Archive for May, 2015

How not to Contribute to the Talent Shortage or What the Heck are my Supervisors Doing?

I have been watching some of the Mackinac Policy Conference live stream on Detroit Public TV online this week. You can find it at

One of the things I am hearing over and over again is that we have a talent shortage. Seems like it is a talent shortage everywhere in Michigan and it runs across occupations, from a shortage of engineers to a shortage of skilled tradespersons. It is a problem, a significant problem, and one that we are not going to be able to solve overnight. We will solve it, we will get people educated and motivated. But it is going to take time and we all know that. So what do we do in the meantime? I know, how about we spend a little time talking about keeping the talent we already have?

So let’s start with why people leave good jobs. If I asked you that question, what would you say? Would you say that people leave because they can get more money someplace else? You might, and a lot of people would agree with you. But you would be wrong.

In her article Strategies for Retaining Employees and Minimizing Turnover, Sarah K. Yazinski, an Admissions Counselor at the University of Scranton, cites strategic planning consultant Leigh Branham, SPHR, who claims:

“88% of employees leave their jobs for reasons other than pay: However, 70% of managers think employees leave mainly for pay-related reasons. Branham says there are seven main reasons why employees leave a company:

  1. Employees feel the job or workplace is not what they expected.
  2. There is a mismatch between the job and person.
  3. There is too little coaching and feedback.
  4. There are too few growth and advancement opportunities.
  5. Employees feel devalued and unrecognized.
  6. Employees feel stress from overwork and have a work/life imbalance.
  7. There is a loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.”

Think about that. 88% of people leave a job for reasons other than pay. And then think about the disconnect. 70% of managers think it is all about pay. I wonder why that is? I could speculate, but it wouldn’t be flattering. So what do you do, how do you keep people?   Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of She is also a contributing author to Forbes online. Ms. Bajic outlines 6 steps for retaining good employees:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  2. Coach rather than manage.
  3. Establish clear performance metrics and make employees accountable for delivering.
  4. Leverage performance reviews to gain insights into employee’ goals and aspirations.
  5. Create growth opportunities.
  6. Underscore positive feedback with something tangible.

You know what? I think that is a pretty good list. And when you take Ms. Bajic’s list and compare it to the reasons employees leave jobs, you see that there is a lot of overlap. I get too little coaching and feedback. No problem, we are going to coach rather than manage. I feel undervalued. No problem, we are going to provide something tangible (no, it does not have to be money) for positive performance. I can’t grow or advance. No problem, I will create growth opportunities.

And you know what else I find striking about Ms. Bajic’s suggestions? Every one of those 6 steps (except maybe number 5) is accomplished by frontline supervision. Sure, you need upper management buy-in. And yes, you need help from HR. But it is really about frontline management.

So ask yourself this, how equipped are your frontline supervisors to do this? Now be honest! And that gets us to what is the job of a supervisor. I’ve said this before and now I’m going to say it again, it is not making widgets, or breaks or bumpers. And if you think it is, then you are probably part of the disconnect. So, I’m a supervisor; what exactly do I do for a living?

The answer should be that I motivate and inspire people to do a better job. In short, I make sure I have happy people who are satisfied with their work so that they in turn can be more productive and make better widgets in a more cost-effective manner to contribute to the bottom line.

Is that what your supervisors do? Or better yet, are you hiring and promoting supervisors who have these talents? Do you screen for talents like communication skills and empathy? Or do you just promote the best widget maker? If you are doing the former, you are way ahead of the curve. If you are doing the latter, you have some work to do.

And that is where we start. Yes, we have a talent shortage and, yes, it is going to take time to develop that talent. So shouldn’t we do everything we can to keep the talent we have? Sure we should, and we do that by making sure that our frontline supervisors are equipped to do the job they should be doing. Motivating and inspiring people to do their jobs better and ensuring that they feel valued when they do. And we reward them when they do it right. So here is your homework. Take a look at what your criteria is for hiring and promoting supervisors. Are you screening for the right skill set? If not, change the criteria. And once that is done, ask yourself this: Are we rewarding supervisors properly? Are they judged simply on production numbers? If so, why? Why don’t we reward supervisors for lower employee turnover numbers? Why don’t we reward supervisors for increased employee job satisfaction? We should, and if we do we will keep the good people we have. And that is how we start solving the talent shortage problem. It is not the whole solution, but it is a start. And it is something we can do right now.

Department of Labor Issues Updated FMLA Forms

If you have been dealing with FMLA issues for the last month or so, you have probably noticed that the core FMLA forms available on the Department of Labor’s website expired on February 28, 2015. Or maybe you didn’t notice. If you didn’t, don’t worry, most people didn’t.

With very little, ok no, advance notice, the DOL over the Memorial Day holiday issued updated FMLA forms. The new forms are available on the DOL’s website. You can find them here:

I’m not entirely sure why it took the DOL so long to issue the new forms or why they felt they had to do it over the holiday with no notice. As far as I can tell from a quick review, the only substantive change in the forms from the expired ones is the addition of Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) language to the medical certification forms.

So, that stack of forms you printed out and have in a file cabinet? Throw them away and print out the new ones.