Great managers keep great employees

When an employee quits they usually justify it by saying “I need more money.” However, most workers have little incentive to tell their soon-to-be-former employer the truth — that they are leaving because their supervisor (or YOU- the company owner) didn’t really “manage” them.

Without a good manager, their job became miserable. Remember this- most people don’t leave a job because of money and/or working conditions but because of their immediate supervisor.

True, money and the lack of it may play a role.  But in most cases a low salary is not the primary reason. Not convinced? See if this analogy hits closer to home.

Ask any carpet cleaner why one of his customers bailed on him and chose another cleaner.  Invariably he will say the other company was cheaper. Money is always the easy answer. The real reason in with both lost customers and employees who quit goes deeper. Simply put- normally the customer or the employee didn’t feel like they were important!

I’ve written a lot on this SFS “resource portal” about the theory of employee engagement. (See my previous management and marketing posts here.) However, this article may be one of the most important I’ve ever posted if you hope to build a truly great organization.  In a nutshell, engaged employees feel like they are allowed to use their natural strengths everyday in their jobs.

How can you get your people on board?  Let me share with you the key points from Patrick Lencioni’s The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. This is number six in a series of books written as fables. This story-telling technique is very popular as proven by the best-seller lists over the years. After all, we have loved stories since we were little children and we continue to love them today.

Patrick’s books are simple and short- designed as he says to be read on a Chicago to San Francisco flight. (In my case I listened to the audio version on an Indianapolis to Chicago drive.) For those readers who believe that fables are not “actionable” he has written a model for the program in the back of the book.

Lencioni begins by referring to several insightful Gallup studies. Think carefully on these statistics and how they apply to your company:

  • Only 25% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 55% of them are just going through the motions, and 20% of them are working against their employers interests.
  • According to the Herman Group, an employee retention specialist firm, at least 30-40% have of American workers already “checked out”.  Sure, they show up for work every day but are really focused on where their next job will be.
  • The Gallup organization estimates employers suffer more than $360 billion dollars annually in lost productivity.

NOW you can see why it is so important to spend the time hiring the right person and then obsess on making sure that person is happy in their job? Ken Blanchard, after 25 years of studying employee motivation, states the number one factor influencing job satisfaction is “the relationship that an employee has with their direct supervisor.”

So what are the three signs that lead to employee dis-satisfaction? Here’s the rundown:

#1- Anonymity
People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.

“Knowing” your employees can be as simple as asking about their families, hobbies, or other interests. Employees do not want to feel like they are an interchangeable cog in a McDonald’s type system. A manager does not have to do a lot to make a big impact.

#2- Irrelevance
Everyone needs to know that their job matters- to someone. Anyone! Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone.  (Even if it’s just the boss.)

As adults, most of us want a job that allows us to make a difference. In the cleaning world it is easy to see in the eyes of the customer how creating a clean and healthy environment has improved their world. If dogs could talk I am sure they would thank us immensely for removing the “accident” they caused on that beautiful wool rug. For the dog it may make the difference between sleeping in a warm cozy house as opposed to the cold doghouse!

#3- “I-measurement
Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person.  (No matter how benevolent that person may be.) Without tangible means of assessing success or failure a worker’s motivation will eventually deteriorates since the employees will see them self unable to control their own fate. Long-term goals do not work in this situation. These measures need to be on a daily basis for immediate feedback.

OK, now let’s put these concepts to work for a typical cleaning or restoration technician.  Your employee must be able to answer:  How many Scotchgard up-sells did I make today? How many referrals did I get today? How many people did I make really happy today? Sometimes it is the simplest measurements that make the biggest difference. Einstein said “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Let your technicians chime in on what needs to be counted.

Lencioni wrote this book because he was surprised and anguished by the number of people who suffered from what he calls the “Sunday Blues”- those awful feelings of dread and depression that many people get towards the end of their weekend as they contemplate going back to work on Monday!

The “Sunday Blues” have become a true social phenomenon. The rest of employee’s lives are affected by their attitudes developed during their work hours. Employees that have a good work experience and are engaged by their jobs come home in better moods and treat their friends and families in a better fashion!  You didn’t know that your management practices could have such a far ranging effect, did you!

Even more important for your future- how you motivate your employees will be a major predictor of your long range success.  Please- read and implement The Three Signs of a Miserable Job today!

Bill Yeadon

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