Top 10 Employee Retention Mistakes

Top 10 Employee Retention Mistakes

Employee TrainingEmployee retention is one of retail agronomy’s biggest problems. With the challenges in our industry created by the seasonality, workload, rural settings and overall shortage of talent, it’s very difficult to find good people. Keeping them is even harder! We work with people every day who are seeking a career change.

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As you might expect, we also have a very good picture of the motivation behind their change. Combinations of personal, and career, decisions aren’t uncommon. But what may surprise you is that many (if not most) of our candidates seek change due to management practices that are actually accepted and quite common in the retail agronomy sector!

With many of the practices being engrained into the culture of each company, most organizations fail to recognize the impact their actions and management strategies are having on their employee retention. Therefore, we’ve put together a list of the top reasons for change that may shed some light on things you can do to improve retention in your own organization.

1. Talent management is left to Human Resources. Expecting folks who have to deal with the minutiae of personnel issues to also be exceptional visionaries in hiring, while also being responsible for hiring all your employees, and also keeping them engaged during onboarding, is a BIG problem. Managers and members of senior management need to be involved with every step of hiring and onboarding process to ensure needs are being met, and relationships are being established. Companies that have figured this out, are well ahead of their competitors.

2. Promote Jerks. Let’s face it — nobody wants to work for a jerk. Unfortunately, many organizations promote based on job performance and not their ability to lead. This practice results from high performers being thrust into roles because they have theoretically “earned it” and not for the skills they possess. Promoting based on performance is an easy mistake to make and one that will stifle the growth of your company and ultimately increase the rate at which people leave.

3. Measure effort, not results. This is perhaps one of the biggest generational challenges we face. Baby Boomers believe effort creates success, while millennials feel creativity and efficiency are key to success. Hours worked is not a measurement of success, nor are ideas that don’t work. However, failing to recognize that gap will cause frustration and ultimately departure.

4. Hire for the past, not the future. Hiring talent based on what worked before, and not on where the company is heading, is recipe for disaster. In doing this, organizations force candidates to emphasize their skills into how they fit in the current company — NOT the skills they possess that can create growth and adapt to new opportunities that lie ahead. You can’t complain about an employee’s ability to grow or change — if your hiring process focused how they fit into the role as it was the day they started.

5. Downplay values and mission. Most retailers have mission statements focused on quality of service and include comments about the value of their employees — but that’s where it stops. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to listen to their employees and send the signal that anything goes in pursuit of profit, making employees guess about what choices are truly acceptable.

If you aren’t articulating why your employees are important to the company, and why (regardless of position) their specific job is key to the success of the company, they will leave to work for someone who will.

6. Training. Many organizations focus training on how employees can be effective in their current job, yet fail to train them for the future. This is true especially in retail agronomy where it’s a very technical business that requires a high level of training just to keep up. Therefore, it’s easy for a company to invest the training budget into technical training for their staff and assume things are going well. Training is expensive, and there is always the concern they will leave once fully trained. However, what successful companies have figured out is that if you don’t look past what they need today, and start investing training dollars into employees FUTURE roles, you will never have internal candidates for those positions when they open up!

7. Hiring from the outside. Out­side hiring is part two of the employee turnover double-whammy. After companies have failed to provide leadership development training to their employees, they squash their ambitions by hiring a supervisor from outside the organization — because nobody internal had the skills set.

While not totally avoidable, hiring key leadership roles from the outside should be the exception — not the norm. Employee reviews should be as much about what they need to learn for their future, as it is reviewing what they should have learned from the past.

8. Communication. This is a wide ranging topic, but ultimately comes down to doing everything possible to keep employees informed on activities going on in the company. Secrecy creates turnover. Employees can’t possibly stay aligned if they don’t understand why decisions are being made. Communicate with them. Inform them about the opportunities, as well as the challenges. Failure to do this creates confusion, rumors, lack of trust and ultimately departure.

9. Tradition. Business is moving too fast to run with the approach that “if it worked in the past …” Teams need to be put together based on off-setting generations, skills, and abilities. By following tradition and grouping people by skills and style, you have created a very stale environment that will quickly be perceived as un-challenging, and a great place to leave!

Companies need to mix things up. Utilize mentors, increase opportunities for idea sharing and create projects that include co-workers from different areas. Make every day a new opportunity and challenge!

10. Follow the Ladder. Promoting from within is key, but failing to give future leaders exposure to different parts of the business will narrow their internal career opportunities rather than widen them. Employees want the opportunity to learn more, and learn to be effective across a broader area — not get trained to end up with only one potential opportunity. Lateral moves aren’t a negative if they’re part of a plan.

Give your future leaders that opportunity to learn and accept a new challenge and they will have no reason to look elsewhere to get it.

Despite the challenges of the work-life balance in retail agronomy, turnover is avoidable. Recognizing opportunities to improve some of these steps are certain to enhance your ability to retain your top people. If you don’t — you better hope your competitors don’t recognize it first!

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Ernie Klug says:

The above are 10 excellent comments!!!!!! Thank you–Ernie Klug

Rodger Meyer says:

I grew up on a 280 acre irrigated dairy farm, 85 milk cows plus youngstock. I have a diploma in Diesel Mechanics, Associate degree in Agri-Business, diploma in farm management, 2.5 years at the UW-River Falls,WI and an Associate Degree in Geographic Information System Technology – electronic mapping. I am a Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator and have been a Certified Crop Adviser. the problem that I have had with Co-ops is they want people during the Spring planting season which is about three months and then they no longer need you. I have run sprayers with Raven monitors in them for two different businesses and it has been the same story. One was a former FS business and now is CENEX. The other is a family run business. Both have been in business for 40 years or more. Based on this experience there isn’t much future in it if the job is not going to a full time position. I was wanting to get into precision farming but the Co-ops don’t want to spend the money for the equipment. Unless you get a job with a very large company your job will only be for three to four months per year.

D. Miller says:

Rodger sorry to hear about your experience this far. Mine has been just opposite. I started in northern Indiana as a full time applicator, moved to operations manager, now soon moving to sales. This has been with a national retailer. We are currently looking for an applicator this spring and will be this fall also due to advancements. Reply if you would be interested in relocating.