Taming turnover

Taming turnover

Employees are truly a valuable resource. Regardless of the type of business you operate, or the country in which you operate, every business depends on having qualified and experienced people to reliably perform all of the tasks required by the business.

Important Positions

It is undoubtedly true that some employment positions are more important, more vital, and contribute more directly to the overall success of the business than others. Employees with unique skills, experience, and knowledge cannot be replicated by an outside hire or an internal promotion without many months or years of intensive training.

Revolving Door

Can your company survive and achieve its full potential if you must replace every employee, including staff, supervisory, and management positions, every 2-3 years? Can you provide best service to your customers and shareholders when key positions are vacant and experienced incumbent personnel are long gone before qualified candidates can be recruited to fill the vacancies? How do you train new employees to fill positions when the experienced former employee is long gone?

Managing a business, serving customers, and defending your market share against competitive challenges is difficult enough when every position on your organisation chart is filled with qualified and motivated personnel. You don't need the additional headache of staff turnover, recruiting and training replacements, and dealing with team morale issues associated with a revolving door work environment. If these issues are all too familiar to you and your team, you must urgently find a way to promote long term loyalty and employment retention.

Reasons for Leaving

Staff retention is a complex and diverse subject. However, it can be boiled down to some simple concepts that can be applied across countries, cultures, and industries to minimise turnover and maximise staff satisfaction and loyalty.

Compensation

I hear many managers complain that their staff will resign for a few percentage points increase in salary at a new company. I don't doubt that this is in many cases true. However, I think many managers interpret this phenomenon in the wrong way. Most employees are not so focused on compensation that they will quit a secure position to face unknown challenges at a new company for a 2% increase in basic salary. More accurately, such employees are so dissatisfied or feel so disconnected from their current employer that it only takes the most minor incremental incentive for them to risk the unknown. In these cases, if employment conditions were to degrade further, these employees would even accept a cut in basic salary to escape from the drudgery of their current employment experience.

Look in the mirror, evaluate the employment environment that you are providing to your employees, and understand that the problem isn't your employee's attitude, but rather the environment that you are providing.

Advancement

In other cases, employees report resigning from their current position to seek "advancement" or promotion elsewhere.

When an employee truly excels in his or her role, organisations often think of such employees as "invaluable". However, they then proceed to treat these invaluable employees as hardware, plugged into a position with the expectation that they will stay plugged in until they become obsolete or burn out and require replacement. Unsurprisingly, these high performers quickly discover that other organisations also value their skills, experience, and motivation, and are willing to provide incentives including compensation and a positive work environment, to liberate them from their current indentured servitude.

Reasons for Staying

I personally believe that high performing individuals have earned the privilege of being promoted in recognition of their performance. In many cases, a linear promotion opportunity may not be available. A lab technician at your facility might excel and eventually achieve the position of lab manager. She appears to have reached the pinnacle of her career ladder, at least within the confines of your organisation. However, if you ignore the career aspirations of such a high performing individual, you can be sure that eventually your lab manager will resign "seeking advancement".

Do not place artificial limits on your valuable employees. Allow them to grow, including providing them with opportunities to branch out onto parallel career paths. Or acquiesce to being a charity training institute serving the interests of your competitors and regional peer organisations.

Company Culture

Retention is not just about compensation and advancement. These are certainly very important aspects of retention, but by themselves they are not sufficient to create long-term employee loyalty.

Most people greatly value connection and engagement with fellow team members. Creating a happy workplace, with an inclusive and supporting culture, is perhaps the most effective way to promote employee retention.

Does your company have a culture? Can you describe it? Do you manage and promote your company culture? Do you even give any consideration to the cultural environment of your company?

If your culture is "just another company" consisting of a bunch of people punching the clock, doing their jobs, following procedures (or perhaps shortcutting procedures when not being closely supervised), then going home or to the pub to complain about the drudgery of their positions, then don't expect to have any success retaining staff.

Creating a company culture takes time and effort but it doesn't require a significant budgetary commitment. Evaluate what type of workplace environment your team would most appreciate. Treat your employees as valuable members of a team working towards a common goal. Define the goal(s) and provide objective metrics so the team can understand and evaluate their performance. Involve your team with your operating strategy, at least to the extent that is safe and prudent with respect to corporate intellectual property and financial reporting regulations.

Loyalty and Respect

Find ways to treat your employees as fellow stakeholders. Solicit suggestions from your team, give them serious consideration, implement worthwhile suggestions, and publicly recognise all valuable contributions.

Regardless of industry, country, or market, I do not believe that any company has to accept high turnover as an insurmountable fact of corporate life. As a responsible, enlightened manager you must seek to clearly understand the factors contributing to employee turnover, and you must create an environment and culture in which your employees feel safe, secure, comfortable, and confident.

You and your company will never realise its full potential without a loyal, stable, motivated, and happy workforce.


About Frank Timmons, Partner, Boyden Thailand

BS Aerospace Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, EMBA from the Sasin Graduate Institute of Chulalongkorn University. Frank has more than 35 years of managerial, technical, and commercial leadership experience primarily serving manufacturing industries. ftimmons@boyden.com

About Boyden Thailand
Boyden Thailand was established as the first executive search firm in Thailand in 1983. Boyden has successfully placed senior-level executives to multinational and Thai businesses in all sectors, including Manufacturing, Energy, Automotive, Petrochemical, Technology, Banking and Finance, Consumer, and Healthcare & Life Sciences.

Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, chris@dataconsult.co.th. Dataconsult's Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.

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