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Ahead of the Curve Auto Supplier Blog

June 22, 2015

How Not to Contribute to the Talent Shortage or What the Heck Are My Supervisors Doing?

One of the things I’ve heard over and over again is that we have a talent shortage in Michigan.  It runs across occupations, from a shortage of engineers to a shortage of skilled tradespersons.  It is a problem, a significant problem, and one that we are not going to be able to solve overnight.  We will solve it.  We will get people educated and motivated to join the industry.  But it’s going to take time.  The question is:  what to do in the meantime?  I know, how about we spend a little time talking about keeping the talent we already have?
So let’s start with why people leave good jobs.  If I asked you that question, what would you say?  Would you say that people leave because they can get more money someplace else?  You might, and most people would agree with you.  But you would be wrong. 

In her article Strategies for Retaining Employees and Minimizing Turnover, Sarah K. Yazinski, an Admissions Counselor at the University of Scranton, cites strategic planning consultant Leigh Branham, SPHR, who says:  “88% of employees leave their jobs for reasons other than pay: However, 70% of managers think employees leave mainly for pay-related reasons.”

Branham says there are seven main reasons why employees leave a company:
  1. The job or workplace is not what they expected.
  2. There is a mismatch between the job and the person.
  3. There is too little coaching and feedback.
  4. There are too few growth and advancement opportunities.
  5. Employees feel devalued and unrecognized.
  6. Employees feel stress from overwork and have a work/life imbalance.
  7. There is a loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.
Note: Yazinski’s full report can be read HERE.

Think about that.  88% of people leave a job for reasons other than pay.  And then think about the disconnect.  70% of managers think it is all about pay.  So what do you do?  How do you keep people?   Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of and is a contributing author to Forbes online.  Ms. Bajic outlines six steps for retaining good employees:
  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  2. Coach rather than manage
  3. Establish clear performance metrics and make employees accountable for delivering
  4. Leverage performance reviews to gain insights into employee goals and aspirations
  5. Create growth opportunities
  6. Underscore positive feedback with something tangible
Note: Read more from Bajic HERE.

You know what?  I think that’s a pretty good list.  And when you take Ms. Bajic’s list and compare it to the reasons employees leave jobs, you see that there is a lot of overlap.  I get too little coaching and feedback.  No problem, we are going to coach rather than manage.  I feel undervalued.  No problem, we are going to provide something tangible (no, it does not have to be money!) for positive performance.  I can’t grow or advance.  No problem, I will create growth opportunities.

And you know what else I find striking about Ms. Bajic’s suggestions?  Every one of those six steps (except maybe number 5) is accomplished by front line supervision.  Sure, you need upper management to buy in.  And yes, you need help from HR.  But it is really about front-line management. 

So ask yourself this: how well equipped are your front line supervisors to perform these potential employee retaining actions?  Now be honest!  And that gets us to the question: what is the job of a supervisor?  I’ve said this before, and now I’m going to say it again, it is not making widgets, or brakes or bumpers.  And if you think it is, then you are probably part of the disconnect. 

The answer should be that a supervisor motivates and inspires people to do a better job. In short, their job is to keep employees happy, confident and satisfied with their work so that they, in turn, can be more productive and make better widgets in a more cost-effective manner to contribute to the bottom line. 

Is that what your supervisors do?  Or better yet, are you hiring and promoting supervisors who have these talents?  Do you screen for talents like communication skills and empathy?  Or do you just promote the best widget maker?  If you are doing the former, you’re way ahead of the curve.  If you’re doing the latter, you have some work to do.

And that is where we start in Michigan.  Yes, we have a talent shortage, and yes, it is going to take time to develop that talent.  So shouldn’t we do everything we can in the meantime to keep the talent we already have?  Sure we should, and one important way to do that is by making sure that our front-line supervisors are equipped to do the job they should be doing:  motivating and inspiring their employees to do their jobs better and ensuring that they feel valued when they do.  And then reward them when they do it right.
So here is your homework.  Take a look at your criteria for hiring and promoting supervisors.  Are you screening for the right skill set?  If not, change the criteria.  And once that is done, ask yourself this, are we rewarding supervisors properly?  Are they judged simply on production numbers?  If so, why?  Why don’t we also reward supervisors for lower employee turnover numbers?  Why don’t we reward them for increased employee job satisfaction?   We should, and if we do, we will keep the good people we already have.  And that is how we start solving the talent shortage problem.  It’s not the whole solution, but it is a start.  And it’s something we can do right now.

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