Help! I’m losing my best people and I can’t replace them! – Part 1.

As most of you know, the lawyers at good old WNJ go to a lot of events that you all attend, and sometimes we are presenting at those events.  We do things like panel discussions and programs on everything from Terms and Conditions to protecting your Intellectual Property.  And we talk about the law and take questions.  Lately we have been hearing a common theme in these questions, something that is clearly on your minds.  Whether you work in communications or human resources or purchasing, you are telling us:  “I can’t find and keep talented people.”  From the skilled trades to engineers, talented proficient employees are in short supply.  Now WNJ can’t make more engineers for you and we can’t teach employees to be electricians or welders –  we are exceptional lawyers, but we are not magicians.  So let’s focus on what we can help you do.  What we can help you do is retain the talent you have.  And no, this is not another employment lawyer telling you to sign all of your employees to covenants not to compete, although in some cases that might be a good idea.

(And by the way, I wrote about this about two years ago.  Must be we were having a talent shortage then too.  You can read that article here.  Some of this is going to sound strangely familiar after you do, but that is only because I cut and pasted from that blog post.)

Instead, we are going to focus on other ways to retain employees.  Soft skills, if you will, that might help you keep your really good employees.  What do you do?  I know, just pay them more.  Easy enough, right?  Of course that is not easy and that is not the answer.  The answer is a whole lot harder than that.  Tom Peters, who I am sure you know is a highly respected author and leadership consultant, is known for saying:  “Soft is hard.”     What does Mr. Peters mean by that?  Well, let’s use his words:

Yet a closer look reveals that for every quality program success    there were scores of misfires—programs, often absorbing vast amounts of time and sums of money, that produced little or nothing in the way of better quality or improved financial results, and in some situations made a slumping organization even more sluggish.

Though it’s dangerous to make such an assertion, in my view there was a singular reason for the mixed bag of results; and it was predictable from our excellence research—too much reliance on the apparently ‘hard’ procedures of, say, six-sigma programs and not enough attention to those underlying, apparently ‘soft’ attributes such as the respect for and engagement of the workforce.

*  * *

In the end: Hard is soft. Soft is hard. The traditionally viewed ‘soft’ variables such as ‘institutional culture’ and ‘inspired leadership’ are the principal keys to success—or failure.

You can see Mr. Peters’ whole paper here.  It is worth a read.  So Mr. Peters, back in 2012, was talking about things like “institutional culture” and “inspired leadership” and he has built on these ideas over the years.  But he is not the only one.

In order to retain employees, seems to me the first thing we need to know is why do people leave their jobs?  Again, we can go back to “they can make more money someplace else” but that can’t be the answer.  Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of the No. 1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, in an article he originally published on LinkedIn, gives nine primary reasons why people leave their jobs, and pay is not to be found among them.  Dr. Bradberry first says that “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”  Now I think that might be a bit too broad of a statement – clearly, some people do leave jobs where they have a manager they really like.  But this does raise a good point.  It is not always about the money.  In fact, it is rarely about the money.  Let’s go back to those nine things that Dr. Bradberry says are the worst things managers do that cause people to leave.  He says managers who lose good people tend to:

  1. Overwork good people.
  2. Not recognize contributions and reward good work.
  3. Don’t care about their employees.
  4. Don’t honor their commitments.
  5. Hire and promote the wrong people.
  6. Don’t let people pursue their passions.
  7. Fail to develop people skills.
  8. Fail to engage their employees’ creativity.
  9. Fail to challenge people intellectually.

You can see Dr. Bradberry’s whole article here – again, it is a good read.

In addition, in that blog post I wrote in 2015, I noted:

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.

Remember, it is here.

Now look at these two lists:  Quite a bit of overlap, right?  Could be we are on to something here.

Next time we will talk about what to do about all of this.