she has into the job she wants?
Lindsey shares her dilemma with some women in other companies and learns that they have used business coaches to help them move ahead at work. She gets some recommendations and starts working with an executive coach of her own. After a couple of coaching sessions, she begins to operate with a brand new business plan.
• Become the CEO of You, Inc.
• Play the role
• Ask for feedback
1. Become the CEO of You, Inc. Before Lindsey can become a CEO, she needs to treat herself like one. This means setting short and long term goals and conducting periodic self-evaluations to see how she’s doing. Her first month’s goal is to get assigned to her department’s next high profile project. She begins by drafting a memo to her boss outlining her past accomplishments and skills she knows are relevant to the project.
Acting like a CEO also means creating her own personal brand, an executive presence that shows off her unique skills and her contributions to the company’s success. Lindsey wants to be seen as someone who is both assertive and creative. She starts coming to staff meetings with notes on at least one important contribution she can make to the discussion.
2. Play the role. Writing in Business Leader, Thomas Walken says: “Women managers in traditional male organizations learn the good ol’ boy rules, but rely on their own strengths to become leaders. Taking risks, curbing maternal over-responsibility, and developing flexibility and confidence prevent derailment on the way to top CEO positions.”
In other words, executive presence doesn’t just happen. It must be designed, rehearsed, and constantly cultivated. Lindsey’s coach, who specializes in helping women move ahead in the workplace, recommends that she write down her negative feelings and beliefs about her current job situation. She can then find ways to flip those feelings into positive statements. For example, “My boss ignores me in staff meetings” could become “My performance gives my boss reasons to trust me and recognize my contributions.” Internalizing these positive statements helps Lindsey feel more confident in meetings and interactions with top managers.
3. Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to find out how you’re doing is to ask. Women in business sometimes have a difficult time speaking up for themselves for fear of appearing too aggressive. Thus the perception others have of them doesn’t fit with their true value. Lindsey’s coach suggests that she track her progress by getting feedback from a number of sources. She asks friends and family how they perceive her. After staff meetings, she asks a trusted colleague to evaluate her performance. And she keeps a file of positive comments she receives from clients and co-workers.
Three months after she started working with her coach, Lindsey’s whole world has started to change. She sees herself and her job differently, and now her boss and others in positions of authority perceive her differently as well.
Business coaching for women works. Email Joel today to discuss the possibilities or call him at 510-339-3201.
Talkback: Are you feeling overlooked or ignored at work? Having trouble speaking up for yourself? Have you tried some techniques that helped you get noticed? Share your story here.
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