Posts Tagged 'employee turnover'

Coaching Required for “Gen Y” Workers

Coaches Win – Bosses Lose!  It’s really as simple as that.  Try to “boss” today’s workers and you might as well hang out the white flag of surrender because it just doesn’t work.

Do you know there are almost 40 million “millineals” out there?  If you are a manager, or are involved in staffing, that fact alone should get your attention.  And, the “millineals” or “generation y” workers tend to think differently about work.

Basically, younger workers [between 18 and 26], today’s “millineals”, with more career choices, are pickier about where they work and why.  Even in a recessionary economy, workers have more career destination options than only a few years ago.  In our service economy, people are typically the key factor in determining a companies success or failure.  And workers make career decisions based on this premise; I will take a job if it looks good, but I will only keep it if it feels good.  And it had better feel good fast! Now that is changed thinking.

So, what’s new?  How have expanded career options impacted worker thinking? Here’s a starter list:

  • I no longer work to live, I live to work, my way.
  • I don’t take a job to make my company a success, I work to get what I want from the company.
  • I want maximum flexibility with a minimum of rules, procedures and boundries.
  • I’m convinced my lack of experience simply makes it easier for me to see the world objecivley and that “old time” managers are jaded by the screwed up life they’ve lived.
  • I want money, and I want benefits, and I want them day one on the job.
  • I expect a complete training program with lots of “hands-on” follow up on the job.
  • I demand respect … before I’ve earned it.
  • I want my opinions included in the decision making process…whether or not I have an intelligent idea.
  • I want to be taught, not told
  • I want you to sell me, not tell me.

I could go on…but won’t.  The point is, if you are in a position of hiring, training or leading people in today’s workplace, you’d better learn to be a coach vs. a boss! You’d better understand that the way to keep your winners is to teach them how to succeed, and begin day one!  If you stake your management success on a building great plan and simply make assignments, without concern for worker motivation to hit your goals, you’ll come up short every time.

Houston, we have a problem; many of today’s managers haven’t lived in this “new world” of people management. They have not been coached, they have been bossed. They are the survivors of an outdated management culture. And many sturggle mightly to lead effectively.  They simply don’t have the requisite skills.

Back in the 20th century, lots of research was done on people, and their attitudes about working.  Most managers fell into a style described as “Theory X”.  These folks believe in work, period. Hard work built America. It’s the task that’s important, not the person doing it. People, they believed, don’t really want to work but will do so if, and only if pushed, prodded and threatened.  No surprise, this thinking came from the hardships of the great depression. During the 30s and 40s, the period before WWll, people took any job they could find.  Of course, many hated what they did each day but working  put food on the table. 

Things are different today. Even in our recessionary economy, workers have more choices. So far, putting food on the table has not been an issue; not for most. Today, gen y workers struggle with decisions like which laptop to buy or where they’ll sit at the critically important concert this weekend. They want to spend more time on themselves, less at work.  Fewer hours, more flexibility, that is ther objective.  They want choices, and they want them now.

So, in view of this undeniable paradigm shift, will you lead effectively? Will you be able to accomplish your business goals through people? Or, will you sit back and complain about how nobody wants to work anymore. Your choice.

These days, I spend most of my time helping managers cope with the unavoidable requirement to learn leadership skills, to impact behavior.  Anyone, I believe, can learn to lead, and must.

Building new human interaction or coaching skills requires ongoing management learning.    Take a close look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you are prepared to win with people.

A few questions for you:

1. Are you a coach or boss? Do you understand the difference?

2. Is employee turnover an issue in your business?

3. Are you attracting enough of the right people?

4. Do you prioritize tasks or people?

5. When performance is unsatisfactory, do you know how to change it?

6. Do your team members respect or resent you?

7. Do you inspire your team to achieve, to be the best they can be?

8. Bottom line, are you living in the management past?


Eliminating Team Busters – Landscaping business example

It’s a mid-summer Monday morning in Grassville.  You have just completed your regular team meeting, making assignments, recognizing top performers….steering the ship through another week in the green industry.


At this week’s meeting, you tried to emphasize your strong belief that if your small company does not deliver better, more personalized customer service than the competition, your business will suffer.  You talked about knocking on the door of each customer’s home, checking with homeowners every chance you get to identify any questions or problems that may need attention.  You talked about ‘doing the job right the first time’, to avoid unnecessary service calls. 


A quick survey of the crew’s faces signaled that they got the message.  Heads nodded agreement at every point.  You ended the meeting satisfied.


After the session, you watch over the day’s ‘start-up’, making sure the crew is organized and on the road, then turn your attention toward repairing the breakdown of an important spray rig.  In the middle of the job, missing some parts, it’s clear you’ll have to pick up some supplies to finish the job. 


