As an employee retention trainer and employee retention speaker, I am blessed to be able to travel to locations across the USA and to meet with groups of all different sizes and types.  This past winter, I had the opportunity to travel to St. Cloud MN to speak and run a workshop at the MN School Bus Operators Association.  The workshop finished at about 6PM and I had a 7-hour drive home to Milwaukee.  I was exhausted but thought I could make it home anyway and sleep in my own bed.  I was wrong.  After about 3 hours driving, I was falling asleep and decided to stop for the night.

Because I am cheap with my client’s money, I didn’t stop at a high-end hotel.  I didn’t stop at “Fred’s Motel” either.  Instead, I chose to pull in to a name-brand mid-range hotel where I had had good luck staying in the past.  It was late…and cold…almost -10 degrees.  When I walked into the lobby it was dingy and not terribly well kept up. I checked in anyway and pulled my car around to the side entrance closest to my room.  The snow was not shoveled so I trudged through a foot of snow in my dress shoes, pulling my suitcase to the door.  My card key didn’t work.  After four tries it finally let me in.  All the while I am thinking, “This isn’t a good sign.”  I got to my room and opened the door.  I stepped in and flipped the light switch.  It didn’t work.  Oh, great!  None-the-less, I reached around the wall and flipped on the light switch in the bathroom so I could see.  I’d been driving for over three hours and had to go to the bathroom, so I stepped in and did what you do in the bathroom.  I flushed the toilet and the pipes groaned and rumbled as the tank refilled.  Not a good omen.  All the while I’m thinking, “No big deal, I’m not going to be flushing the toilet when I try to sleep.”  Then I turned to lock the door.  The chain was missing!  Oh great!  Hey, I can put a chair under the door knob.  I’m just tired and want to go to bed.

Next, I walk to the night stand to flip on the light.  It doesn’t work either.  By this time, I should have went down, got my money back, and went to another hotel.  But, I really wanted to just go to bed.  After finding another light and turning it on, I start to wonder, “Did they change the sheets after the last person left?”  With a bit of trepidation, I start to pull back the bedspread to look and think, “Am I even going to take the chance?”  Instead, I grab a blanket from the closet, keep my jacket on and sleep in the chair for five hours, get up and drive the rest of the way home.  So much for the glamorous life of a professional speaker!

As I am driving home, I begin to think how this event is like employee turnover.  Employee turnover just doesn’t happen in one big event.  It is gradual and insidious.  I should have realized my hotel was going to be a wreck and done something about it right away.  Employee retention is the same way.  When you see things going bad you need to address it instead of thinking it will get better.  It won’t.  The moral of the story is: when things start to go bad with your employee retention…act before it becomes a disaster like my hotel stay did.