Achieving Management Excellence Even When Your Employees Want To Quit

Lorenzo Del Marmol

November 8, 2018

Achieving Management Excellence Even When Employees Want To Quit

It is a well-known fact that many employees who leave a company are not quitting their job, they are quitting their manager. In these cases, an individual has studied and worked hard to get into a position that contributes to his/her career path or life goals. When they quit it is because they feel frustrated and unfulfilled.

Others might leave because they have found another job that pays more, or that better fits their changing life situation, but those who leave because of dissatisfaction or disillusionment represent a considerable cost or WASTE to the company. This includes time and money invested in developing and training that person, the cost of on boarding a new employee, and the invisible cost of failing morale and team strength that a departure might bring on. This becomes a significant challenge to the pursuit of management excellence.

For as long as there has been “management” within an organization, there have been endless attempts to define and quantify what management is and to make it work best. But defining and achieving management excellence is much like defining and achieving the perfect meal – so much depends on individual circumstances. There is no one single definition of excellence. It needs to be identified and applied in the context of an organization, and in the context of that organization’s position in the marketplace.

There is also the issue of continued momentum. No company or organization can remain fixed in time. Every facet of the marketplace is changing quickly, and the pace of change has increased substantially from even five years ago. There is a higher demand for empathy and trust within an employee management strategy, and a corresponding requirement that employers see their staff to some degree to be like customers in a shop rather than indentured laborers.

Trust Leads to Engagement which Leads to Retention

Consequently, a central principle of management excellence must always be to keep one’s employees happy. Happiness does not correlate solely with financial compensation. Much has to do with more human factors, including respect, engagement, and trust. In a recent Fast Company article, Abbey Louie, founder of Élan Consulting Group LLC, in Ohio, says, “You can have a satisfied employee who is happy doing nothing, but an engaged employee feels an emotional connection to the organization and its goals.” She points out that this is based entirely on the relationship between employee, manager, and company.

Of the many fascinating ideas in this article, one stood out for me, and that’s the concept of the graceful exit program at Jellyvision. Jellyvision is a 400-person Chicago-based company that develops software and communications programs for employees. Among the benefits of working at Jellyvision, in addition to pension and vacation benefits, is the graceful exit program. “Those who inform their supervisors at the start of their search will still get their raises, end-of-year bonuses, time off to interview, and other benefits without the awkwardness of trying to hide their actions,” says Kelly Dean, Jellyvision’s vice president of people. She adds, “Fundamentally, what drives retention here more than anything, and it’s a very unconventional thing, is that we trust people and we treat them like adults. And we expect them to behave in the same way.”

So in a curious twist, Jellyvision’s management actually helps reduce employee turnover and helps promote and maximize engagement by actually assisting the departure process. Obviously, the goal is not to succeed in losing good people but instead succeed by demonstrating trust and empathy, as well as actively listening to the employees, in order to learn their reasons for wanting to leave.

To me, this is a fascinating demonstration of management excellence in the modern context. Rather than continuing to make the exit procedure a shameful, hidden act, they are upfront, open and respectful, and ultimately stand to retain both the employee and additional data about employee engagement. It connects well to the concepts of lean and excellence that I wrote about in previous blogs/ last post.

This has a direct parallel in retail strategy in which the Returns desk in a shop presents a significant opportunity for customer retention. Traditionally a return was deemed a sales failure: a customer brings an item back and asks for their money back. But astute retailers recognize this to be an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with a customer as well as gaining valuable data about their likes and dislikes.

In both cases, internal management within a company, and internal customer service in a shop have an opportunity to move with the times, bringing trust and engagement to their highly mobile customer, and retaining their key human assets through tangible demonstrations of empathy and trust.

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