Turnover Does Not Have To Be Inevitable

Unemployment is now at 4.3%.
More businesses are planning to hire.
Your staff begins to get those calls. You know which calls I mean – the ones from recruiters.

Managers and executives have to face a fear that they have been procrastinating for some time, the moment they realized that they aren’t ready for any upturn in economic activity.

As unemployment lowers, this is great news for the economy. It also presents more challenges for executives and management who are trying to surface, hire and retain great people.

As little as one person leaving your company could have crippling effects in revenue and product innovation.
Is your staff getting calls from recruiters yet? Those calls should be a good sign for you. They are a sign that the economy really is growing. However, turnover does not have to be inevitable. Beyond their relationship with their managers, how employees perceive the senior leadership of your company and the support you give them, may determine whether they take those recruiters’ calls or don’t.

If you think of your company as a Vehicle, imagine that your employees are the engine. As the leader, you are the ECU that keeps the engine running efficiently. As production ramps up, your vehicle needs to kick into high gear and sustain it for a long period of time as more orders have to be filled. While this new pace in our economy is energizing over the last few years of sluggishness, management needs to ask itself, “How can our leaders make the difference between sluggish and high performance?”

Evidence continues to mount linking engagement with productivity and because business is steadily improving, ensuring your workforce is fully engaged is critical to your firm’s success.  Human resources are warning operating executives of potentially crippling turnover ahead if management does not get out in front of the issue now.

“Employee engagement” was defined in a 2008 Global workforce study by Tower-Watson as “the level of connection employees feel with their employers as measured by their willingness to help their company succeed”. Research shows that employees will go above and beyond for an employer they feel a personal connection with. It is this heightened level of communication that an employer should look for to harness in its teams. If your executive management team consistently works to foster high engagement, its employee will reward it with their best efforts each and every day. Conversely, if employees get the message that they are not valued, engagement wanes and along with it – productivity.

So how critical is it to power your people to produce at their best?  One in five workers admits to giving their full discretionary effort on the job according to The Conference Board’s 2010 study on Job Satisfaction. It also showed that fifty five percent (55%) of US workers are unhappy with their jobs – the highest since the annual survey began in 1987.  One third of employees are seriously considering leaving their jobs according to a poll by HR consultants Mercer, LLC. Unhappy employees are likely to produce much less, opting instead to spend work time searching job boards, playing games on Facebook, and shopping on-line. So not only should management be concerned about productivity decline but  also be concerned about disengaged employees who have mentally “checked out” and warming a valuable seat in the office costing you revenue --pure and simple. In fact, the Gallup Organization estimates that “actively disengaged” workers cost US businesses up to $300 Billion per year.

Maybe you are reading this and saying to yourself “my people are engaged, operating fully charged”. Before you dismiss the premise, understand that disengaged employees are hard to spot. With company consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, and automation  being high, people remain fearful for their jobs so it is more likely that someone who is not committed to the company is hiding their dissatisfaction from management. After all, who wants to lose their job because they complain? So they show up, but not really there, thus produce very little.

Historically, as business begins to improve coming out of slow economic growth, companies find they are less and less able to sustain productivity and are forced to hire. When that happens, unemployment declines and workers start to have choices again. That spells serious trouble for business managers and executives who have ignored the welfare of their workforce during slow times as key people leave for greener pastures. You may have already seen it starting to happen with sales and business development people in the industry. If you haven’t, now is the time to get involved with your subordinates’ success.

Here are some strategies to drive productivity and to mitigate employee defection to your competitors:

Be visible in the field regularly
In clients I have worked with, I noticed that top executives and managers do not isolate themselves. They practiced Management By Walking Around. Immersing yourself among all your people and investing your time strolling around the manufacturing floor and communicating with the lowest man on the ladder will give you valuable information and a tremendous return of investment. 

How many presidents know the first name of their machine operators or maintenance manager? Just by knowing someone’s first name and acknowledging him in his workplace bring a phenomenal engagement and loyalty.  Studies show that employees who perceive that their big boss really identifies with their day to day challenges and is working to alleviate them will reward the company with full engagement and high productivity in return.

