I believe it was management consultant Peter Drucker who said that the purpose of a business is to win a customer. That may have been true in the days of American bandstands where you shared a hop with socks and you shared a malt with your best girl, but I argue there are other considerations , although equally critical, in today’s culture. Have you tried posting a HELP WANTED sign lately? How does it work for you? Last summer, my fourteen-year-old daughter worked to help prepare culinary delights for the local farmer’s market for $16 an hour – cash. CASH?! Yes, she was paid cash at the end of each shift. Holy Big Big Bucks Batman. She and a charming old lady, matron, spiced up whipped butter to a level unknown to mankind and sold every ounce of it on Saturday mornings for a huge profit. BAM! It was a great experience for my daughter, or so I’m told. The point is, it’s a labor market, and we’re smart to recognize that this challenge could very well force us into massive change for the better.
Just like a sale can’t be closed until it’s opened, neither can you turn the closed sign to open without employees doing all the work you don’t feel like or have the time to do. Amidst all the recent societal changes, it must be a real flash-bang for the old timers who used to request behaviors of their employees who must now see things a little differently.
Retention starts from day one
Here are some new-age tips for you on company culture and how it can improve your employee retention. I’m sure your company’s culture and mission speaks to customer service. But if he also mentions the words family or quality, aren’t you having the integrity to enrich the lives of your employees in the deepest way so that they can serve your customers and live up to the commitment that you take towards your community? Let’s face it, everyone from the janitor to the CFO needs to perform at their highest level for the company to win. You can expect a lot from your employees, but you better give a lot too.
I had a business partner who, raised in college retail rather than the mean streets, insisted on making a fuss about referring to employees as “team members”, as if that word implied a closer bond between the company and the employee. “Hey…. We’re teammates! Isn’t that fantastic? I’ve seen a lot of employees on his team who didn’t feel like a teammate. Just because you call them a teammate doesn’t mean they are one. The words were there, but they lacked the DNA of a real team. Kurt Russell played Herb Brooks in the Disney movie Miracle. As the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, he said the name on the front of the jersey was much more important than the name on the back. With this statement, he defined the emotion behind the word “team”. When you are in a team, it feels. I was on a fringe beer league hockey team a few years ago. We won a few, we lost a few, but we skated hard for each other and we were a team. We could feel it in the culture we created.
Captain Michael Abrashoff wrote a book called It’s your boat, and I highly recommend it. When he was given command of his own ship, the Navy ordered him to command arguably the worst destroyer in the fleet; last in all. His crew was cursed with a bad attitude and lousy performance ratings. During his shift week, he noticed some things he didn’t like and took notes. Slowly, he lifts the morale of the crew, sailor by sailor, and makes the boat one of the best in the navy. When I decided to swap offices with my partner to give the store a facelift, I used the same methods Captain Abrashoff used for his men, and it worked like a charm.
Embody your corporate culture
• It starts with PRIDE. If people are embarrassed by their association with their workplace, you should understand why there is such negativity.
• Generate unity by talking about the mission each day and how to do things better. “You have ideas about _______” is a great way to get people out and grow.
• Don’t give up on people until you’ve exhausted all opportunities to train them or cross-train them.
• Give responsibility to the responsible people to do the work every day. In modern business parlance, they are called stakeholders and let them own their work. I think you’ll find all sorts of good things happen when you loosen the reins a bit.
• Go out of your own way. Ask your prospects in the areas you are not comfortable with offering solutions. Good leadership means you may not have all the answers, and that’s okay.
• Give skin in the game. People who have a little fire in their bellies will want to have the opportunity to flourish, to be recognized and to bring in more money for their family. Call it commission or performance-based pay, but set clear and accessible benchmarks, let them earn, and enjoy the smiles of a great thing called job satisfaction.
• I will say it, but I shouldn’t have to. A recent Gallup study found that 65% of people leave their jobs because of their managers or someone up the chain. Don’t be that person and don’t let anyone who manages people for you be that person. The people who work for you are people like you and people you love. They are not pawns that anyone controls. The opportunity exists to develop and nurture them to be fulfilled and enriched at work and by the people they work with.
There is no secret sauce to employee retention. But starting with embodying your company culture is the main ingredient. Make sure you have a life enrichment policy from those who are committed to working hard to help you achieve your dream. Wouldn’t you rather be supported by someone who is happy in their role within their company? Whether it’s a salesperson, delivery driver, warehouse professional, manager, or anyone else on the team, I want them all to be excited to do what they are doing and that they have the impression that their path fulfills them. Not you ?