Archive for the ‘Retention’ category

Compensation Revisited

December 8, 2011

Not unlike a car wreck on the other side of the highway, I can’t stop myself from slowing down just a little and gawking at the latest “better motivations than money for your employees” article.  And it’s not that I don’t believe any of that, but somehow the articles never quite nail the real question in my mind.   Here’s the latest list of things you can do instead of paying your employees more money:

  1. Be generous with praise
  2. Get rid of the managers
  3. Make your ideas theirs
  4. Never criticize or correct
  5. Make everyone a leader
  6. Take an employee to lunch every week
  7. Give recognition and small rewards
  8. Throw company parties
  9. Share the rewards and the pain

Although it might be great sport, I am not even going to pick at each recommendation.  Each could be be useful at times, though I would be reluctant to universally apply any of them.  I am also going to restrain from pointing out the obvious conundrum between #2 and #5 (oops, I guess I just did… dang.)


I do want to offer one constructive thought, since we are all banned from criticizing or correcting by #4.

Compensation and motivation/morale are two vastly different things.

If you don’t believe me, find a company that has the highest morale and the most motivated employees you’ve ever seen.   Then have the CEO announce that the company is bankrupt and that anyone who wants to stay and work for free can do so starting Monday.  I am not saying no one would show up, but I doubt it’d be business as usual.

Most employees need to work to live, sustain their families, and otherwise pursue their personal version of the American Dream.  That’s why the size of their paycheck matters to them.   They also want to feel good about where they work, who they work with, and what they do.   Here’s a news flash though:  the latter is, to a large extent, out of your control as a company leader/exec for two reasons:

1) you can’t possibly predict or control the complex interpersonal relationships that develop in the workplace.

2) in many organizations (though I am sure not yours) there is an innate skepticism from employees around all new management initiatives.  The “real” reason you’re taking me to lunch, throwing a party, or praising me is always lurking in the back of some of your folks’ minds.

And if anyone even mildly suspects that any of these parties, praise or changes is intended to be a “replacement” for a raise or bonus, you will be well on your way to the exact opposite outcome of what you set out to do.

Instead, just try being Fair, Honest, Transparent and Unflappable.   That’s five less things you have to remember to do, and none of them require you to go to the Olive Garden six times a month…


Big Fish, Little Fish, smells the same

November 4, 2011

Sometimes I worry about running out of things to blog about.   Then I caught a few news stories this week and that fear just melted away…

The first news story I heard, which I am sure many of you did as well, was about the CEO of Nabors Industries, Eugene Isenberg, who stepped down as CEO to remain as only the Chairman of the Board, as I understand it.  For this magnanimous gesture, he was paid a lump sum of $100 million dollars.   Dr. Evil would be proud.

The second got a bit less notoriety, but is eerily similar in many ways except for the size of the payout.   Turkia Mullin was the Chief Development Officer of Wayne County in Michigan.  She left that job to take over as CEO of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which, no surprise, is in Wayne County.  For this shift in roles, she was paid a “severance” from her CDO job of $200,000.00.   As you can see from the article, once this payment came to light, she announced she would be returning the money.    Which only adds to the innate sense that the payment was completely unjustified in the first place.   Otherwise, you’d think she would have kept it.

imageI think we can all agree that executive compensation often feels completely out of line with performance, actual responsibilities, value to the company as a whole or other factors.  But it is even more disturbing to me that, now, executives are getting big payouts just to change jobs or titles within THE SAME COMPANY (or county, in Turkia’s case…)

CEO News flash:  Whether you support our current president or not, I think we’d all agree that Barack Obama probably makes more gut-wrenching decisions in a month than either of these folks made in their entire careers, including sending brave young women and men into harm’s way.   If you don’t believe me, do some reading about the marines in Dark Horse battalion.    I am pretty sure Barack’s salary is closer to Turkia’s “bonus” than to Eugene’s base pay, no less his “lump sum” payout.  So whatever contrived justification you CEO’s are creating inside your heads that help you believe you deserve this type of financial compensation for your efforts, I don’t think they have anything to do with leadership.

In the 1800’s, a term was coined for folks like this.  Robber barons.  Might be a good time to revive that catchy little label…

Is Everybody Happy??

September 9, 2011

I am not a huge believer in polls.  I think that regardless of statistical sampling size and other factors, the way that questions are ordered, worded and who you ask still affects the outcome in ways that belie objectivity.

Be that as it may, has anyone seen the latest Gallup Healthways Well Being index as it relates to “employee engagement?”  Interesting stuff!

Allow me to summarize.  The Gallupians use three categories to segment employees:  engaged (in their companies), not engaged, and actively disengaged.  It may surprise no one to hear that 30 percent of American workers are engaged in their work, 51 percent are not engaged, and 19 percent are actively disengaged.   A sad state of affairs indeed.


What can you do about this??

I would suggest two things:

1)   it turns out that many economic sleuths are actually willing to admit that there’s a relationship between engaged workers and your company’s bottom line.  Personally, I don’t feel like anyone should even have to make that case, but next time you bump into your CFO in the elevator, ask her if she believes that to be the case.  If not, dust up your resume.
2)   there was an editorial in the New York Times this past week  that referenced the Gallup engagement survey but also proclaimed to find a root cause relationship that will change your workers’ sense of engagement for the better.  Get this!   As a manager, you should acknowledge and praise incremental progress in your team’s work.  That’s what keeps them engaged!  Brilliant!  It gets better.  When 669 managers were asked to rank 5 motivators, 95 percent of them ranked “supporting progress” dead last.

