This employee retention speaker and employee retention author was at a client recently and was working with a first-line supervisor on an employee retention initiative.  I mentioned the need to take time when an employee comes to him and asks him if he has a minute to talk.  He said to me, “But I will never get anything done if I do that.”  My initial reaction was to say, “And if you don’t take the time to talk to your people you won’t get anything done because, in the end, all your people will quit and go to work somewhere else.”  However, I bit my tongue and instead asked him what he saw his role as a supervisor to be.   He replied, “To get quality product out the door.”   My follow up question to that was, “How do you do that?”  As soon as he said, “Through my people” he knew where I was going with my line of questioning.

The reality is that everything we get done is through our people.  Your people are everything.  They make it happen.  If this employee had an issue around quality, the need to take off for a family emergency, or any myriad of things, the supervisor’s response impacts how an employee feels about their job or their supervisor.  Those thoughts eventually add up to determine whether or not a person wants to continue to work in the organization or, if you are lucky decides to transfer to another department.  I mentioned that to this supervisor and the light bulb went on.  As it happens, I knew what the transfer numbers looked like for his department.  He was not losing people to other companies, he was losing them to other departments in the same company.  In essence, he was having internal turnover.

The supervisor then said, “I’m shooting myself in the foot, aren’t I?”   He then realized that he was constantly training new people for his other colleagues in the plant.  He’d train them and then because of his lack of responsiveness to his people’s needs, they were transferring out of his department.  Fortunately, they liked the organization enough not to quit but that didn’t make this supervisor’s life any easier.

This employee retention trainer and the supervisor then had a conversation around his behaviors and what he was doing that could be driving people out of his department and how he should change.  As we were talking, an employee poked their head in the door and asked, “Do you have a minute?”  The supervisor looked at me and said, “Jeff I have something important that needs to be taken care of immediately, our conversation will have to wait.”  I was not offended at all.  I was thrilled!