Since another employee is using your pick-up, you borrow the Office Manager’s car and head for the store.  About a mile from the shop, you notice two of your vehicles at a Mickey D’s.  Strange…you provided all the necessary coffee and doughnuts the guys could eat only 20 minutes earlier…why Mickey D’s?  Why now?


Unable to arrive at a logical reason for their presence, you pull in.  Parking the unfamiliar car in the rear, you go in through the side door.


In the middle of the room, sitting behind a row of plants, are two of your people.  Interestingly, one is a new employee, on the job only a few weeks.  The other person is a long time veteran.  The two are absorbed in their conversation and don’t notice your arrival.


Like a stealth fighter, you slide undetected into a hidden seat opposite the row of interior plants.  Only five or six feet away and completely unaware, your two employees provide an easy-to-hear conversation.


What happens next should happen to all managers at least once in their careers.


Listening with growing interest, you become the uncomfortable witness to an all too common employee ‘mind set’ or attitude you’ve come to know as ‘The Team Buster’.  The ‘TB’, as you now refer to these insidious negative employees, can, if a very short time, eliminate positive thinking.  They create divisiveness and negative attitudes that can destroy a team’s morale, productivity and loyalty, leading to increased turnover.


As the conversation progresses, you find it hard to stay cool.  Tom, your six-year veteran is lecturing Anthony, your new employee.  In his monologue, he goes into great detail about his extensive experience working with customers.  He tells Anthony that ‘what you heard in the meeting is the typical bosses ‘take’ on customer service’.  With a superior sneer, Tom carefully outlines what he calls ‘the real world’, and lets Anthony know in plain terms that ‘what ‘he’ told us to do is what all ‘bosses’ try to get employees to do’.  Continuing, ‘these owners don’t do what we do kid…in fact, most of them haven’t touched a spreader or spray rig for so long, they wouldn’t know what to do with one’.  The lecture went on, ‘if you want to know how to get the job done…I mean hit your production goal and still have a life…I mean, you know, get out of here at a decent hour, here’s what you do’.  Then, Tom proceeded to undo all the instructions and training you have provided the new person.


By the time the bottom of the coffee cup was visible through the last drops of Mickey’s great brew, you new employee had been indoctrinated by ‘The Destroyer’.  He now understood that ‘knocking on the door wastes your time’, that ‘nobody’s home anyhow’.  He learned how to write little comments on invoices in advance because ‘doing it on the lawn takes too much time’.  Anthony had also been carefully instructed on how to answer the typical question ‘those stupid customer’s ask’, and why ‘all you really need to do is blow a little smoke at them and get outa there’.  Good old Tom didn’t miss a thing.  He even told the new man when, where and how to relieve himself in the bushes.  That part of the story he told with great pleasure, emphasizing that ‘if you are good enough, you’ll never get caught’.


Tough as it was, you controlled yourself in order to take it all in, until…until Tom began to describe his technique for observing specific female ‘sunbathers’ in his territory that ‘really make the job fun in the summer’.


That’s when the game ended.


You’ve had it.  You get up, approach the startled workers and say, _________________


This is where I am going to stop.


What do you say?  What would you say to a veteran like Tom?  What action would you take?  What damage was done?  Can the damage be repaired?  How long had this been going on?


Ask yourself, ‘has this happened in my operation’?  Could it happen to me?  How should I eliminate the threat posed by ‘The Team Buster?


Sooner or later, in every operation, you encounter a negative ‘Team Buster’


‘TB’s’ are negative people.  ‘Destroyers’, left in existence will poison your team. Eventually, ‘TB’s’ will lead to negative thinking followed by negative feelings and resulting in negative behavior.  These negative people will tear down your team’s morale and your business will suffer.


How to deal with ‘The Team Buster’


Set positive standards.  You have a clear right to run your business any way you choose.  That privilege includes establishing customer service attitudes as well as procedures.  And, your staff has a responsibility to meet your standards.


Your actions, in response to learning you have a destroyer on the squad, should be as follows:

·         REACT…AND REACT IMMEDIATELY!  Failure to react, hoping a negative person will ‘see the light’ and change ‘once things get less hectic’ never happens.  React now.

·         First, be certain you have clearly and effectively communicated exactly what your standards and expectations are.  Make 100% sure everyone understands what you expect.  Often, we assume our thoughts are clearly understood.  At times, the best of us may send mixed signals.  Under difficult circumstances, even the most committed of us may fail to live up to our own standards.  So, before you blame and take action, check out your training and communications effectiveness.

·         Next, convinced the employee knew how the job was to be done, conduct an immediate personal and private performance intervention interview.  Take the employee off the premises for a private meeting.  Do not discuss the details with other employees, do not draw conclusions in advance of your interview.

