Barney Gershen from Gershen Consulting Talks High-Performing Teams, Employee Retention
The 2019 Contracting Success Conference is right around the corner, and we're preparing our attendees for what's to come. BSCAI talked with President and owner of Gershen Consulting, Barney Gershen. Learn more about his upcoming peer-to-peer session, "A High Perfoming Team Can Make Even You Look Good!"
BSCAI: What are the qualities of a high-performing team? How can teams develop these qualities?
Barney Gershen: One of the most important qualities is shared goals. In Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he states “If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” Shared goals, including a clearly defined company mission, vision and attainable (but stretching) goals are the basis for this. Once everyone starts striving for these goals, the team begins to work together as a unit, rather than a disparate group of people.
Open, honest and effective communication is also important. I’m a proponent of using a principle called the Four Agreements (originally authored by Don Miguel Ruiz). These agreements are: (1) Be impeccable with your word. (2) Don’t take anything personally. (3) Don’t make assumptions. (4) Always do your best. I’ve found that teams who abide by these agreements are consistently more effective in their work.
BSCAI: What are some of the hiring challenges that building service contractors currently face?
BG: As I’m sure everyone in the business knows, labor markets are very tight – one estimate states that there are 8 million more jobs out there than people to fill them. Also, the No. 1 reason people are leaving their current employment is not poor treatment from the company, but because they get “poached” by another employer for more hours, more money, etc. We must recognize that times have changed – to keep up, we need to “hire fast and fire fast” instead of the old adage, “higher slow, fire fast.”
BSCAI: How can employers focus on employee retention more? What best practices can employers use to keep good employees with the company?
BG: In my experience, it’s a three-step process – (1) Find, (2) Retain, (3) Develop. Neglecting any one of these can result in increased employee turnover.
Finding the right employee is the first step. This includes a formalized strategic hiring process. Ideally, each vacancy would have a detailed job description that clearly defines what the person will be expected to accomplish in the role. This is so an applicant can be evaluated based on their ability to accomplish those tasks. Also, outside tools (such as the Birkman assessment) can help the employer determine if the person is a good fit for the organization and the specific job (along with traditional tools such as detailed reference checks, background checks and work history).
Retaining - A comprehensive written onboarding program with clearly defined milestones is critical for retention. Recent research has suggested that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82%. The onboarding process (as any other process) needs to have a person who is ultimately responsible for making sure all the onboarding tasks are completed.
Retention can also be increased by teambuilding exercises (again, utilizing the Birkman analysis) to help people learn how to best work with each other. In addition, performance evaluations should be based on objective numbers. For example, did you meet your goal of 95% customer retention? This allows the employee to clearly see “how they are doing” in relation to their job performance and removes all subjectivity from evaluations.
Finally – development. A major part of developing employees is succession planning, derived from the results of the objective performance evaluations. If someone is meeting (or exceeding) their goals, they are put on a career development plan where they can clearly see a path toward promotion, in addition to any number of bonuses, awards, etc., that you might decide to give. If an employee is not meeting his or her goals, they are put on a Performance Improvement Plan, where deficiencies are clearly laid out and they are told exactly what they need to do in order to improve.
I’ve also always felt that providing job training and encouraging attendance is an important aspect of employee development. The better a person does in their role, the more likely they are to be successful and move up in the company, thereby creating a career for the employee, rather than just a job.
Sharing the company mission, vision and goals with everyone is also crucial. Over the years at ABS, we developed numerous bonus plans based on company performance. If the company as a whole exceeded our goals, everyone who was eligible got a piece of the extra achievement in the form of a bonus.
BSCAI: How can managers encourage their employees to perform their best?
BG: Define what we mean by performing their best, and then pay them for it. This is the greatest management principle. Pay for the behavior you want, not just activity. It seems simple, but many times unproductive or even counterproductive behavior is rewarded.
Also, bonus plans based on company performance can be effective, with a side benefit of encouraging teamwork toward a common goal.
BSCAI: What is one thing you would like conference attendees to take away from your session?
BG: My business card, so they can call Gershen Consulting for help. Joking aside, you have to remember –“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” It starts with the leadership being focused on the above and actively leading from the front.
Join us in Las Vegas for the 2019 Contracting Success Conference from Nov. 20-22. Register here.