Friday, December 24, 2010

People Always Leave People!

In the IT services industry, one of the key metric is “attrition” and most of the firms have their own formula for calculating it. In simple terms, it’s the number of people who have left the firm in a particular period by total number of people that that firm has in that particular period. It is usually expressed in percentages and it gets featured in quarterly earnings for public listed firms and for private firms, it is given as a MBO to the senior management to curb it if the number goes high. Customers track this and highlight it as a concern if it goes beyond an acceptable level.

There is always a conflict between professional managers and HR on who should own this metric. In some firms, it’s a shared responsibility, in some; it comes under the ambit of managers KRA. Again, I don’t want to get in to this dynamics -That’s a separate blog by itself. I strongly believe that people management falls under of ambit of professional managers and they must do whatever it takes to retain people or “talent”.

After having retained a lot of people and have lost a lot of people, I wanted to blog about this for a long time!

Why do people leave firms? What can be the reasons? Is it for?

  • Better pay
  • Better Lifestyle
  • Better job profile or a challenging role
  • Better boss who has basic human values
  • Higher Education
  • Marriage
  • Start on their own!

Most of the times, I believe that, “people always people” and they do not cite this as a single most reason during exit interviews but it is more implicit. When I mean people, it refers to their immediate boss most of the times and some times, the leadership team in general.

Given this view, how do we tackle this? There are again multiple ways to achieve “nirvana” here but we will attempt on couple of pointers or hints as this is an evolving area [feel free to add your comments after reading especially in this area]:

  • Behave like a “manager”- I am smiling while I am typing this but this is something I think is missing most of the times. Most of the promoted managers don’t even know what they should do as “managers”. The field of management is so extensive that they don’t even want to read about it. They believe that they have got the title and hence they are capable! They have got the title because they did well in an individual/team capacity most of the times and due to that, they got elevated to handle a team. GE had clearly defined this in 4 E’s long back [Energy, Ability to Energize, Edge, and Ability to Execute]
  • Your role is different from your personality- You as a manager are in a “role” and it is not a role given by a firm to “please” everyone. It’s a role that has clear result areas and objectives- So you have to ensure that your “core” personality does not conflict with this role. For example: Your core personality does not like arguments or conflicts whereas in your role, you need to do that day in and day out. The ability to differentiate this is very critical as it benefits your team. Your team will get suffocated if your core soft personality comes in the way of the role or vice-versa.
  • Solve Problems for your team; don’t delegate and expect to get solved- If a problem does not get solved, chances are that your team is looking up to you to get your hands dirty. If you think you also cannot solve it, then don’t route the blame to the team. Essentially eliminate the “blame game”- You are being a manager to take the blame and not to route it! Very obvious point but do you do it?
  • You are under constant observation by your team- This is the hard truth of being a manager! If you are uncomfortable on this aspect, you should tend to remain as an individual contributor. You need to bring dignity to the role- Any degree of prejudice or nepotism or any default practice done by you is observed, recorded, archived and will be retrieved by your team for future use!
  • Respect from your team comes because of your actions and not because of your title- Again everyone understands this but few track this consciously!
  • Respect your word- Some times manager’s commit something to an individual team member or a group of team members and it’s important to respect that word! I have seen managers committing something to solve something in the short term or for the immediate term and forget about it. This jeopardizes the role once again.
  • Focus on being a good human being yourself- This encompasses your personal “value compass” and the shared values like Empathy, Compassion, and Integrity etc.
  • Courage and Passion- This is important as these two are inter-related and very contagious. You need to have courage to encourage “dissent” in your meetings rather than surrounding with yes-men. The passion that I am referring to is not your personal passion- You might be heavily interested in photography or painting but you have a day job; so it might be worthwhile to inject some passion in your day job so that you can make it joyful for you and others!
  • Teach a new thing for yourself and for your team- They will remember you for this for eternity!
  • Read, Read and Read- Again the common excuse that I hear on this are:Lack of time
    -No interest to read
    -What do I gain by reading?
    -I have around 10 years of experience- So why read? I know? [this is the know-it-all syndrome]
    -What to read? When to start? Which book? Management or Non-Management?
    I think reading anything helps you to kick-start the habit and also get in to the “connecting the dots” and “association” trait which is very important for aspiring leaders.