Strive for excellence, not perfection
Capitalize on what employees are best at. Concentrating on the capabilities of individual workers and making them partners in setting goals motivate people to strive for optimal performance in their greatest area of strengths.

Do not focus on what they cannot do, but rather ask them what they can commit to. When employees work hard at what they are best at, the result is higher quality to the client.

Trust + Fun = results
In these times of layoffs, it may seem hard for employees to trust management. That mistrust is quite evident – just open any newspaper and you will see. As the manager, you need to find ways to build that level of trust. Once employees see that you “have their backs” they will begin to put out more for you. One thing you can do is to encourage employees to step out on the edge – to feel free to make mistakes. It is how people learn. If something goes wrong, sit down and talk about what the employee’s intent was and how the outcome could be achieved by using an alternate approach.

Another way to grow trust is informal recognition. People thrive on recognition. The more you can sincerely recognize people, especially in front of peers, the more trust and productivity you will earn. Involving your team in local community events such as the annual bath tub races or working together on a corporate float for the local parade gives employees an opportunity to disengage from the stress of the office and have a good time together.

With employee disengagement at an all time high while the demands for productivity are ever increasing, it is more important now more than ever for executives and managers to take on personal responsibility for the productivity of the company’s workforce.  Take action to implement strategies to consistently demonstrate that you understand and are responsive to the challenges of those on your team.  Recognize and celebrate the individual strengths of each contributor, create an environment of trust, and make work more fun.  Remember, your people are just one recruiter’s call away.

-          Gary Perman

Gary Perman is past Chair of IEEE – Oregon Section and member of IEEE TEMS. He is also President of PermanTech and an expert in headhunting critical talent since 1996.
His focus is in recruiting engineering and management professionals within emerging vehicle technology companies; Commercial ground transportation, Alt Fuel, ITS.


Five Characteristics of a Great Manager

A company that does not appreciate the value of employing great managers will pay the price down the road. That price can ultimately result in going out of business. Managers impact the bottom line for better or for worse. They have a direct impact on the success of a business in a myriad of ways. One example is employee turnover which has ruined many a company over the years.
Consider the following characteristics when hiring or evaluating a manager:
It may seem cliché but great managers are results-oriented. They motivate and support employees to reach the company’s objectives. Being results-oriented motivates and focuses both the manager and the team members.
Effective Decision-Making

Effective decision-making is the process in which managers select the best alternatives and implement them to achieve organizational goals and objectives.
“Effective decisions result from a systematic process, with clearly defined elements, that is handled in a distinct sequence of steps”. [Drucker]

Top managers concentrate on what is important. They then make an informed decision with the highest level of conceptual understanding.
Strong managers add value to the overall operational activities of the organization. The ability to delegate roles and responsibilities among team members per their skills is an important quality of a great manager. They must be able to delegate day-to-day business tasks to make better use of their time.
Delegating effectively will significantly contribute to the growth and development of an organization by creating more productive teams. Managers assess the time and resources of their teams. They motivate and empower team members by giving them additional responsibilities and by holding them accountable.
Great managers understand the strengths and weaknesses of each subordinate and capitalize on their skills. They find ways to circumvent their weaknesses by elevating and elevating and enhance the team members’ required skills. This is accomplished by conducting training including workshops and by delegating new challenging tasks to those individuals.

·         Communication

The best managers are excellent communicators. This sets the direction for the team. They also include their team members in the decision-making process. This inclusiveness builds both individual and team morale. It also enables the manager to make better decisions based on a broader pool of possible solutions. 

·         Leadership

Finally, great managers must have leadership skills. It is imperative for managers to direct, motivate and lead a team in order to enhance their performance and success. Strong leadership requires drive, focus, authenticity and excellent communication.


Managers who possess these five top characteristics will prove to be an essential element of a profitable company and are not to be taken for granted. To successfully hire a great manager, you must assess the knowledge, skills, experience and personality of the candidate based on the above five characteristics.