Employee Retention

Competitive pay and benefits can get talent in the door, but can the money keep the talent? When employers demonstrate a commitment to work life balance, commitment to providing career development and training opportunities, with a supportive flexible working environment, caring attitude towards staff and a strong balanced emotionally intelligent management and leadership, they have found the key to retaining high-potential employees.

Often I hear employees say all they want is more money and they will be motivated. I had a conversation with a senior engineer recently and the discussion started off by him saying HR people need to understand that money is the ultimate motivator, just pay people more.

I, like Herzberg, believe money to be a satisfier not necessarily a motivator. After an employee is being paid competitively, any incremental increase in money will not necessarily translate into any related incremental increase in performance. One person’s capacity is finite and one usually has an equilibrium point of effort they exert to achieve company targets, objectives and tasks. What do I mean by “equilibrium point”, you know when someone has peaks and depressions of performance, due to various reasons, well they eventually return to their normal work pace.

Our challenge as HR professionals is to optimise employee’s performance by moving their equilibrium work pace upwards. This means that we work towards achieving sustainable high levels of quality performance by fully engaging the employee and thereby retaining talent. The phrase “fully engaging the employee” is a compounded concept that is as a result of many contributing factors, some of them were mentioned in the first paragraph above.

Towers Perrin’s 2007 Global Workforce Study explored the drivers of workforce engagement and noted that although relationships with managers are important, the actions of senior leadership and workplace programmes hold even greater weight. I will share my thoughts on the line manager’s role.

Line managers and their ability to manage people is a current challenge. This has been brought about by promoting technical competence into managerial positions, thereby losing a good technical resource and possibly gaining a bad manager. More often, these newly appointed technical resources are not equipped with the tools necessary to manage people. Yes, sometimes we make grave errors in using wrong criteria for promotion and we further compound the error by not providing the necessary training intervention and then we expect stellar performance from this promoted candidate.

The first challenge after finding yourself in this situation is to get the managers to accept people management as their responsibility. This message must come from the top and continuously be supported by all the senior Executives. The managers must not be allowed to abdicate their people management role to Human Resource. They also must not use HR as a “scapegoat” where they often say “It is not me, that is a HR policy, HR set that rule”. The Line Managers often want HR to write a rule about everything under the sun. This way, the line can refer to rule 3.2 under subsection 4 of policy x as the reason why they cannot do something.

I suggest a comprehensive training programme comprising of seminars, workshops, role plays, and mentors supported by the performance management system to help drive change among the manager group.

The training I played a part in develping looks at thirteen sections. Section one focuses on the big picture, role definition, organisational culture, reason for their team and managing upwards. Section two addresses the issue of transitioning from employee to manager, followed by managing tasks and objectives, setting targets, managing and measuring team performance. Section four looks at leadership, styles of leadership, and how to vary styles according to staff demographics (generation, age, gender, etc…). The other areas are customer service, networking, time management, delegation, coaching, industrial relations, using the HRIS and performance management with emphasis on managing poor performance. These areas should also be slanted and aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation.

In addition to the training, we designed a 180 degree feedback form be completed by the managers’ direct reports. The form was designed according to the ideal profile of a manager in my organisation. The ideal profile also informs the promotion criteria and the selection criteria and is also used as the benchmark when conducting training needs assessments. The form was designed to produce one single score and this is used as a measure in their people perspective of their respective scorecards.

We identified a number of measures that are indicative of the Line Manager’s people management skills. One of which is the number of employee relation issues that have been escalated to the division head and or HR which could have been handled at the managerial level. Other measures are the percentage of leave taken, the turnover (for specific reasons) within the department, and number of employees nominated for and received spot awards, and quarterly awards. The criteria for these awards are also aligned to the organisation’s desired culture and strategic direction.

One should also have baseline figures for these measures before using them as legitimate measures to track progress.

We have also re-organised HR to provide an increased business focus and support to the line managers in carrying out their duties.

In effect, when a decision is made to empower and train the line to have total responsibility and accountability for managing staff, the rest of the employees in the organisation have to align themselves to support that decision. The Mckinsey Seven S model is a useful tool to ensure all areas are addressed.

At the end of my conversation with the Engineer, after we exchanged stories about managers and how they manage, he admittedly declared that when his manager behaves in a certain way, it encourages him to surf the internet all day regardless of his high salary, positive upbringing and work ethic.


Employee Buy-in — Balanced Scorecard

business-team-2.jpgHow does an organisation gain buy-in and support from the general employee popuation about adopting the BSC?

