10 Steps To Keep Good Employees

A wise manager we know coined a phrase that really rings true in today’s retail agronomy business: “An employee takes a job to put food on the table, but they stay with a company because they see a future.”

The term “seeing a future” is a complex and somewhat subjective topic. However, what can be broken down with considerable accuracy is why good employees leave. Once you understand why they are leaving, you can gain a better understanding of what it takes to create an environment of long-term employees. Continuing with the numbers theme from our 2008 article, we have compiled a Top 10 list of reasons why people change jobs — and what would make them stay, based on our daily conversations with job seekers and research that has been done on the topic.

10) Compensation

Note that compensation is listed as No. 10 and not No. 1. Compensation is probably the most widely misunderstood and overused reason for departure. The fact is, it’s actually one of the least common reasons for changing positions. Research done by the Saratoga Institute in 2004 found that only 12% of employees leave a role for reasons around compensation, but their managers believed compensation was the reason for departure 89% of the time. This large discrepancy focuses employee retention on the other nine factors.

9) Culture

Creating a supportive, winning, and/or teamwork-based culture is critical. According to the Saratoga research, 21% of employee departures trace back to cultural issues, such as lack of respect from peers or supervisors and the perception of a lack of support. Technical training is important, but what may be more critical to the future of your organization is to properly train your management team to address this issue. Supervisors need to be given the skills and tools to create a culture where people like working together and everyone is respected so people will stay with that company. Without it, employee turnover will persist.

8) Expansion Of Responsibility

Everyone pursues growth for 20-some years from birth to adulthood. All we did was systematically progress from grade to grade and team to team. Then we start our career and wait, and wait, and wait. We may stay in a given role for three, five, maybe even 10 years. The human mind is programmed for growth, and that is what many employees want. More responsibility or at least the opportunity to try it on for size keeps some in the saddle. The key here is that within the first 30 days on the job, an employee’s supervisor needs to sit down with them to build a career roadmap together. Without it, the supervisor may never understand the expectations of the employee and miss opportunities to give additional responsibility or opportunities. Additionally, with the supervisor missing opportunities to reward the employee, that individual will feel overlooked and seek employment with someone who “cares.”

7) Promotion

Most candidates in our practice, especially the high performers, always ask a question about promotion. They want to know if there will be a payoff if they apply themselves, work hard, and make good decisions. The retention tool that is even more valuable than promotion is the positive comments they will tell everyone once promoted. The promise of getting promoted and promoting from inside has a very large impact on recruiting and retaining employees.

6) Training

Staying sharp! Keeping up with technology! Investing in our people! These are the common buzzwords we hear, and each is true. However, the challenge of many retailers today is how to best apply your training budget. Sending someone to training for training’s sake is rarely a good investment. Consider points 8 and 9. Are you training your managers to be better supervisors, or are your dollars focused on helping them maintain their CCA and be better marketers? How about your less experienced employees? Does your training match their career roadmap? The right training at the right time can empower the employee to deliver the results that are requested, but on the flip side a lack of training can leave them feeling like the most de-valued asset.

5) Take Me Home

Our best clients have figured out a little secret. They stay in contact with every student that goes off to school from within their trade area. As that student approaches their last year of school, they typically have a full-time job offer in hand for when they graduate and maybe even a scholarship to get them through that last year. U.S. Agbank, the regional Farm Credit lender in the High Plains, figured out that moving a recent graduate back home increased their retention rates through the roof. A good rule of thumb is within 60 miles of dinner with Mom and Dad.

4) Personality Matches Job

Organizations that work with us know that we put a considerable amount of effort into understanding the personality styles of both employers and employees. We know that despite marriage, opposites usually don’t attract or work well in the workplace.

Personality differences are what makes a team healthy, but the key to that health is matching the personality with the right role in the organization. Imagine the ideal personality for the person running the fertilizer plant, a salesperson in a territory with little market share, and the person answering the phone. All of them should fit your culture but should bring their own personality to bear on the needs of their position. Find someone that is extremely pleasant on the phone, and they probably won’t fit the sales role because they can’t close the sale.

Failing to properly match an employee’s personality to their role will typically result in an uncomfortable and frustrated short-term employee. Identify the personality styles of your employees and you will better understand how to manage and retain them.

3) Personality Meshes With Supervisor

While matching personality to the role is important, it’s just as important to consider the personality of the supervisor. Re­gardless of skills and abilities, it’s tough to excel in your job when you feel like you can’t please your supervisor. For example, an employee with an expressive and outgoing personality will have difficulty reporting to a supervisor with an analytical and detail-focused personality or management style. The supervisor, by nature, seeks accurate information, while an expressive personality, by nature, is not the best at paying close attention to details. They are complete opposites. When you break down the reasons employees leave, more than 80% of employee turnover can be linked to the supervisor/employee relationship. Recognizing and managing these personality differences is a big step in reducing the issues that create turnover.

2) Leadership

An unfortunate and common theme that we get from jobseekers is: “I just don’t see a future for me in this company.” One of the things we see in organizations with higher retention rates is that the leadership of that organization is very open about sharing the vision for where the company is going. Let’s face it — you wouldn’t want to stay on a train if you didn’t know where it was going. So, why would you want to do that to your career? Recognize that sharing a vision is not something that can be done in a newsletter or even a company meeting. Enabling an employee to see a future depends on an organization’s ability to build a goal focused culture that has trust in the management team and ties each employee’s personal career goals into that company’s future. An employee that understands the future of the company and — almost more importantly — how they fit into that future is much more likely to stay, regardless of the challenges that may lie ahead.

1) Work/Life Balance

There should be no surprise that we’ve listed this as No. 1. One of the biggest challenges facing ag retailers today is that good people leave retail every day and will not come back because they feel they can’t find the balance they need. Finding a work/life balance in the seasonal and high-stress ag industry is very difficult, but not impossible. We work with several organizations that have invested in making this problem disappear. One way is to increase seasonal help. While there is added expense in the additional headcount, several of our clients have proven that the cost of additional employees is greatly outweighed by the reduced overtime and better employee retention. Added staff enables you to limit — or in some cases eliminate — weekend hours and can allow you to put weekly work limits on all employees. We have a few retail clients that set a maximum number of hours for each employee per week. When your maximum hours for the week are up — go home until Monday morning! Offering employees comp time can work as well. However, it’s only effective if you allow them to take the comp time when they want it or need it. Only allowing them to use these days when it works best for the company is absolutely no benefit to the employee at all.

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