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If Employee Retention Is a Problem, You Might Be the Weakest Link

Updated on December 26, 2019

You Don't Need A Master's Degree For This One

If You Can't Keep Employees at Your Organization, Look In the Mirror For Answers

Hate to say it, but if you are a manager, boss, supervisor or part of the HR or leader of a team, and your employees won't stay with you, it may be because of you. Well, that is not as accurate as saying that it is for a reason that is discoverable, in that if you hire decent to good or great people (not even All Stars, which we will get to in a moment), and they quit after a few months, it is on you.

Let's start at the beginning. Without fail, the HR team is probably pretty good at hiring competent people to fulfill the rigors of the job description, for positions that are open and desperately need to be filled, some say "yesterday." These individuals are hired, and seem to be completely qualified for the position. And yet, after a few months, they come in and quit most of them on the spot, without much of an explanation for why they are leaving, except the polite parting gift "we were not a good fit."

Really? Not a good fit? You know for a fact that these same employees were an amazing fit just a few short months ago, so what happened? Seriously, what the heck happened to these individuals who now are a statistic that you have to explain to your upper level manager, albeit your own boss at the end of the fiscal year?

Your management team is what happened to those workers, and it is a daggone shame that you didn't see it earlier. But to be honest in the real world, yes, you saw it and believed unrealistically that you were powerless to change anything. This is your loss, your problem, but just a second. Let's clarify who you are, who are we talking to here anyway?

The Supervisor: If you are a supervisor and your decent, hard-working employee just up and quits, you need to take an introspection pill. Did you allow other co-workers to create a difficult environment for the employee who left? If the individual was A) Doing his job, B) Managing customers and doing his job, and C) Showing up on time, learning new aspects of the position and doing his job, it was your bound and quartered DUTY to run interference for this individual, like any ball player taking care of business in the playoff game.

How dare you and how could you allow co-workers to jibe, bully, fret over, talk about, gossip behind, give the silent treatment to, refuse to train, sabotage or otherwise create a difficult at best, hostile at worst working environment for any one member of YOUR team? Are you still looking in the mirror? Because if you are, maybe you need to slap yourself into some recognition here. Sorry, only that the reason your decent hard-working employee just left your unit/department/store is because of you.

Manager: If you are a regional manager, store manager, store assistant manager, team leader manager, department or unit manager then you are next up on the chopping block. And please have the good sense to at least feel some guilt and shame if you truly believe that you "didn't know what was going on," where the employees who leave worked. Isn't that part of your job? As it is the reason you are "paid the big bucks," you salaried, but maybe overworked honeybee! Money is won on the side bet that you saw it, knew of the abuse and misgivings, you knew exactly what was going on, yes, you did, oh those lacking in courage. One guess: You and the real managers on the front line in question are supposed to be on the same page, etc., they are trained in how to manage the team, and your job you thought, was to leave them to it, to let them run their department, since that is what you pay them for, close?

How about a reality check: Yes, your other managers are technically at the same level as you and you feel "uncomfortable" trying to tell them how to run their units/departments/stores, but you are ultimately where it all stops. People working in the office or retail workplace have little voice for themselves to stop abuse on the floor, as it were. And you know who working for you is not up to par as a manager, yeah, you do.

To break it down, and you better be sitting for this one. People don't stay at a job for 35-47 years any more. News flash and accompanying memo: When people are mistreated on the job even in poor or down-turned job markets, or where there are actually and positively no other jobs in sight, those with a healthy dose of self-esteem will leave. And if you don't think it will eventually hurt your business, then think again about the extent of the detrimental impact on your organization or business.

Someone who shops at your stores or hires the services of your staff who has a bad experience with your team will tell 100 people about the bad experience, really this is more with the potential of a bad review on social media. Now multiply this per thousands of poor notations from someone who used to actually have worked there, with firsthand knowledge of your management team, with detailed examples of their shenanigans. You can fuggitaboutit, you are toast, your business is toast, dry toast, no jam and no French curled butter. Y'all can call your competitors and tell them that your business might be for sale, because it is over, my fine friend.

Human Resources: Now, you have come into the position with only two types of employees. This analogy applies in every industry, every genre of work and employment. Let's break it down fa' ya. Your staff managers are either there 3 years or less, or are there 5-20 years or more. There is nothing in between, nada. The lifers oh yeah, they run the asylum, you are a puppet to them. Here's the thing: You were supposed to go in with a strong walk, calm talk, to let them know you are HR, your job carries some weight, and they all need to follow the protocols of the business no matter who's nephew they are, who they are married to, or who they impersonate on the weekends at the cabaret downtown. Instead, if you started your job, allowed the lifers to intimidate the new hires, never took care of business, listened patiently to the complaints of the new employees regarding their unit and departmental managers but never did anything about it, then, yes, you are also at fault.

What were you supposed to do, you might be asking? What could you have done, these people have routines, they are there a long time, what could have been changed? Do we need to do your job and our job too today? Maybe you need to pay us your salary at the end of the week, just kidding. But not really, you should read up on what HR can do to manage other employees, managers, managers at the same level who are acting improperly, etc. Use the Internet, get creative, call your home office. But do something, for Pete's Sake.

What a pity and it is a shame, for sure. Let's say you got lucky, you got an All Star who wants to work now, who has over skills and a huge ripe skill set to apply to your piddling job, but is an amazing worker. Well, sorry, only just that you let this person lose on the incompetent managers and supervisors who are still there, being non-supportive at best, mildly passive-aggressive at worst, and that person will come in and you'll get an ear full, my dear.

All Stars know who they are, and are usually always willing to start at the bottom and work their way up, they are the cream of the crop, they shine no matter what, yes they do! They are amazing, can you name one? Every HR employee should have hired one in a lifetime, and your eyes should glaze over while you reminisce about that person, because much like your first real love in grade school, the one who was not a teacher, it will never happen again!

Your All Star will perform his or her own "exit interview," and will calmly without passion tell you exactly what happened to force the individual to leave without even finishing the day/shift/week, as the person gives the address where the last check is to be sent. He or she will tell you everything, rat the crap out of everyone starting at the top and working the way down, in order that you know what was or has been happening the entire time that the individual was working at your business or organization.

Sigh, well, and what of it? So, now you know the sordid truths. Next, you both stand slowly, All Star shakes your hand lovingly, because All Star is forever employable and you needn't fret over a reference, this job will never grace his or her resume anyway.

There is a moral to the story, and this is what it is. Train your employees, and check up on them with their bosses. Talk to the new hires, ask them to speak to you privately on how it is shakin' at the 1 week, 1 month, 1 quarter mark, just like if you were selling the person a new luxury $100,000 car (because that is a person you need to keep in touch with for obvious referral reasons and more). If you can keep a person for 3 months, you can keep a person for 1 year. If you can keep a new hire for 3 years, you have a high likelihood to keep the individual for 20 years. It is actually not on them, it is on you. Do the right thing, and fight every day for the employees working under your hired managers, supervisors and "bosses" to find out what that is, what's right, and engage in it as if your company's life depended on it -- because it does.

Training Employees, Start With Your Managers and Supervisors First


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