As an employee retention speaker, I tell my audiences that visibility is the Holy Grail of retention. It is also the Holy Grail of Management. Tom Peters said it 20 years ago in “In search of Excellence.” The executives at Xerox got it when they designed a training program so managers would get out of their offices more than 30 years ago. Visibility is timeless. Yet, we tend to return to the caves we call our offices and hibernate. We cut ourselves off from our people and the information we need to run our business. We also cut out one of the most effective retention tools at our disposal…visibility.
Early in my career as an Employee Relations Supervisor (yes it was about our relationship with our employees back in the day as my son would say); I worked with a General Manager who took over a facility that was in major trouble. We hired hundreds of seasonal employees so retention was and issue. Productivity was terrible, delivery times were abysmal and morale was so low nobody wanted to come to work much less stay there. When he took over the facility, the first thing he did was begin taking his morning and afternoon “stroll” through the facility. This was a sprawling operation that ran 24/7 with rotating shifts so it was incredibly hard to communicate with employees much less see them in person. Not for him. He went out every morning and afternoon like clockwork. 7AM and 3PM and talked to everyone. It was part of his employee retention strategies.
People loved talking with him and he knew everyone. He also knew everything that was going on in the operation. He was able to use that information to make operational decisions that drove success. In a matter of months productivity was up, delivery times were down, accidents were reduced and employee retention was on the rise. The facility was making money and people were glad to come in. He spent 2 hours a day being highly visible. In fact, people noticed when HE WASN’T AROUND! He was truly an employee retention expert and people loved him. And…..he learned more about what was going on operationally and with our people. I learned a valuable lesson from him so now when conducting employee retention training, I tell participants if they want to be loved, stop hiding in your cave and get out into the facility!