Culture and Employee Retention by Scott Miller

As leaders, we hear a lot about the average tenure of our team members. Most research now shows it’s somewhere between 18 months and 3 years…at the most.

For some context, at 52, I’m a dinosaur entering my 25th year with FranklinCovey. Unless you work for the military or post office, this is now unheard of for most careers. Even in my peer age group, nearly all of my high school friends’ LinkedIn profiles will list 5-7 careers over their lifetime. Mine: 2.

I guess there’s also a linkage in my tenure to that of my father’s: 32 years at the defense contractor Lockheed Martin. My father has a pension for life. Medical insurance for life. He’s set. But he also dedicated 100% of his professional career to one organization, and with that comes benefits and limitations. Different strokes for different folks.

This is the past, people. Not the future. Gone is long-term loyalty—on either side. Or is it?

If you’re of my generation, you’ve seen a sea change in employment policies. More generous maternity leaves. Actual paid paternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act. Flexible work schedules. PTO versus strict vacation accruals. (Remember the days when you earned one vacation day for every month worked….after your first full year of employment?) Although plenty of organizations still require employees to painstakingly accrue and track time off, many organizations have moved to extend trust to their employees at nearly all levels, empowering them to take the time they need, be it sick days, vacations day, or just living a balanced life in exchange for the assurance they will deliver outstanding results in their contributions.

We’re in the midst of massive displacement in the work demographic with Generation Xers and Yers moving in and Boomers and Traditionalists moving out. Are you ready? Is your belief system still stuck in a different decade? Are you subconsciously punishing your team members because of what you had to earn, what you had to live through?

If you want to lengthen the tenure of your team, you must challenge your mindset of what’s necessary to build a 2021 culture. Here are some questions to ask yourself to gauge your readiness:

  1. Have you, with crystal clarity, set clear expectations for the quality and volume of work expected from your team?
  2. Are you sure what you think in your mind has been transferred to their minds and that they are truly bought in?
  3. Do you believe you can treat everyone fairly and still treat people differently? What does that look like in your organization?
  4. Have you challenged your knowledge of current employment law and clearly understand your employer’s policies? Do you need to listen more to understand the “whys” behind the “whats?”
  5. Are you willing to release your team members from “paying their dues” the same way you might have needed to 20 years ago?
  6. Do you have the courage and consideration to talk and listen with colleagues about your career journey, and theirs, and both learn from each other?
  7. Have you moved from compliance to champion when it comes to supporting people’s need to take time off to care for their health, mental and physical, and that of their families?
  8. Are you confident enough to ask the following questions of your team: What’s it like to report to me? What’s it like to be in a meeting with me? What’s it like to come back from vacation or personal leave and begin working with me again?

Have you been truthful with yourself about the culture you’ve created—limited or released by your own belief systems? As a leader, you define the culture, and the connection to tenure and culture is undeniable.

Leadership is a process. We grow, stumble, and succeed.

Forgive yourself a little and ensure that you’re challenging your entrenched mindsets consistently to ensure you’re part of the reason people are staying versus leaving.

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