Are we happy now?


August 4, 2011

For any of you who have kids (and many who don’t) one of the great joys you get raising your children over time is the pride you feel as they gradually mature, take on new responsibilities and learn to make good choices.  In short, you teach them empowerment.  And other than an occasional allowance here and there or some money for the movies, you’re not really paying them to make that progress – you’re just trying to help them be self-sufficient and most importantly, make sound decisions when you’re not around.

So why was I not surprised when:

a) a good friend of mine told me her manager said to her, “I don’t pay you to make decisions, I pay you to do what I tell you to…”

b) I was told by a co-worker, after waiting weeks for budget approval so I could order equipment to keep a project on schedule, “a lot of the execs that have to approve the budget are on vacation so it’s been tough to get them to review and sign off on the document.”


It seems that, even as unemployment stays high and we ask workers to take on more and more, that doesn’t include decision making, especially when it comes to spending the company’s money.

I fear that a lot of managers out there have blurred the distinction between control and leadership.  So here’s a fast refresher:

Control is the illusion that you can orchestrate all events to your liking (just ask Hosni Mubarek how that’s working out…).  Leadership is establishing and communicating goals and objectives to your team and then trusting that they can do their part to get everyone there.

Just ask my kids…

We the People

June 8, 2011

I had an interesting experience last Thursday night.  Someone who worked for the same company I did, but at different times, organized a reuni0n of sorts for anyone who worked there over the last 10 years or so.  And quite a few people showed up!!  And near as I can tell, the bond that held and holds these folks together to the point where they’d give up an evening at home to reconnect with some old coworkers (granted, in many cases, they are also friends) is a company that no longer exists.  Hmmm…

I hear leaders all the time tell their staff that “their people are their most valuable assets.”  But what struck me was that your people are not only your most valuable assets – I truly do believe that – but they are also your most long-lasting.   I have no idea where the partitions, coffee makers, PC’s, laptops, office furniture and other ‘assets’ went, but I have a pretty good idea where about 80-90% of the people went.  To other businesses nearby to continue their productive work lives.


So next time you contemplate how to treat a co-worker or a subordinate, remember that there’s a good chance they are going to outlast your company, your role, your title, and perhaps whatever sway you think you hold over them.

Now THAT’S asset management…

Nature v Nurture

May 26, 2011

I was hanging out in my friend Lori’s office a few weeks ago.  She had a magazine in her lobby – HR Magazine.  Who knew such a publication even existed??

The cover story?  “Slackers, Can they be saved?”  The byline?  “Most slackers can be turned into better performers by removing organizational conditions that create or enable loafing behavior.” 

Next, the definition:  “Slackers are people who know they could be much more productive but make a conscious decision not to be.”

And finally, the requisite quadrants of slackers, who apparently fall into one of four quadrants:  Sandbaggers, Weasels, Parasites and Mercenaries.  I kid you not.

I would post a link to the article, but you have to “join” HR magazine first and I already re-upped my membership in the KKK this spring, and there are only so many hours in a day to stereotype people and then mistreat them…


Let me just say a few quick things about this:  I understand that it can be challenging to get the most out of any team on any given day.   I also understand that a lack of motivation can cripple any undertaking.  But I suspect that many of these so called “slackers” are highly engaged parents, mountain bikers, runners, audiophiles, volunteers, or hobbyists.   Nowhere in the article, whoever its intended audience might be, does it suggest that the leader or senior executive might be the problem.    The article does seem to suggest that a manager’s job is to “catch them,” calls them “time bandits” and bemoans the fact that in this age of computers, slacking is “easier to mask.”

Maybe the organizations goals are not clear.  Maybe the slacker cannot relate what they do to the achievements of the team, department or company.  Maybe they think the company’s “mission statement” is a bunch of BS.  Maybe management’s actions and words are more misaligned than a Yugo that just jumped a 2 foot curb.  Maybe they showed up for their first day at a new job all those years ago, full of enthusiasm and optimism, and the management style, hypocrisy and bureaucracy drained them of their energy like a slow leak in an above ground pool.

As Rodney Dangerfield said long ago, when asked by his spouse to take the trash out, “You cooked it, you take it out…”

Shakespeare Revisited

April 1, 2011

I am not a student of Shakespeare, but I do remember a few quotes from back in high school and college.  One is from Romeo and Juliet and starts with “What’s in a name?”  The other is from The Merchant of Venice, uttered by Shylock: “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”  Both excellent questions!!

Back in Shakespeare’s time, I guess Jews were not always treated the same as others.  Thus, Shylock’s soliloquy and outrage about wanting to be treated like an equal.


I am doing some consulting work at a client who is modernizing their infrastructure – building a semi-custom Enterprise Resource Planning system, standardizing their accounting, etc.  Just trying to help where I can.  They refurbished a section of their building to make room for a rather large project team and gave me an office of sorts to sit in when I am there.  When I got there this morning, there was a nameplate outside the door with my name on it.  It looked just like everyone else’s, even though I am a “contractor…”  I know it’s pretty trivial, but it really made me feel part of the team.

You catching my drift yet??

As a leader, you have opportunities every day to expend your energy striving to make people feel welcome and equal, or different and unequal.

Which do you think will get you the results you’re looking for, Antonio…?