Fallowed forethought

Rick Willmot

Pundits have been shouting form the rooftops bemoaning the current skills shortage and grimacing the temerarious Gen Y for what seems like a decade. But despite the jeremiads of some, few organisations have taken steps to develop a useful strategy to diminish the negative impacts on their business.

70% of organisations cannot point to a specific strategy for long-term employee attraction and maintenance. There is no explicit strategy, let alone a budget for managing the people issues within their business.

Management is always eager to execute a survey, or an analysis and examination every time there is a market correction, or sales figures decline. The truly successful leaders over the next decade will be those who can see what the competition cannot. If businesses allocated any reasonable time into considering future people requirements and made it a priority to actually implement a system for attraction and retention, 2008 could be their best year ever.

In December 2007, The Society for Executive Wisdom conducted a survey of 250 Australian businesses to uncover what, if anything is being implemented to combat the perceived skills shortage and generational challenges of managing employees. The good news is that in the past year, 86% of those surveyed have acknowledged retention of staff as a significant issue for their business and have taken specific and identifiable steps to improve what I call ‘people maintenance’.

The downside is that 55% claim to continue having problems in this area, and 68% state quite adamantly that reducing staff turnover is a major priority. The point is, of course, that not all staff turnover is a bad thing.

The crucible for business is forethought. Most businesses are not prepared for the departure of key employees, neither are they considering the true reasons as to why these people are leaving.

The HR manager of an Executive Wisdom client presumed that people were leaving for more money, promotional opportunities offered elsewhere, or unsatisfactory relationships with direct managers. What Executive Wisdom discovered was something quite different:

1. Poor interpersonal relationships with work colleagues.

2. Broken promises of management.

3. Lack of cooperation between departments and people.

4. Perceived unsatisfactory training and development.

5. Boredom in the roles at work.

6. Work and tasks that were uninteresting.

We advise businesses to:

1. Provide challenging work.

2. Offer opportunities to engage in worthwhile and meaningful training and development.

3. Regularly redesign roles to engage, stimulate and satisfy your people.

4. Be more flexible in structuring job descriptions on an ongoing basis.

5. Improve communication within the all sectors of your organisation.

6. Improve your induction process for new starts.

7. Ensure you collect valid and pertinent data from exit interviews.

8. Engage an independent third party to assess the health of your people strategies.

It is a challenge to quantify the adverse impact an unhappy or disenchanted employee will have on morale, customer satisfaction and business performance. However, a one per cent decrease in employee attrition would reduce recruitment costs dramatically, as well as increasing overall business effectiveness.

Ric Willmot is the CEO of Executive Wisdom Consulting Group and founder of the Society for Executive Wisdom, an association of executives, business owners and professional practitioners from varied and diverse industries. Visit www.executivewisdomsociety.com.

*Excerpt from MHD Supply Chain Solutions, May/June 2008 (p.66)

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