Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Culture of "Learn and Leave"

“I feel like I’m running some kind of private tutoring company here. But I really don’t have any choice,” she said. “I hire someone, train them, and then as soon as they get productive, they leave and go somewhere else. It’s really a problem, but I don’t see any way around it.”
Needless to say, this client was not really running a private tutoring company, but she was running a small company that worked with a lot of big utility companies. And it seems that experience in working with utility companies is a pretty hot commodity in the marketplace. So the client would hire someone to get the work done, train them on how to do the work and deal with the utilities effectively, and the next thing she knew, they would be out the door to a competitor or to another company that had similar issues and challenges.
Her real challenge was that she was a small company that couldn’t afford to pay very much, and she really didn’t want to grow the company into something bigger that could afford to pay more. She liked being small with a handful of employees, but the turnover was making her life miserable. At times, she felt like her biggest contribution to society was in training people to go work somewhere else.
“I’d love to be able to invest in my employees, to watch them grow and learn new things. Maybe we could even get more efficient and improve our processes. But every time I get a good employee who excels at this job, they get a better offer from somewhere else and I’m back out there hiring again."
We talked at great length about the type of people she tended to hire (entry level) and the type of training and documentation that the new employees were given. In truth, she had created a very efficient system for training new people with clear instructions, screen shots from the websites they needed to work with, and even decision trees to help them maneuver through the chaos utility companies often create. It was all very impressive.
“Why do you think they leave?” was my question.
“Oh, they don’t just leave,” was her response. “They get hired away. I’m being targeted by these other companies who steal my employees.”
As a small company, she was not doing formal exit reviews when people left. All she knew for sure was where they were going. And they weren’t just going to one or two companies. There were a half dozen or so big companies that her ex-employees routinely ended up working for.
A little research unveiled the real reason behind her constant turnover. And no, she wasn’t being targeted by these big companies. Rather, she was being targeted by her employees. As a small company, she couldn’t afford to pay her people very much, but the skills she was teaching them were very valuable on the open market. And discussions about “who went where” after working for her were quite common and open in the office. Without realizing it, she had actually created a culture of “Learn and Leave,” where new employees quickly realized that the best thing this job had to offer them was a ticket to a better paying job. As soon as new employees realized the opportunities that were in front of them, they worked hard to soak up as much information as possible and then applied at their target companies for increased pay and benefits.
What’s the answer for this poor business owner?
The reality is that even slowing down the office gossip about the great jobs available outside of her company wasn’t going to eliminate her turnover problem. Eventually, she was going to face one of two choices – either grow her company to the point that she could compete salary-wise with these other companies or face the constant turnover that her “training organization” was creating.
After much thought, she decided to embrace the “Learn and Leave” culture that she had inadvertently created. She felt better knowing that she wasn’t being targeted by these companies and actually used the concept of future prospects as a way to hire even more talented employees.
At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees
When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.
Until next time.....
Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems LLC

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