Management 101

Keep your people by keeping your people happy
Sunday, July 1, 2007

I was talking with an alarm company owner the other day when he made the following statement: "I had an employee of eight years just up and leave the company, and I don't know why. I had no clue he was unhappy."
I cannot tell you how many times over the years that I have had alarm company owners tell me the same story.
Is it the dollar more an hour that someone else offered? Is it your local economy? Is it how you treat the employees? Are there chances for advancement within your company?
You better find out.
Key-employee retention is critical to the long-term health and success of your business. Simply put, failing to retain a key employee is costly: you must invest in training time, replace lost knowledge, manage newly insecure coworkers and sometimes invest in a costly candidate search.
Employee retention is critically important for a second set of numbers. Over the next few years, while some 76 million Baby Boomers (aged 40 to 58) retire, there are only roughly 44 million Generation X workers (aged 25 to 34) to take their places.
Simply stated: there are a lot fewer people available to work.

Why are they leaving?
According to an article, employees cited the following three top reasons they would begin searching for a new job:
1. Better compensation and benefits.
2. Dissatisfaction with potential career development.
3. They were ready for a new job experience.
Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstone of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a fair wage for your employees, then you can work on motivational issues later. Without a fair wage, however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer.
In a different article from, managers predicted the most important motivational aspect of work for people would be money, but personal time and attention from a supervisor was actually cited by many workers as most rewarding for them.
As managers, it is easy to always point out what employees do wrong--and the employee does need to know when a mistake has been made--but they also need to be told when they have done something right ... often!
As owners, managers, and supervisors, employees often look up to us. Employees can often emulate how management behaves in how they interact with other employees.
Employees want clear expectations from management. They also want positive feedback, structure and constructive criticism. We all like structure in our careers as well as in our daily lives.
While what employees want from work depends on the person, their needs and the rewards that they get from performing their job functions are most meaningful to them. Giving employees what they want from work is really quite simple.

Employees want:
Control of their work: including the ability to impact decisions; having clear and measurable goals; job enrichment programs; and recognition for achievement.
Managers agree that a satisfied employee knows clearly what is expected from them every day at work. Changing expectations keeps people on edge and can create stress. If change is necessary, prep the employee and employees a few days or weeks in advance. Give everyone time to accept change and their new rolls within the company.
To be valued: including receiving timely information and communication; understanding management's decision-making process; meeting participation; and visual documentation of work progress and accomplishments.
The quality of the supervision an employee receives is critical to employee retention. People leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave companies or jobs. Starting with clear expectations of the employee, the supervisor has a critical role to play in retention.
Probably most importantly, opportunity for growth and development: including education, training and cross-training.
Talent and skill utilization is another factor your employees seek in the workplace. A motivated employee wants to contribute to work areas outside of their specific job description. How many people could contribute far more than they currently do if given the opportunity? You need to know their skills, talent and experience, and take the time to tap into it.
I think the worst possible scenario for employees is to realize that they have hit the wall as far as advancement goes within their company. If there is no light at the end of the tunnel, chances are employees may become discouraged and move on. At that point, money is no longer the issue.
And remember, the perception of fairness and equitable treatment is important in employee retention. If employees think that they are not treated fairly, they will not be with you long.

Don Childers is the director of technical training at Security Central, in Statesville, N.C., and an instructor for the NBFAA and CEDIA, with NICET Level IV certification and NFPA membership. He can be reached at