·         In the interview, review the training and communication you have provided, the instructions you have given.  Get the employee to acknowledge that he/she understood the ‘rules of the road’, the job performance standards.

·         Now, communicate the specific performance problem in detail.  Be specific, detailed and unemotional.  Confine comments to specific performance.  Do not attempt to analyze why the performance was unacceptable, just describe what actually happened. 

·         Ask the employee to explain his/her performance and give input.  Listen with an open mind.  Do not jump to conclusions and do not ‘bait’ the employee in order to prove your point.  In other words, stick to the facts.

·         Based on what you learn and assuming the performance was unacceptable, most managers believe the employee deserves at least one verbal and one written warning.  Depending on the severity of the unacceptable performance and it’s impact on your business, you may decide to terminate the employee on the spot.  If you decide to warn the employee, give the employee specific and detailed instructions on the type and level of performance you expect in the future, beginning immediately.  Do not argue, do not negotiate.  At this time, you are giving clear and non-negotiable instructions. 

·         Establish follow up performance ‘benchmarks’ and a time table for improvement.  Always follow up quickly.  As performance improves, performance checks can be made at increasingly longer intervals.


The worst thing any manager can do is NOTHING.  If you don’t like what you see or hear, only you, the manager in charge can bring about change.


Keeping ‘Team Busters’ off the team


Once stung, most managers react one of two ways.  They either develop the general opinion that ‘people just don’t want to follow directions’ and ‘they don’t make em’ the way they used to’, or they learn to keep a closer ‘ear to the ground’.  I prefer the second alternative.


Here are two specific things you can do to minimize the chance that a ‘TB’ will invade your staff through:

·         Require staff input as a part of the planning, problem solving process.  People are positively motivated and will work harder to succeed when they feel ownership in the process and objective.  You do not have to turn over the decision making or procedure establishment process to employees, but getting their ideas and input while you are developing your own thoughts will take advantage of the power of synergy. People working together with a common goal, will almost always make better decisions than even the smartest individual working alone.  Not only will group input in the process improve the quality of your planning, it will motivate employees, building ownership and loyalty.

·         Hold regular ‘one-on-one’ meetings with your staff.  Make them frequent, private and personal.  Ask questions that probe the employee’s mind.  Learn as much as possible about their overall level of satisfaction, their frustrations.  Be bold enough to ask your employees straight out, ‘how can I make your job a little bit easier’?  You do this to show you care about your people.   Once they know you genuinely care about them, they’ll care too.  People respond in their own way to work and stress.  The more you know about each individual, the better able you’ll be to deal with his/her issues and needs.


If You Wanna Win, You Gotta Train!

I want this post to help managers out there who are serious about winning and understand that it will be their people, not them, that will put them over the top.

Two facts are important. First, untrained people fail or, at very best, underperform vs. those who have the skills to succeed.  Seems obvious enough, doesn’t it. Why then, is training typically an after thought on the priority list of most managers? Let that question soak in a while.

Untrained and, therefore, unskilled people cost lots of money; they are inefficient, prone to error, and have trouble solving the the easiest of problems.  So, can we agree…training makes good business sense? I hope so.

Below, are several suggestions that will make training easier for even the smallest companies.

· Commit to building a training culture. It all starts at the top. Without visible support for training, it just won’t happen. Too many other things to focus on…training can wait!

· Designate a trainer who cares. For far too long, the person doing the training is a burned out veteran, deemed unproductive by senior management.  Your trainer must want to train and have a fire in his/her belly for teaching people to win! Be sure the person you select is literate, can communicate effectively verbally and in writing…and simply enjoys mixing it up with people.

· Spend adequate time constructing a training program.  Too many companies pull the first the fist generic program off the shelf they can find.  Honestly, the best training comes from within the company.  Subject matter experts are your source, the trainer is your story teller/teacher.  Don’t train just to say you did.  By the way, “small bite” training works best with today’s gen y workers. They want to be taught, not told and they want it in concise, logical form.

· Organize your content on a need to know, sequential basis.  Most training covers too much for too long in too great detail.  What does the new player need to know today to win today? Teach that. Then, with an early success driving learner motivtion, come back tomorrow with another ‘small bite’ and another success. Sequence the training over time.

· Follow all training with “hands-on” coaching on the job. This is vital! People learn through spaced repetition.  Adults need for the learning to make logical sense; they need to know why we ask them to do this or that. Train logically, sequentially, based on skill development needed to win. Leave the nice to know stuff for another time.

I could go on…but won’t. If this makes sense, let me know. If you have a better way, toss it at me too.

Good luck!

For more on me, go to my website