Common Sense Retention

There are many facets in regards to the all-important issue of employee retention, but perhaps none makes as much sense as the one that we’ll explore in this article.

The reason?

Because it benefits you in ways that go beyond simply retaining your best employees.  (And that, all by itself, would be enough.)

There is a crucial mistake that many companies make when they’re delegating tasks to their employees, and even when they’re considering which ones to promote and how to promote them.  That mistake is tied to a golden rule of corporate productivity, which is this:

Make sure that everybody in the organization does what they do best.

Simple, right?  Well, you’d be surprised at how easily “simple” becomes “complicated.”

An example from The Office

Let’s use an example from the hit television show The Office to illustrate this point.  The show is a “mockumentary” about a paper company by the name of Dunder-Mifflin, located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The manager at this particular branch is Michael Scott.  Prior to becoming manager, Michael was a salesman at the Scranton branch.  In fact, he was the top salesman at the branch, which is the main reason he was promoted to manager.

That, in a nutshell, was a mistake.  Anybody who has seen the show can attest to that. What the Dunder-Mifflin brass did is something that’s actually quite common in the corporate world: they put Michael in a position that does not play to his strengths.  What he does best is sell, notmanage.  Their attempt to “reward” Michael with a promotion clearly backfired.  However, Michael occasionally turns his attention away from managing to sales, and when he does, he enjoys success.

Michael Scott should have been promoted to a sales manager position, if he was promoted at all.  That would have been best for him and also best for the company, especially his co-workers.  Many times within a company, a key employee is moved from what they do best to something else they don’t do nearly as well, and this is often the result of a promotion.  It even happens when a candidate is first hired.

Because the candidate has an expanded skill set (and there are more than one openings available), the company might be tempted to bring them in for a position that’s outside their range of expertise, a position that’s perhaps more managerial in nature.  Unless this is truly an exemplary individual, the strategy is almost certain to backfire.  Below are the two main reasons why it will:

  • As a general rule, what people do best they enjoy the most. If the employee is not able to pursue their passion, they will eventually become disenchanted.
  • The company is hurt on two different levels. First, the employee isn’t doing what they do best, so the company loses productivity.  Second, the employee is becoming disenchanted, which means they’ll lose their drive and motivation, further causing productivity to suffer.

The silver lining

Despite all the doom and gloom portrayed to this point, there is a silver lining.  By ensuring that everybody within the organization is doing what they do best and playing to their strengths, you can raise your retention rate drastically.  When a person is doing what they do best—what they truly love to do and have a passion for—there’s practically no way to tear them away from it.  Even money won’t do the trick, unless they can be convinced that the new situation will be identical in every way to their current one.

And this is a classic “two-for-one” bargain, because it also means that these employees will be infinitely more productive, as well.  So not only will your retention rate increase, the company will make more profit and continue to grow for the foreseeable future, since your best candidates are locked in, happily doing what they love to do.  That truly is the best of both worlds.

This type of “common sense retention” falls under the category of “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome, and some of you might be saying to yourself, “Of course that’s the best way to retain employees!” However, the hustle and bustle of the corporate world has a way of clouding even the best of intentions, to the point of distraction.  So review every member of your team, and make sure that you can identify the one thing that they do better than anything else.  Once you’ve done that, then make certain that their role within the company fully embraces that one thing.

Because as funny as Michael Scott might be—intentionally or not—his situation is better left to television and not the real world.

If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to contact me at [email address here].

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Stacey Jerrold