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Reducing Turnover of Semi-skilled and Unskilled Workers

Post by Barbara Hermann/Sr. Consultant

17 April

I just read an article about absenteeism and turnover in war industries during World War II.  A prominent Senator suggested a “work or fight” rule.  If you were consistently absent for work, you would be drafted!  I do not think that that is a workable solution today.

To me, a starting point in reducing turnover is to showobvious, authentic respect for employees.

In considering this topic of turnover, I thought about my experiences in my first “real” job.  I remember staff meetings in which questions and suggestions were greeted with comments that sounded like “If you don’t like it, leave. You can be replaced easily”.  When I was hired, I had no idea how my job related to the goals of the company.  I remember telling my mother, “No one ever mentions it if you do something well.”  She told me that I had unrealistic expectations.  The Christmas party consisted of being allowed to choose a piece of candy from a 10 lb. box.  I did not stay.

If the employee’s job were not important then you could leave it unfilled, so I think it is a good idea to not only do effective onboarding (see the previous blog – “Using Assessments for Onboarding Insights), but to continue to let the employee know that his / her cog makes that wheel turn.

Of course, there are plain bad workers or those who will leave at the offer of 5 cents more per hour no matter what you do.  However, it would make sense to me to give encouragement, do walk-around management acknowledging the workers as individuals with families, problems and joys just like your own.

REACH Human Capital can do periodic assessments of the “cultural climate” and training of both supervisors and their workers.  Surveys have shown that one reason workers leave is due to bullying – which can come from supervisors as well as co-workers.  Training with clear guidelines of conduct can include explaining the difference between supervisor needs / expectations and bullying.  Good communication involves explaining the “why’s” behind the rules.

Perception of unequal treatment is also a retention-killer.  REACH Human Capital can perform assessments to determine employee views of how they are being treated.  If, for example, a supervisor and best worker buddy take a two-hour lunch break without explanation, and the employees get 30 minutes – that does not lead to happy campers.

Another reason for turnover is that these employees at this level, in particular, can feel that they have no control over their situations.  If that does not lead to turnover, it can certainly lead to resistance to change.  In the long run, honest seems to work best as the following story illustrates.

I worked in one organization in which we were warned that change was coming.  Then we were allowed to meet in small groups to decide how we could implement that change.  Oh the excitement!  The “grass-roots” folks were being asked for their opinion and asked what they might need in order to reach the new goals.  Then – whoops! – it turned out management already had a plan, and the group meetings were only a means to get us to “buy into the change”.  You can imagine what that did for morale.  When there is no transparency, morale takes a dive.

I think we can underestimate the contribution this level of worker can make in suggesting ways of getting the job done more efficiently.  Most people feel honored when asked for their opinion.And asking for suggestions and providing what someone needs to get their job done better can increase “employee engagement”.  The employee feels “visible”.  REACH Human Capital can facilitate brainstorming and communication to improve efficiency.

In thinking about this semi-skilled / unskilled population, I also thought about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: you must have adequate food, clothing and shelter before you can focus on “self-actualization” (or “engagement” with the company’s goals).  Providing snacks or lunches periodically on a regular schedule might improve “loyalty” to the company.  Since so many lower paid workers have little experience in evaluating banking fees, credit card interest rates, saving for retirement, a program in financial education could be offered – by REACH Human Capital.

We have plenty of ideas to share with you including suggestions for recruitment.  Call us and see!

  • higher education degree
    April 17 , 2017

    Aw, this was a really good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to generate a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don't seem to get anything done.

  • admin
    April 17 , 2017


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