When I started writing this book, employee retention was a sizzling hot topic. Unemployment was extraordinarily low and the stock market was sky high. Competition for qualified workers was so keen that managers practically came to blows over competent IT workers.
When I finished this book, layoffs were capturing the headlines. Corporate giants like Lucent Technologies, GM, and Motorola were letting go thousands of people.
Despite these economic changes, the issue of employee retention is here to stay. The labor shortage that plagues employers at the height of an economic boom will not vanish. It may be temporarily off our radar now and then, but it will always be back, stronger than ever.
Regardless of the performance of the economy—the fact is we do not have enough quality people equipped with the right skills to fill all the jobs available, and it’s going to get worse. The labor pool is drying up. No longer is there a bottomless pit of workers ready to knock on employer’s doors. The growth rate of the workforce has been steadily declining since the 1970s. Both the U.S. Census Bureau and a report from Andersen Consulting indicate that the workforce will begin to experience a negative growth rate beginning in the year 2015.
Workers in the 25 to 44 year old age category—traditionally the source of executive talent—are already disappearing. Front-line managers and supervisors are increasingly hard to find. Information technology jobs are going unfilled. Vacancies in the food industry and healthcare field are driving human resource professionals to distraction.
In the long run, there will be more jobs than qualified workers. The tight job market of the late 90s was just a taste of difficulties to come. The outlook—increasing competition for fewer qualified workers—will necessitate an enormous emphasis on the need to retain those workers.
Not many organizations are ready to meet this challenge.
Employers say they want loyal, motivated employees who will stay committed to their organization. But then they threaten these workers with layoffs and insult them with a work environment where people have to work longer hours taking up the slack of two or more people.
Our emphasis on short-term profits and shareholder return has shattered the concept of the "lifetime job." With that concept put out to pasture, today’s workers know that their employers see them as expendable—so why should they give their best to an organization that may lay them off when profits go south?
Meanwhile, those very employers who see workers as expendable and not loyal tie up enormous amounts of time, money, and energy in recruiting and replacing an endless stream of workers.
That’s backwards. As our labor pool shrinks, employers must focus on creating a work environment that lets people work productively and effectively and makes them feel good enough to stay.
That’s the subject of this book.
Here Today, Here Tomorrow shows managers what it takes to create a positive work environment that attracts, keeps, and motivates its workforce to higher levels of performance. It is a complete guide to the key elements that can transform high-turnover industries to high-retention businesses.
Two key themes permeate this book.
First, retention matters. A continual effort to replace departing workers—to keep the revolving door full, instead of stopping it altogether—is bleeding U.S. businesses dry. It’s expensive to constantly replace people. The cost of attracting, recruiting, hiring, training, and getting new people up to speed is tremendously more costly as well as tremendously more wasteful than most realize.
Second, productivity is directly tied to retention. Companies with high turnover are at risk for low productivity. Studies from the Gallup organization show that employees who have an above-average attitude toward their work will generate 38 percent higher customer satisfaction scores, 22 percent higher productivity, and 27 percent higher profits for their companies.
The right work environment can achieve both of these goals. Whether a worker stays for two years or twenty, he or she should be as productive as possible. If companies can’t guarantee lifelong employment, at least they can create an environment that removes obstacles to productivity for the life of a job.
In this book, you’ll read about companies with work environments that attract and retain people—and where people are willing to give their best. These environments aren’t expensive. In fact, they save money. In many cases, they tremendously improve retention and productivity without lavish salaries or bonuses. And they certainly lower the expense of continually hiring and training new people.
This book shows why retention and productivity must become a strategic issue of highest priority. It introduces the elements of a high-retention workplace, and shows how to implement them. It also offers vignettes and ideas from a wide range of organizations that have learned that a positive work environment creates happier, more productive workers and a healthier bottom line.
Why I Wrote This Book
I wrote this book for several reasons. The most compelling is the pain I feel when I see human potential going to waste. It’s heartbreaking to see people who are so hamstrung by poor management or procedures that they are unable to enjoy what they do. Whether they quit outright or only mentally resign from achieving above minimum performance, there are two losers—the individual and the business.
My viewpoint on human potential has been shaped by many years working with the military. I joined the military for two main reasons: first, to follow in my father’s footsteps, and second, to learn how to become a leader. My early years in the military were very exciting and I certainly learned a great deal about leadership—the good and the bad.
But the higher I moved up the ranks, the more frustrated I became. Eventually it seemed to me that what mattered wasn’t ideas or initiative, but rank, title, and the location of your office. In basic terms, bureaucracy replaced leadership. It was more important to protect the bureaucracy, the old way of doing things, than it was to improve.
Eventually I found myself at the corporate level of U.S. Army’s medical headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. I was the Director of Quality Management and Strategic Planning when the military was in the throes of change. The Berlin Wall had fallen and now the U.S. Army found itself without an enemy for the first time since the Cold War. Well, that’s not entirely true. We did find another enemy: ourselves. We had become our own worst enemy.
During the 1980s and early 1990s part of my job was to travel the nation attending the best education and training sessions and looking for innovative examples in the private sector. To my surprise I found that many private sector businesses were just as bureaucratic as the military – sometimes even more so.
Through the efforts of senior military leadership, we were able to help transform the military into a more flexible and more responsive entity. Those successes experienced by the military helped capture the attention of private sector businesses. When I left the military I developed my own strategy, which combined the best ideas the military had to offer with the best ideas of the corporate side. With this knowledge I began working with other organizations interested in creating work environments that lead to higher retention and better productivity. Of all the lessons learned the one that stands central to all is that retention, just like leadership, must begin at the top.
In this book, you’ll meet dozens of CEOs who know that where they lead, their companies follow. When they decide to value their employees….to discard old mindsets and replace them with innovative new approaches…to replace ineffective management styles with flexible, effective management practices….then it gets done. With the support of top management, companies can create environments that nurture retentionship and productivity.
In my travels and in working with my clients, I have found that every industry—from food to hardware to high-tech to tanning salons—wanted answers on how to improve workforce retention and make employees more productive.
And in my travels, I found them. In researching this book, I talked with dozens of companies that have created humane, exciting, creative approaches to work—approaches that are energizing their people and increasing their profits.
The variations are exciting, but the recipe is simple:
Companies who practice these principles don’t have to worry about losing employees. Their people feel provided for, and they are not going to jump ship for a $2 an hour pay raise. It’s a win-win situation. Workers enjoy their workplace and earn a decent salary, and employers save money they would otherwise invest in endless recruitment and training.
Meanwhile, you can bet that the same employers who downsized their workforce in the first quarter of 2001 will be recruiting their replacements very soon. Unfortunately, they will painfully discover how difficult it will be to find the same caliber of workforce they let go.
If you have smart, gifted, well trained and loyal workers who wouldn’t leave your company for a million dollars, I congratulate you. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to do what you can to bring the revolving door of personnel to a halt, read on. I hope this book will inspire you to take the actions necessary to make your business a place where your employees can say, here today…and here tomorrow.
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