First thing employees want to know, what is in it for me? Different staff levels are interested in varying benefits. The general employees want to know if this system will afford them more money or any added benefits at least within the Trinidad context.

There must an intimate understanding of the employee population, the demographics, variations of likes and dislikes, the culture, expectations and work ethic. This understanding will help inform a stakeholder analysis which will be used to design a strategy to gain employee buy-in. All presentations must be customised to the target audience.

I suggest starting with identifying the gaps and the weaknesses of the previous performance management system citing some of the employee comments validating the dissatisfaction. This could be used as a tactical platform to partially support the adoption of the BSC. One should emphasise the advantages of the BSC, especially its use as a strategic management tool for the senior management team and its use as an increased objective way to measure performance for the general employee population.

From my own work using and implementing the BSC, the employees who supported the BSC implementation are the ones who are the high performers. They welcome a system that objectively measures their achievement of objectives using agreed upon metrics and targets with reliable and valid data delivery systems. These star performers noted that in the past the traditional performance management system was unable to easily identify poor performers. Hence all employees were generally rated high or at least towards the right of the bell curve for performance ratings resulting in a skewed curve.

The employees who are unsure about their own performance are the ones who are hesitant to adopt the BSC since their performance outcomes will be under increased scrutiny and as a result will impact their annual bonuses.

During my work, I also noted reluctance on the part of a number of appraisers to confront poor performance issues with staff. This resulted in poor performers with a satisfactory performance rating under the traditional performance management system. The BSC provides more rigour and discipline to managing performance using agreed upon measures and goals, thereby supporting the appraisers to rely less on their subjective opinion and more on undisputed facts. Yes, on some occasions, there are shades of grey, but this is another issue and I can talk later on how I have dealt with these real challenges using the BSC on a daily basis.

One of the key strategies I suggest is to identify the informal leaders in the organisation across the organisation and gain their buy-in first and use them as change agents to reinforce the benefits of the BSC and to support and embrace the BSC adoption.

In addition, to constant communication, posters, workshops, seminars, customised presentations, segmenting staff and identifying the “what’s in it for me” per stakeholder group, giveaways to keep the BSC top of mind, I suggest a game show. Of course, this will have to be culture specific and appropriate and supported by the leadership. From my own work, I designed a game show that built on the elements of “Jeopardy”. There were a series of questions that were disseminated on a weekly basis about 4-6 weeks prior to the actual game show event. Employees would submit their answers and be awarded prizes weekly. The questions were all about understanding the company, especially the BSC and some questions were quite silly and culture specific. From the weekly winners, there were selected finalists who competed against each other by answering a series of questions with the President as the host.

The actual game show resulted in lots of laughter, increased knowledge of the BSC, increased awareness of company issues and a curiosity about the BSC and the business in general among the employee population.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I will be writing on other topics, all based on my experience, after all there are enough text books out there to satisfy the most avaricious appetite for learning.


Galba Bright Tribute

galba1.JPGThe bad news has just been shared with me that Galba Bright passed away two days ago. His sudden passing comes as a shock to us all.

Leave a comment to this post if you’d like to write him a tribute to this long-time and very active member of CaribHRForum. Simply click on the word “Comments” at the bottom of this post.

His website is still active: http://tuneupyoureq.com/ and his very last recording, a podcast interview, can be accessed by clicking on the links below. This is an excerpt from this last post to CaribHRForum.


Anna Farmery, of The Engaging Brand Blog, one of the top 10,000 blogs in the world (out of over 70 million) interviewed me about Emotional Intelligence and Leadership recently.

Listen to Part 1: http://theengagingbrand.typepad.com/the_engaging_brand_/2008/03/show-153—emot.html

Listen to Part 2: http://theengagingbrand.typepad.com/the_engaging_brand_/2008/03/show-154—emot.html

In Part 1 (28 mins) we discuss:

* Why Emotional Intelligence is vital to today’s leaders and the role played by 3 of the 4 Emotional Intelligence competencies:

* Self awareness

* Self management, and

* Social awareness

In Part 2 (28 mins) we discuss:

* Relationship management, the fourth Emotional Intelligence competency.

* How to read and use an Emotional Intelligence assessment.

* Why self awareness is vital to modern leadership.

This interview will help you become a better leader. It can also help you make the case for introducing Emotional Intelligence Learning Programmes to your organisation.


Click on the word “Comments” below to leave a tribute.