Employee Turnover Is A Leadership Problem

Author

Liz Ryan

August 4, 2016

Dear Liz,

I could use your help with a situation I’m facing at work. I manage a Tech Support department of 22 technicians who help our customers using text, phone and email and they do a great job. However, I am constantly hiring and training because our turnover is extremely high. The reason for the high level of turnover is a limit on the wages I can pay. They’re not competitive.

We gave our most senior employees pay raises in early 2016 but it wasn’t enough to keep them. There are too many other opportunities for them to make more money in other companies. I’ve talked to my company’s co-owners about the turnover issue numerous times but they don’t listen. They say, “You’re managing it pretty well.”

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I’ve been promised cost-of-living increases for my team and they haven’t come through, month after month. There is always some reason why it’s impossible to pay my employees what they deserve. In many cases employees were told that they’d be receiving pay increases at certain intervals and they haven’t gotten them.

I was one of the people making those commitments! I was not permitted to process the pay raises that I committed to and that is very frustrating.

I belong to a professional association for people in my industry and turnover is a problem for all of them, so I don’t take my employee retention problems personally, but the high turnover definitely impairs my ability to do my job. The resignations come in waves.

Three or four employees will give notice in a two-week period, then a month will go by, and then two more people will quit. It’s depressing, to be honest. I would love your advice about what to do.

Thanks,

Reese

Dear Reese,

I went to a workshop on employee turnover once.

The workshop leader said, “Some level of attrition is built into every business model” and he was right. Your co-owners have decided that your current level of employee turnover is just fine with them.

Why shouldn’t it be? It doesn’t hurt them. You hire and train replacements as each wave of departures hits you. Your co-owners may not notice that activity or care about it. Why would your co-owners care, after all?

Here is the issue facing you, Reese: You and your company’s co-owners are different people. They are not you, and you are not them.  They have decided how to run their business. You get to — and by extension, have to — independently decide how to run your department, not to mention your career.

If you want to be the manager of a revolving-door technical support department for the next few or many years, it’s fine. That is your choice. That choice might meet your career and life goals, or it might not.

If you care about the turnover problem enough to stake your job on it, you’ll stop mentioning it to your co-owners ere and there and you’ll tell them that you must either improve your techs’ pay scales and lower the level of turnover, or quit yourself.

Managers like you find their voices and speak their truth at work every day. Often it happens when they reach the point where their bodies speak up even as their fearful brains beg them to pipe down.

If you want to speak up, you’ll have to show your co-owners how training and hiring costs (many or most of which may be “soft” costs not easily shown on a spreadsheet) are hurting them financially. You may be able to do that, and you may not.

Anyway, your team members’ salary levels are only one part of the issue. The other part is the fact that your co-owners don’t respect you enough to tell you the truth or to see that you keep your commitments. That may be a bigger problem than anything having to do with compensation plans!

Whether the reason for your team members’ short tenures with you are poor salaries, poor working conditions or a lack of advancement opportunities, every turnover problem has the same root cause. Your company’s owners don’t care about hanging on to their employees. That is their privilege. We can call them lousy managers, but why should they care what we think?

Turnover is a leadership problem. When you as a manager are told over and over again that your employees will get raises and over and over again, the raises don’t come through, you become part of the problem. We all have an obligation to make good on our commitments to other people, whether we are at work, at home or anywhere else.

You say that you don’t take the turnover problem personally, but I wish you would take it personally, because you hired your employees and you made certain commitments to them, personally. That was your integrity on the line. You can’t say now, “Well, it didn’t work out” and wash your hands. You are the department manager.

Your co-owners are sliming you personally, every time they give you an excuse to avoid paying wages that you committed to pay. They are destroying your reputation. Is your job amazing enough to justify that insult?

Going forward, how can you hire one more person in good conscience when you know from harsh experience that whatever pay-related promises you make to them are unlikely to come true? Not only do you know that your promises are empty, but the rest of your teammates know it, too!

You are active in your industry association. Maybe now is the time for you to jump ship and follow your team members’ lead. It’s obvious that your current employer does not deserve you. If they did, they wouldn’t encourage you to keep misleading your new hires and fail to make good on promises they supported at the time when they were made.

Some jobs are simply short-term jobs and when everybody understands that going in, it’s great. When your leaders set you up to lie to your own employees and leave you hanging, Mother Nature is sending you a message. If you can’t stand your ground and get your co-owners to honor their commitments, you’ve got to leave. Somebody has to show some leadership — why shouldn’t it be you?

All the best,

Liz

 

This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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