I was recently involved in a discussion about the question “Why do so many losers get hired and promoted?” The discussion eventually led to how one reduces employee turnover. Employee turnover is very costly, and is unavoidable. The AMA did a survey that showed 25% of companies were ineffective at retaining high performing employees.
Employees no longer feel loyalty to their companies. It has also been proven that financial incentives don’t prevent people from leaving. Companies that offer bonuses and options are often the ones with the greatest turn-over. Compensation should be competitive within the industry, but it is a bad strategy to use it to retain employees.
So, what works? Spending time with subordinates and getting to know them. The biggest complaint often heard is that “nobody listens to them”. Peter Drucker said that, “Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.” However, the one meeting that he encouraged and stated that 15 minutes was far too short a time, was the performance review.
Most companies have adopted the policy of quarterly, semi-annual or annual performance reviews. This is far too long a period of time to wait to have a meaningful discussion with a subordinate. Even when the performance review is held, it is usually an uncomfortable situation where surprises frequently surface. And the policy of linking salary with this type of discussion makes it even more tenuous.
Drucker recommended frequent and relaxed conversations with subordinates, taking 30 minutes or more. It often takes that long to build rapport and understand the problems they are facing. Asking them questions like: What are your greatest areas of stress? Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?, this is done before discussing the assignment and may expose problems that you can do something about. After you develop rapport with a subordinate you can focus on the assignment that you delegated to them. How are they doing in the assignment? What roadblocks are they encountering? What can be done better? Are there any skills that they feel need improving? Do they feel like they are getting the support that they need?
The key is to ask questions, then listen to the answers and fix those things within your power. If this was done, we’d likely have far fewer “losers”.