One of the issues of most businesses is employee turnover. What’s even stranger is the difficulties it brings. Criticism (don’t they know what they are doing), second guessing (something must be wrong) and then outright attacks (social media, etc).
I have found that there are 4 things we need for a good employee and the management of them. One is culture, we have outlined our cultural values, we work diligently to operate by them and promote them among the employees that exhibit them. But there will always be employees that will either not be interested in them or will interpret them differently then the company. For example, we believe that “Doing the Right Thing” (a core value) is represented by better systems and processes that allow us to deliver at the highest-level of service (which we don’t always get right, but we always pivot fast). An employee disagreed, she wanted more manual processes and wanted to do it the way “everyone does it”. They quit and wrote a negative review on a corporate social media site.
The paradox is that the team members that embrace the core values (we have 5) have a framework to be happier. The can ‘complain’ about something by easily referencing a core value that is being missed. They have more autonomy to make decisions around the core value and can easily defend decisions based on those core values. I was instrumental in writing the core values, but I don’t live them 100% of the time, but anyone in the company has the right to hold me to the values regardless of position. This is healthy for the team members, it is good for our clients, it is good for the health of the company. But, some still resist, it’s a paradox.
The next is skill set. We have had breath taking problems in our one of our departments, for a sustained period of time (years). The first person got the visual part of the job done, but did not help with drawing intelligence from their department. The replacement was only slightly better. We replaced him with a temp from Accountemps (great company and has helped us many times) who was rock solid, but he left to start his own business. The next replacement did the bare minimum of what could be seen, but it took nine months to clean up the mess left in the wake of their exit. 2 of the 5 had the skills, a different 2 of the 5 had the “experience”. We were not applauded for removing the wrong people from this critical position, we were criticized, internally and externally and did not disclose the issues to, in this case, protect the guilty (activities that required ‘outside enforcement’).
The paradox is that the person at the head of the department, cares much more now that they have seen what not caring looks like and the impact it has on the entire organization. The effort has been herculean! We bought new software to streamline our internal processes, we installed Intacct a middle market accounting package (there is a point where QuickBooks won’t cut it, very happy with this company and what they are bringing us) we hired Concur (super cool automation for accounts payables and expense reports). These purchases were made and systems were created that made us better. We would not have done what needed to be done if the employees in the position had not been bad. Had they been even average we would not have made the substantial leaps forward, and that department is close to running like a finely tuned machine. It’s a paradox.
Experience is the next issue. We have tried to hire very seasoned individuals, but run the risk of “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. We have tried hiring young, fresh people to “mold them” into our culture and business model. There has been a varying degree of success and failures. The first challenge is getting youth, that know how to do what we are hiring for, because our educational system is really bad. It trains to a text book written by someone that is not operating in the real world. So, a young employee with a Master’s Degree in accounting (the world of books and how the numbers are recorded in those books) can’t reconcile the books of a business in QuickBooks (the real world)? Tens of thousands in debt from a major university and they can’t do the job that the degree should be designed for, which is accounting for the 99.7% of business in the US. But, the right person regardless of education and with the desire to learn, we have found can be great! So don’t believe the myth that all millennials are lazy and entitled! They aren’t, like every generation before them some are lazy some aren’t. We have to find the ones that aren’t. The second challenge is the “old dogs”. Both the men and the women have resisted change away from the way things have always been. We are building something that does not exist, but we need the skills of those working in businesses that are decades old and antiquated in systems and technology. One of our best employees out worked the youth and loved the direction and tech and systems we were implementing, so old dogs can be taught new tricks, and like it! The lack of experience can be a gift and the extra experience can be a curse. It really comes down to attitude over experience. It’s a paradox.
Managing dysfunction; this is the ‘elephant in the room’ issue. Let’s face it we are ALL dysfunctional in some part of our life. The tax person at putting numbers in boxes, but doesn’t really like talking to people and/or customer service. We struggle with getting a great technical expert, but then people have questions and then want to “meet the expert”, and it’s like meeting an ‘idol’ for the first time, it’s a letdown. In some cases, people are offended, because many technical experts are socially awkward (you know an engineer or computer programmer that fits this). Our most dramatic example of dysfunction was an employee well loved, they communicated well, knew the technical better than most and delivered what they knew with confidence. Clients felt like they were being taken care of and all was right with the world after a conversation. What people didn’t see was several years of excessive absenteeism per year. Rampant disorganization, ignoring processes designed to help clients and fought change. The reason everyone liked this employee was they told them what they wanted to hear, but then did not deliver. But when they quit (due to attempting to rein in the issues) “something must be wrong” with Financial Gravity. It’s a paradox.
Sometimes the team members that got you to one point in the business will not be the team members that are with you for the next part of the journey. Great players in a smaller organization may not be great when the organization grows. Some great players will be terrible managers, even though it is natural to promote great players to management, maybe we shouldn’t. Paradox’s everywhere!
The good news is experience is a great (expensive) teacher. We are a MUCH better team because of these bad experiences (another paradox). We are working to better adhere to the Entrepreneurial Operating System, mostly because it is simple, and it works. But simple is not easy. Which is also a paradox.
For more on the Entrepreneurial Operating System, check out these podcasts with Mark Winters on the difference and critical importance of Visionaries vs Integrators. Or Jill Young on getting bosses and employees to see the same thing.
For a terrific book about how the worst in life brings the best outcomes paradox. Check out David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Hint: With all the facts, David may not have been the underdog, check it out, it’s an amazing read, everything by Malcolm Gladwell is great including his Revisionist History Podcast.
If you think we are failing somewhere and want us to know email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you think you have something that will make us better email us at email@example.com
For updates of what we are doing and if you want to learn with us check out our podcast at the Financial Gravity website.
What is a paradox in your business? How are you addressing it?