Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Signs That Employees Will Quit !!

The good times are back in the information technology industry, and so are the familiar “Are you willing to match?” conversations. Willing to match a competitor’s job offer in order to retain your employee, that is.In good times or bad, good professionals are always in demand. As managers, we have to constantly keep the wolves at bay.

In business reviews, I find that retention and staffing are at the heart of 90% of problems like delayed projects or projects that don’t meet customer expectations.

Unfortunately, most managers use short-term solutions to address these issues. New hires are rushed in, retention bonuses thrown in and a dozen or more ad hoc pay increases recommended. If someone from the human resources team objects, they are accused of being an “HR guy”!

For a moment, forget that this is coming from an HR guy (I hate this sobriquet). Instead, look at the root of the problems. Most of these business issues arise because forecasts have gone awry, initial scoping of work was shoddy or there are pockets of ineffective leadership.

This is not the first or the last time these issues will arise. So, what can you do differently?

The key is to catch the tell tale signs that something is wrong. The only way to do that is by reading the data, though not on a screen.

I am a believer in the concept of management-by-walking-around. What you can pick up when you walk around your office can’t be seen on an Excel sheet.

If you find that there are fewer people in the office cafeteria because more employees are eating lunch at their desks, that could be a sign that they are over-worked. Or maybe your requisitions for taxis at night are increasing because people are missing their evening bus drops.

In these cases, you run the risk of people working long hours and getting exhausted often. The next time a recruiting consultant calls these employees, they are more likely to respond positively.

Perhaps your absenteeism levels are going up, and more people are calling in sick. That could be because working long hours can take a toll on your team-members’ health. Or, it could be because the employees are going for interviews!

These are small signs that can indicate bigger problems are afoot.

Unfortunately, leaders and managers today are not around to catch them because they are too busy checking e-mails, attending conference calls and preparing PowerPoint presentations.

Of course, part of the blame rests with companies. They ask managers for reports, and presentations and multiple reviews. These are important but is it necessary for a highly paid manager to do them? Or can organizations provide the manager with an administrative assistant, or create shared services which can get this job done? That would allow managers to focus on key areas – their customers and people.

I urge our leaders to spend 60% of their time on the floor with their employees. Give them the attention, support and coaching that they need. If you do it once in a blue moon, employees may be wary. But if you do it regularly, say once or twice a week, by asking simple questions like “How can I help you?” or “What projects are you working on?” it will go a long way.

Time your coffee break along with your employees’ coffee break. That helps break the ice.

Leaders need to understand that while they are supposed to deliver on projects, ultimately it’s their team that brings the results.

Sometimes my leaders tell me: “It is easy for you to give gyan (knowledge). What do I do if competitors hire my people at double the salary? My legs will ache from walking around but I won’t solve the problem.”

Sure, they have a point. Senior management doesn’t always react to people problems fast enough, and sometimes end up being smacked in between their eyes. To avoid this, the company’s HR team should be able to relay such information fast and help team managers readjust salaries quickly.

You can never compete on compensation alone because there is always somebody willing to pay more. But you should be able to protect the critical few, whose presence ensures that the house stays in order.

Over the years, I’ve observed that leaders who are relatively unscathed – meaning they have less attrition and client issues – are the ones that have invested heavily in their people. Not just money, but time and attention. They allow their team members to grow even beyond their roles, and actively promote their growth within the company. I haven’t put my finger on it yet, but they have this “X factor” that just makes them sticky!

By : Elango R. is the chief human resources officer of information technology services firm MphasiS, a unit of Hewlett-Packard Co. You can follow his work at, or @agastyasays

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