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Gutsy Leaders Anticipate The Future And Hang On Tight To Talent

How many of your material handling employees do you think are interested in leaving their jobs? The shocking truth is revealed by national surveys conducted by the Saratoga Institute, Spherion and Randstad Staffing agencies. Believe it or not, more than half, 51 percent, of the U.S. workers surveyed are interested in leaving their jobs, and 75 percent of them want to make the change within the next year. Here’s the clincher: If you think finding talented people is hard now, just give it a couple more years. It could be near impossible!

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting a major talent shortage. They estimate that by 2010, there will be about 167 million jobs to fill and only 157 million workers to fill those open positions. With all this data in mind, it is critical that companies get serious about doing whatever they can to hang on tight to talented people. If not, you may not be able to replace them.

What Are Employees Looking For?
What is it going to take to hang on to the talent you have? In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the increasing number of corporate ethics scandals being brought to light, people are continually re-evaluating life/work priorities. The rules have changed, and employees are bringing a different set of expectations to work. Again, national surveys show that people in general are placing a huge priority on these things:

  • Family First. Fewer people are willing to put family on hold for career goals.
  • Fulfilling Work. At the end of the day, people want to feel like the gifts and talents they offered to the company actually make a difference. The bottom line is, they want to engage in work and projects that matter.
  • Flexibility. People want the freedom to take care of life’s issues and challenges when they happen. Guess what? Life doesn’t just happen before 8 a.m., after 5 p.m. and on weekends. Life happens when life happens! People want to work for a boss who is willing to give them the flexibility to live it! Employees want the opportunity to participate in things like flex time, telecommuting, on-site daycare and community service projects. Unfortunately, 75 percent of those surveyed said their companies do not offer them.
  • Good Relationships. With as much time as people spend at work these days, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. People want to like their work teams.
  • Communication. People want and need information. They want to know the good and the bad, and they want to know what you don’t know. Let’s face it, people are paranoid, and rightly so, after the WorldCom, Enron, Tyco and Andersen debacles. Don’t hold back; communicate like crazy!

Key Retention Factors
What are the key retention factors in light of the heightened employee expectations? In other words, what will help you hang on to the talent you’ve currently got? Once again, we lean on the survey data. Traditionally, money and earning potential are not top motivators. Similarly, they are not top retention factors either. Compensation falls to fourth place. The top three retention factors are:

  1. Relationship with immediate supervisor
  2. Culture
  3. Training and continuing education.

This is powerful information for any company that wants to give its people a compelling reason to want to return to work each day. It should come as no surprise that the most important factor influencing employees’ satisfaction at work is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Leadership is critical! But, if leadership is first, why is it that when you conduct your exit interviews, people typically tell you they are leaving for more money or a better compensation package? Because it’s a whole lot easier to talk about money than it is to say, “I’m leaving because I don’t like you.”

Culture is vitally important. But if you have created a great work environment that tries to meet current-day employee expectations, it isn’t enough. You can have a great corporate culture, an impressive corporate reputation and be on the best or most admired lists, but if you hire a person who is a lousy leader, it can be disastrous. Remember, talented people will go to work for great companies, but they will always leave because of a bad boss. The only reason to be a leader (or to hire a leader) is to serve. If you are not good at serving, then you should not be in a leadership position.

Training and education are also key. Employees want to continually stretch, grow and develop. When you provide opportunities for this to happen, you are honing their talent, building their confidence and gaining their loyalty. Isn’t that what your company needs, too?

A Practical Example
SAS Institute is one of the most successful privately held software companies in the world. They have taken gutsy leadership to a new level when it comes to hanging on tight to talent and preparing for the future. Most IT companies have downsized, right-sized or frozen hiring altogether. But SAS Institute did the gutsy thing. They’re hiring like crazy! SAS has been bulking up on talent and taking advantage of the talented people who have, for one reason or another, been left out on the streets. SAS has increased its staff by about 17 percent in the last three years, and attrition has never exceeded 5 percent in its 27-year history.

Be gutsy, surround yourself with gifted talent, do whatever you can to give them a compelling reason to stay with your material handling company and get the heck out of their way.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Kevin Freiberg Meet the Author
Kevin Freiberg is an author and speaker located in San Diego, California, and on the Web at www.freibergs.com. His latest book is GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors Off Business-as-Usual.


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