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Why Do Great People Leave?

Why Do Great People Leave?

Over the last two articles I’ve focused on getting great people. Given that a change is as good as holiday let’s have a wee vacation and focus on the other part of getting great people – keeping them.

This subject came up recently during a lunch with some managers in the hardware market. Why do great people leave, and how to keep them? On the way back to the office, I reflected on my eight years in recruitment and the 3,000 odd people in the building industry I’ve interviewed in that time. They were all sitting in front of me for a reason. 

Now you know I’m a believer in the top 20% so again I’ll focus on the 600 people who have made up that group and I will tell you the five common and shared reasons why they leave (or are looking to leave your business this year!). Think about the top performers in your business and let’s review these reasons and see what we can learn.

(1) Future Direction – People leave you because they don’t feel you have as vested an interest in their future as they do. Quite simply, they see no direction for their future in your company. They feel they have “hit a ceiling” or that “there are no further opportunities in the business”. 

You may view your top person as the next Key Accounts Manager, or your National Accounts person as the next Sales Manager, but do they know that? Have you sat down with your top people and discussed their career plan and how that fits with your business? If they need to prove themselves through achievements to reach these career goals then this could also be a great way of lifting their performance as well as keeping them.

(2) Recognition – Is this another way of saying “money”? Yes and no. While bonuses are certainly attractive and part of what helps attract and retain top talent it’s not the be-all and end-all. Recognition is often as simple as actually saying: “Hey you’re doing a great job and I’m proud to have you in the business”. It may also mean public recognition such as awards or certificates at conference or regular emails out to your team praising top effort and achievements. 

Think on a recent case I had with a candidate I’d attempted to search out – he’d had a towbar added on to his company vehicle for the boat in the weekend and his gym membership paid for after a great year. This showed him that the company cared about him and recognised his efforts more than the additional $20K per annum my client was willing to offer him. I find that quite compelling – don’t you?

(3) Leadership – I have worked with a number of exceptional candidates who are being poorly led. They have no shared vision, no regular catch-ups or reviews with their leader-manager, poor communication and, in some cases, are subjected to rude or inappropriate language from their superior. 

All too often I find managers in the hardware industry have very little to do with their sales and marketing staff and never spend any one-on-one time with them. If people are leaving your business on a regular basis, or there are rumblings in your team of dissatisfaction, then listen to them. Possibly the issue lies in your management team.

(4) Lack of support or back-up – This is a big one! Reps often tell me about obvious areas where the company is letting down clients or not fulfilling service promises, for example being consistently “out of stock” or worst of all, making changes to direction and strategy and not sending this information through to the sales team. Remembering your sales team is the frontline to the client, ask yourself how pleasant it would be to be constantly let down and have to deal with unhappy and annoyed clients when the issues are out of your control?

It wouldn’t be long before frustration got the best of you, so why should your team have to deal with it? Back up your reps, get regular feedback about the issues they are facing and look at your support for them in the field – if they can’t get it, they can’t sell it. This could potentially benefit your profits as well as help to retain your good people!

(5) Uncertainty – Events like mergers, buy-outs, redundancies and restructuring are the gateway to resignations. Often it’s precisely the people you want to keep who will leave because uncertainty about their future is keeping them up at night. If your business is restructuring or having redundancies, it is utterly vital you stay very close to the key people you want to retain.

Keep them informed and reassured every step of the way. Don’t assume they know everything is OK. The key here is communication. If you leave a communication void, your team will quickly fill it with rumour and speculation and before you know it you’ll be getting the four week letter, often to the benefit of a competitor.

Now clearly there are other reasons people leave, but have them leave on your terms and when you expect it. I once worked for a manager who told me that if a resignation comes as a shock, then that’s the manager’s fault.

Whether you agree or not I suggest that you review the key people in your business and set about making sure that, like you, they are in it for the long haul!

 

Jeremy Wilson