Listen Up: Keeping a Solid Workforce is Easier than You Think

By Paul Bieber

I read many different business articles and came across one the other day that you must hear about. To summarize, it said that of all new employees to an organization who leave or are let go after the initial 30 days, 11% leave because of performance issues and 89% go because of attitudinal problems.

It costs tons of money—10-40% of annual wages—to hire and train an employee. In that first month your mistakes are seen quickly. So be it. After 30 days though, you should have a good employee who will help your whole organization grow. So where’s the disconnect?

These are people who have attained the skills you need. How can you, as a company leader, allow this drain of your company’s resources?

STOP TALKING

The answer is not that complicated. If you are a small company, under a dozen people, then meet with each employee for a half-hour or so every two months. Let them do most of the talking; your role is to listen. If problems come up, work as a team to solve them. Listen carefully. Follow up on any problems you hear about. It’s not an employee review, but a listening session. When I did this, most of my co-workers wanted greater responsibility and/or the training to grow in their jobs.

It’s when an employee feels stifled and ignored that they go shopping for a new home. In today’s labor market, you don’t want to lose anyone, especially when a conversation and some follow-up will do the trick.

Eighty-nine percent of the people who leave after 30 days just don’t like the job or the people.

What do these job changes cost you per year? Isn’t it cheaper and better to host an employee lunch or an after-work cookout than to read resumes of candidates?

As an employer, you should be investing at least 10% of your time in your personal relationships with your staff. If you have supervisors down the line, they should be doing the same. Teach them to be listeners and not simply an order-giver to speed up production or improve installations. This should be done up and down the line, whether you have ten employees or a hundred.

WATCH HOW THINGS CHANGE

After teaching this to a couple of clients, they responded that they learned more from their employees than they could have ever imagined. Doing this turned their whole company right-side-up and cut their turnover by 70%. They implemented many of the employees’ thoughts, and not only saved money, but also earned more.

Take your two or three key people out to lunch or dinner at least once a month. Hear what they are saying and pass along new ideas for your company. What types of projects are you looking for? How can you grow in new areas and what new product lines do you want to add? These two hours will improve the employees’ attitudes, and don’t be surprised when you see yourself being more communicative and enjoying your work, too.

And there’s a great side benefit … employees who are happy in their job talk about this with their friends and when there’s a job opening, they tell their friends to apply at your company.

More than half of the people who leave your company would have stayed on with a good communication pathway. The savings here are huge. Your customers will appreciate the consistency of your staff, and your cost of hiring and training nears an all-time low. All you have to do is listen to your team. As a consultant, this is the most valuable advice I can ever give.

Paul Bieber has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence and as executive vice president of Floral Glass in New York. He is now the principal of Bieber Consulting Group LLC and can be reached at paulbaseball@msn.com. Read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com.

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