Revolving door

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the marine industry’s inability to hold on to its employees and, in particular, its top technicians. My question is, what are we doing to keep them?

Employees differ vastly from one another. Every single one of them needs to be treated differently — the way they want to be treated, not with a one-size-fits-all managerial approach. And contrary to popular opinion, employees are not always in it for the money. We can afford great employees if we pay them in ways they would appreciate.

Sure, that could mean a heftier paycheck for some, but in the end, employees want to feel appreciated. Needed. Cared about. I don’t believe that most people take a job because they think they’ll be happy in that position for the rest of their lives. They want to grow, professionally and personally as much as, if not more than, financially.

That means we should reward employees when they do a good job. We should make the time to celebrate our successes and not focus on what went wrong or who is to blame. We should coach them through new initiatives and add a touch of constructive criticism whenever necessary. With technicians, we can do that by training them continuously, both in-house and at manufacturer-sponsored events. And we can do that by rewarding efficiency or high CSI scores. With sales people, maybe it’s higher commissions or frequent contests that reward those who produce the best.

I’ve been studying management intensely over the last year or so. It’s surprising to me, although it shouldn’t be, how many experts focus their efforts and advice on taking care of and rewarding employees. The late Peter Drucker, considered the founder of today’s management techniques, once said, “The toughest decisions in organizations are people decisions — hiring, firing, promotion, etc.” But yet, “These are the decisions that receive the least attention and are the hardest to ‘unmake.’”

Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great,” wrote, “Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”

That ability to keep employees begins with how we manage them. It’s widely believed, and the belief is backed by an extensive Gallup Organization poll, that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And managers who use such simple concepts as a pat on the back, celebrating successes, and helping people grow personally, in addition to professionally, will succeed in keeping their employees around.

For our businesses, profitability ultimately depends on our employees’ performance. If they’re happy, they’ll perform better. If they perform better, they’ll make us more profitable. And if they make us more profitable, we can back our praise for them financially — to keep them happy on all fronts.

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