These days, it seems that hardly a week goes by without a friend or colleague announcing that he or she is taking a job with a new employer.
Some are launching new careers at dot-com start-ups. Others are moving to more traditional companies, lured by promotions, better pay or sometimes just the chance to be someplace new. Regardless of where they are going, their departure stirs consternation among those who remain behind.
The feeling goes beyond the immediate aggrava-tion of having to do extra work until replacements are found. Those not heading for the door in-variably question why they haven’t gotten of-fers. They begin to won-der whether they should be calling headhunters and networking with prospective bosses. They worry that by sticking with one em-ployer, they are hurting their chance to advance.
As one of my friends confided, “I feel jealous even though I don’t want to go anywhere. I can’t help thinking why did he get tapped and not me? I worry that nobody knows I exist.”
Those who are left behind in the greatest American job fest in history can’t help but feel like wallflower. They’re standing still while others are exploring new frontiers.
For managers who aren’t eyeing the door themselves, the rapid staff turnover in their midst presents a double challenge: Just when they are de-voting more time to finding new talent, they have to find ways to encourage old ones to stay. Often, that second challenge gets short shrift. Some managers dangle money in front of departing employees in an effort to woo them back, but fail to reward those who haven’t left their desks. They take them for granted, providing little in the way of mentoring or appreciation. The job of retaining talent must begin long before a valued employee is weighing another offer.
At Shaw Supermakets in Boston, Ruth Bramson, senior vice president of human resources, is urging every manager to become more retention focused. “Competition for people is so great today that trying to retain them is an uphill battle,” she says. Shaw has become a hunting ground for other supermarket chains and retailers, she notes. It also is struggling to retain employees acquired with its takeover of Star Markets last year.
What does she recommend? For one thing, compensation packages that are at least on par with competitors. “You are not even in the game if you don’t offer that,” Ms. Bramson says. “Employees want the opportunity to enrich themselves through options these days,” she adds, and will go where they can get them.
But money isn’t everything. “People don’t work for companies so much as they workfor other people,” Ms. Bramson says. As much as they want to be fairly paid, they also crave recognition, the opportunity to develop their skills, and the chance do work they find meaningful. Those who don’t feel that their assignments are challenging or fun are much more likely to put themselves into play than those who do, she says.
But managers today tend to find themselves having to ask people to work harder andlonger hours. They have to do a better job nurturing employees than ever before.
At Shaw, Ms. Bramson urges managers, in individual coaching sessions and group training seminars, to make certain they are mentoring their em-ployees and giving them lots of opportunities to grow. She recommends frequent cross-functional transfers so employees can move from working in stores to marketing and technological jobs - and acquire a range of experience. “People need newness to feel excited about what they are doing,” she says. She also warns managers not to hang on to talented employees but to make certain they get promoted. “You’ll lose people a lot quicker if you hold them back,” she says.
Shaw ties a portion of managers’ compensation to their ability to retain employees “We’ve seen that most of our high potential people come from managers who truly nurture their people,” says Ms. Bramson.
Other companies, such as Target Stores, United Technologies and Hartford Life Insurance are coaching managers to do a better job of retaining staff. In training seminars they are reminding managers to make sure employees have the chance to speak up and be listened to. “It isn’t rocket science,” says Karen Grabow, vice president of human resources at Target, which asks employees, “Does your supervisor care about you as a person?” A more difficult challenge is making sure talented employees get the chance to do work that makes them feel they are making a difference.
Certainly, every boss can expect to lose some employees. Talented workers are bound to get offers so lucrative there is no way to keep them. Others need a change of venue to advance their careers. “But managers who do nothing to care for employees are going to lose them in droves,” says Beverly Kaye, a consultant whose basic advice to companies is also the title of her book, “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em.
The worst boss is the one who says of a departing employee, “I’ll replace him easily,” or, “he didn’t fit in anyway.” If colleagues overhear remarks like that they’ll wonder if they, too, are considered expendable.
The rapid turnover at most companies today can be an opportunity for managers to help their employees, and themselves, grow. By allowing the question, “Should I leave?” to surface, both managers and employees can define what exactly they need to stay.
Source: Wall Street Journal 3/14/00
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