Bend the Curve - Information Articles

Why do good employees leave? –or- How VSM Principles can help retain an organization’s greatest asset.

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Christopher P. Montagna, MS, MPA

Show me the money? A majority of managers (85%) perceive financial reasons as the primary driving force behind the loss of employees(1). However, “more than 80% of employees say it was “push” factors related to poor management practices or toxic cultures that lead to their leaving a workplace.”(2) Studies from the Herman Group (www.hermangroup.com) support these statements. The Group’s “Five Principles Reasons People Change Jobs” says that employees leave because:

  • It doesn’t feel good to be around here. (related to corporate culture)
  • They won’t miss me if I were gone. (lack of appreciation)
  • I don’t get the support I need to get my job done. (frustration/incompetent supervisors)
  • There’s no opportunity for advancement (this includes opportunities for learning as well as promotions)

I would add the following to this list:

  • My opinion doesn’t matter (desire to be important)

Compensation is the last reason most people leave (it is not about the money)

It has been long identified that, aside from food and shelter, one of the most driving factor’s in an individual is the need to feel important. This need to feel important is the basis of Maslow's Hierarchy, which states: “self-actualization is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their unique abilities and to strive to be the best they can be”. Furthermore, this desire for self- importance is a cornerstone of Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends And Influence People”. Simply put, everyone wants to feel important and everybody wants his or her opinion to matter.

Personal Accountability

I only need to look at my own experiences to validate this precept. I served as a bench chemist with my previous employer for nine years. So what caused me to leave the organization? Was it the money? Was it lack of training? As I look back on what caused me to leave a job I loved was, basically, my opinion and my knowledge did not matter to the manager.

As I look back on my career and my time with my previous employer, I realized that I had a responsibility to myself. The following is how I, by applying simple rules of personal accountability, should have addressed the previously stated reasons why people change jobs:

  • What can I do to make it feel good to be around here?
  • What can I do so they will miss me if I were gone?
  • How can I get the support I need to get my job done? Or better, what can I do with the tools I have to get my job done?
  • What can I do to advance my career?
  • How do I make my opinion matter?

Likewise, in order to implement personal accountability, there requires action of the management to accept personal accountability and allow subordinates to grow and, as Maslow would say, self-actualize. The management must also ask the questions:

  • What can I do to make it feel good to be around here?
  • What can I do so they will miss me if I were gone?
  • How can I get the support I need to get my job done? Or better, What can I do with the tools I have to get my job done?
  • What can I do to advance my career?
  • How do I make my opinion matter?

Remember, as a manager personal responsibility begins with ME!

VSM and Employee Retention

As a manager, I have a personal responsibility to my staff and my stakeholders. Furthermore, I must realize that personal accountability begins with ME. What can I do to retain quality employees? What can I do to see that the organization runs efficiently? What can I do to let my people do their jobs?

VSM is a means to accept personal responsibility. It answers the question, What (or How) can I do blank? VSM Management principles are the tools to put these questions into action.

Proper implementations of VSM principles resolve the key issues surrounding employee retention.

  • It doesn’t feel good to be around here.

    VSM seeks input from the employee on how to change the organizational culture so that the employee feels and wants to be part of a growing and dynamic team.
  • They won’t miss me if I were gone.

    The changes/recommendations of VSM are employee based. The success of VSM is dependent upon honest and sincere appreciation of management.
  • I don’t get the support I need to get my job done. (frustration/incompetent supervisors)

    In order to effectively manage in a VSM based culture, the manager must support and implement (not modify or ignore) the recommendations of the VSM Team Members. A product of the LEAN process, which is achieved by supporting and implementing the Teams objectives, is a more cost effective program. Cost savings and elimination of waste provide the means for better directing of funds to provide the means and materials necessary to “get the job done”.
  • There’s no opportunity for advancement.

    VSM and the LEAN process identify opportunities to improve efficiency. Increased efficiency leads to opportunities for cross training in other areas of an organization.
  • My opinion doesn’t matter.

    The success of VSM lies in the principle that the employee determines what or how to do something more efficiently.

Summary

The key to a successful and efficient organization is the retention of well-trained and highly motivated personnel. VSM principles address and resolve the key factors employees cite as factors for leaving an organization. Having the employee, who works the system, determine the future state of an organization’s empowers that person. This empowerment provides the organization with the resources necessary to survive in a challenging economic environment by addressing one simple rule - everyone wants to feel important.


 

1 Patricia Galvin, “The Truth About Quitting”, LabManager magazine, October, 2006
2 Ibid