I can go on and on for managers but if we understand some of these practical aspects, we can and will retain people and talent. Even if they leave, they will come back for you! Again, we are not attempting a recipe here but the above factors can be taken in to consideration while you are in the “retention” business.

Given the advent of millenial’s entering the workforce and globalization creating more options for everyone, it has become a necessity to retain good people/talent. Fortunately, there is no shortcut for this and meticulous understanding and diligence is required on people management!

Would love to hear your views and perspectives on this!


Anub said...

A very well written article Prakki. I feel this should be read by all managers. Particularly when you said manager is a role and not a title I felt this should be the first lesson any new Manager should realize. Thanks Prakki

Anonymous said...

A very well written article. I would add another reason why people leave or try to leave their current employer - when an organization is lacking consistent hiring and promotional policies.



Anonymous said...

Good one - nice thread for upcoming mangers. Captures some of the basics that need to be looked into by all managers. More often than not, managers tend to get burried in what they need to do for themselves day-in-and-day-out and loose track of other things what they should do in their "manager" role - for their team. Going back to attrition, this is influenced by a lot more organization dynamics than just the manager dynamics. In the current world, there is no guarantee that anyone will end up in a better workplace and with a better manager than what they currently have. This is even difficult to predict when they move within a large organization. Individual needs are different for every individual. The opportunities and needs of individuals need to meet. There is not avenue for matching each individuals need with opportunities. If there is no match, no matter how good a manager is, the individual will leave hoping for what is in their perspective "better" than current. This is to some extent non controllable. In general high attrition is not good. Some attrition is welcome - for the organization as well as for the individual.

Anonymous said...

I was recommended to research papers online.

Thanks for sharing !!!

Six Sigma for all said...

Very Well written Prakash.... One Point which I feel most managers are confused with is that they believe its all about managing people and team effectively and they seriously dont know that 1 of the most important skill is thriving to become a leader.... Only then they would be to gain respect, direct individuals and teams and stay connected with all small thing happening in the team

dark in liGht said...

A damn good article !! All Managers has to read it. If one follow the given points, he will be a respectable Manager.

Anupam Kansal said...

Well, I read your book review and then landed on your latest post and it surely hit the spot. I see two more things to the manager debate: people forced into this role (to progress career or financially) and treating training of new managers like a org KRA rather than the training+mentorship approach (my view) it should be. I would really appreciate your views on these two aspects also. Thanks for the insightful article.

Sree said...

Good One Prakki. I completely agree with you that people leave people...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful insight... Everyone is a manager in one form or other... nice post to read again and think again


Harish said...

A 'bang on the nail' post!
It reminds me of a quote from one of the training sessions I attended:
A boss's attitude is "Go do it"
A leader's attitude is "Lets do it"
Always serves to remind you of the kind of attitude you are showing to your team...

hezedgodson said...

Sorry for the very late comment..

Its always glad to learn People Management from you.. Your post help new Managers like me, most.. Thanks for the posting..

Manish Deshmukh said...

Very good to see your interesting article that once again solidly reiterates the classic fact that "People leave People"!
A lot has already been said and can be said about this.

I think most of the managers know this fact through mgmt. reading or by experience but somewhere down the line tend to disengage from this during daily working.

Additionally I would also like to highlight one more important aspect about how this is avoided by way of forming winning teams.

The team (including manager!) need to have a commonly agreed vision / objective to pursue and more importantly they must really be passionate about it. In most of cases this point is absolutely missing. This can either purely be due to incompetency of the manager or because the project mandate itself is such that it becomes difficult to energize people. This has been and is going to be one of the most critical challenge areas for a modern day manager.

A visible terminal end effect of above mentioned point missing in the team environment is people leaving your teams !!!