Low-cost Opportunities for Direct Labor Employee Retention

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Low-cost Opportunities for Direct Labor Employee Retention

Creating an atmosphere of engagement, appreciation for workers

AMARILLO, Texas — It seems to me that today our industry, like many others, has a tremendous focus on finding and hiring capable team members. 

In reading the information on strategies and tactics being deployed to accomplish this, I keep coming back to the question of whether our industry is growing so fast that we keep adding employees or are we losing our current people in the labor-competitive markets where we work. 

The importance of assuring that your existing team is getting what they require from their leaders is unquestionably more important to maintaining staffing levels, the performance needs of your clients and your own operational needs.

There are plenty of gems out there right now to enhance your employee experience and many are both ingenious and clearly impactful. My concern is the cost of many of these could be significant. We can easily agree that increasing our overhead while also raising wages to keep up is not the best answer right now.

So, what we can do now with little or no additional cost appears to be the best option we can pursue.

Within the field of potential options available to us today, one that is buzzing in many companies is the “stay interview.” Unlike an exit interview, these discussions are intended to identify what your employee likes about their workplace experience as well as anything that is not contributing to a positive trend in their overall satisfaction. 

It is critical to have these open conversations with your top-performing employees if you want them to continue to set the standard within your operation. 

I won’t press deeply into this as there is detail to be found easily, but one thing important to consider is the frequency of these one-on-one type meetings. The more often these meetings occur, the more likely it is that you can avoid having an exit interview with your employee.  

If you are responsive to their dissatisfiers in a meaningful and timely way, they may not feel they have to make a change of employer to improve their employment experience. Compared to the amount of time spent engaged in recruiting, this simple interview could be much more cost-effective.

The more you save, the less you must recruit. I know it sounds facile, but does that invalidate the argument?

Developmental opportunity is an interesting place to consider when formulating an approach to enhanced retention. This is an offering of training and education that prepares current team members for advancement or alternative work pathways. 

An illustration could look something like this. I have promoted a team member to material handler, and a class IV forklift operator certificate is required. We can schedule the employee to attend the class at the forklift company’s offered training and achieve the necessary outcome for the price of one student. 

In this model, we schedule a class onsite that is open to our team members not yet required to possess the certificate as well as the one moving into the job. The price of a class onsite versus the price of a single student is not usually vastly higher. 

Consider possibilities like OSHA training, chemical handling, CDL, the list may be significant and many of your team may genuinely want to be included both for prestige and the opportunity to advance and diversify their skills. A set of stay interviews could verify if there is interest in a program of this nature.

Finally, a quick thought on building a personal connection with your team. In these days of self-directed work groups and team assignments, the need for leaders to be connected is much more important than ever before. 

Make a point of rounding on everyone daily and addressing them by first name, whether you have the time to do it or not. You are not part of the team if you are not on the field with them, and they absolutely notice.  

The goal is simple: engage each person and learn one thing that they are interested in. Ask about their shoes, ask about their car or how their family is doing. Keep it professional and keep it light. Revisit and expand each time you round and before long your team will know you are with them and you care.  

I do not think you will find a more powerful employee retention component than taking an engaged personal interest in them as people first and employees second.  

My experiences with working for leaders who know I am a whole person and engage with me in that manner are very hard to leave behind.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].