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The Most Important Job in Your Business May Surprise You!


Narcissists will always believe they occupy the most important role in any company.  They are corrupted by their own image of importance.  This corruption clouds reality by the misappropriation of priority.  Some might think the CEO is most important. They are the savior or the visionary.  Others might say sales since they bring business to the table.  And a few (with a servant mentality) might say the front-line employee because they make things happen.  In reality, it is none of these positions that truly need focus in today’s super-heated job market.  If retention is important for your business, read on!

According to Gallup, 89% of employers believe money is the reason most people leave a job, when in reality only 12% leave for more money.  This lack of understanding drives organizations to make poor decisions when addressing the growing concerns associated with high turnover.  At a recent book signing, a 27 year old chemical engineer informed me that he is on his 3rd professional job since graduating from college 4 years earlier.  When I asked him about it, he simply stated that he would be foolish to stay if something better existed elsewhere.  With 70% of employees not engaged on the job, there is no incentive to stay when better opportunities might exist.

A Corporate Leadership Council study revealed that 87% of engaged employees are less likely to leave the job. And another study by Kenexa of 64 companies discovered twice the annual net income of organizations whose employees have poor engagement. Methods to improve employee engagement are the riddles that most companies are trying to solve.  A Hay Group survey claims a 2.5X increase in revenues for companies with higher employee engagement over those without.  Put plainly, the higher the morale, the higher the productivity and vice versa.  And just like the search for six-pack abdominals, the answer is neither simple nor easy unless we are genetically predisposed to have low body fat and high muscle definition. 

We are entering an era with greater than fifty percent turnover being the new normal.  Millennials will simply walk off your job and disappear without warning.  The old custom for giving notice is more rare than common and this generation prefers not to deal with the confrontation associated with a formal resignation.  In fact, we call today’s young generation vapors because they disappear almost as suddenly as they appear. 

A study by Roger Herman in 2011 revealed that 75% of people quit a job because of direct supervision.  That is correct, three out four people that quit your company because of a bad boss.  This has become more critical as the workplace has lost the baby boomers that were raised to tolerate bad supervisors. 

Over the past 20 years, organizations have decreased emphasis on developing supervisors because the need to manage extreme turnover simply was not there.  Well those chickens have come home to roost.  The emergence of generation X was an indication of events to come, however most organizations did not prepare for the reality we face today.  In the book, Surviving the Talent Exodus (2011), I warned readers of the coming storm created by the departing baby boomers and the emerging millennials (generation Y).  I predicted it would become much harder to find employees than customers.

The combination of bad supervision with low engagement is a virtual death sentence for companies concerned with high turnover.  I am constantly asked for the magic solution for keeping and retaining talent.  The position of front-line supervisor more than any other can make or break retention goals for any organization.  I have discovered some simple strategies that can be taught and with practice and encouragement, supervisors can improve retention for your organization.  Teaching supervisors to be more than the one-dimensional “super operator” (super operators are simply the best at what they did prior to accepting the new role as boss) of the past requires work and repetition along with a desire to improve.

Management delegates the need for safety, quality, and production to the supervisor.  Employees look up at the supervisor for what is most important.  Any contradiction of values is placed on the shoulders of front-line leadership by employees who see them as the face of management.  Yet, supervisors can learn skills to retain team talent.  There are clearly defined tools that can be taught and applied to restrict the floodgates for escaping talent.

The solutions are simple yet elusive for most organizations.  Similar to diet and exercise, we all pretty much know what is good and what is bad for our physical health.  Making the effort to change takes a commitment that some organizations are not willing to make.  Employee retention is a process not an event.  If your organization is struggling to attract and retain talent, you are not alone.  Supervision and management can indeed be taught, but the desire to change must become greater than the pain of the present reality.  In the end it becomes a choice to improve or a desire to do nothing. We are accountable for either choice as an organization.