Planning out land

Any successful construction project begins with a properly designed and prepared foundation. Whether it is a home, a high-rise, a bridge, or a by-way, if the foundation is improperly prepared and constructed or if deterioration is left unmitigated, the structure will not survive. Likewise, if your organization doesn’t have a solid foundation or you allow that foundation to erode, your structure won’t successfully weather changes or challenges; it will crumble over time. Tower of Pisa

Many elements comprise a business’ foundation (i.e. values, purpose, financial stability, strategy), but the “material” that holds it all together is people. Today’s organization must attract and retain people who strengthen its foundation and ensure the business’ future. Conversely, the inability to retain talent (i.e. high turnover) is like allowing untamed roots and ground waters to creep uninterrupted over, between, and around a building’s foundation, destroying its structural integrity. The most frequently referenced cause of high turnover has become commonplace.

Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave ‘bad’ managers.

This is an important insight that should remain a key focus, but the State of the American Workplace (© Gallup, Inc. 2017), reported that “data shows that lack of development and career growth is the No.1 reason employees leave a job.” After reading this statement, I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential connection between people leaving “bad managers” and people leaving due to a lack of development and growth opportunities.

For example, research indicates that frontline or first-time supervisors are typically individual contributors who are promoted based on functional skills and technical knowledge, but most enter their new roles without the interpersonal skills and tools they need to be effective leaders. Inadequately trained and developed, these supervisors often perform poorly, feel overwhelmed, or exhibit inappropriate behaviors—sometimes with disastrous results. In other words, they become “bad managers.” Over time, some of these “bad” frontline managers move up into mid-level management based on technical skills or because they are the “next in” candidate—and the problem begins to spread.

As described in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, The Economy’s Last Best Hope: Superstar Middle-Managers, Gallup found in another recent study that “a company’s productivity depends, to a high degree, on the quality of its managers.”

So, if a high percentage of turnover can be traced back to a perceived lack of opportunity for growth and development within the company (for individual contributors or leaders) and/or “bad managers,” and “bad managers” often begin as new managers who lack the skills to be good leaders, then it appears that these two erosive elements have a common solution—strengthen your foundation by developing your individual contributors.

Strengthen Your Foundation

Even if they work alone, each individual performs an important function that contributes to the organization’s success. No team member works in a vacuum and interpersonal skills are critical for success, regardless of whether you’re an individual contributor or a leader. We know that these basic skills (communicating, valuing differences and diversity, making good decisions, managing conflicts, being an effective team member, etc.) are highly desirable in every employee and when developed as part of the culture, can make an observable and measurable impact on success across an organization.

So why aren’t most organizations providing opportunities for everyone to develop these essential skills? Well, it costs money. But so does turnover. The costs associated with high turnover can be prohibitive. If you add up the expenses related to recruiting, hiring, onboarding, technical training, exit interviews, productivity loss, etc., turnover costs organizations millions of dollars every year. So where would you rather invest your budget—in strengthening your foundation by developing your current employees or patching the same holes over and over by finding people to replace them?

We’d recommend trying to retain the talent you already have, through offering opportunities for growth, development, and successful advancement. Just imagine the impact of expanding your pool of potential leaders with people who are prepared with essential interpersonal skills (thus reducing the incidence of all those bad managers). In addition, according to the Gallup report, by investing in your employees’ development, you will

  • Build “a culture of purpose…rooted in  employees’  performance  development  ”
  • Create “an organization made up of team members that are more likely to become emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and…who remain in the workplace.”
  • Watch “individual performance  soar…[as employees] propel their teams and [the] organization to improved crucial outcomes such as higher levels of  productivity, safety and quality.”

Skyscrapers in the city

Every individual has the potential to grow (as an individual contributor, a team member, a supervisor, or a leader). Invest in, develop, and support your team members, and you will be rewarded with a strong foundation, a sustainable structure, and a lasting culture that is made up of people who support the organization’s vision and enthusiastically implement initiatives, innovations, and strategies; a culture of demonstrated opportunity that continues to attract and retain talent based on your company’s reputation as the “Employer of Choice.”


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About the Author
Cyndi Keller
Cyndi Keller is the Director of Curriculum Design & Development at CMOE. She brings over 20 years of communication project management experience to the Design Team and CMOE clients. She works with the Design Team to guide the design, development, and production of innovative learning and development curriculum.

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