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31st July 2018

Are your canaries flying away?

‘When things go bad in a job, good people leave, eventually followed by people who thought they could change things but got buried because too many good people left.  Those left are bad people or hostages.  The good people are your canaries.’  –  Brian Hogan.

Are your canaries flying away?  (see what I did there?)

This isn’t all my work so I can take none of the credit for it other than explaining how I interpret how they have eloquently put ‘people leave people, not companies’.

Now, there are always exceptions to this and this article is in no way meant to cover all bases but is a generalisation based on my own experiences and observations.

People leave their jobs for many reasons.

  • They don’t like it.
  • No career progression.
  • Money or benefits.

Mostly and unfortunately, however, it comes down to management.  People leave for the majority of the time because of their manager(s).  People leave people.

Jim Clifton (CEO of Gallup) said ‘The single biggest decision you make in your job-bigger than all the rest is who you name manager.  When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision.  Not compensation, not benefits-nothing.’

You can have any number of benefits, employee perks, fabulous days out for staff and those quirky bean bags in the corner and a meditation room but if you have someone managing people who don’t know how to manage people it’s all in vain.

So often I’ve seen and see and read about organisations who spend thousands of pounds on recruitment or unnecessary hours on recruiting without actually getting to the bottom of the problem.  In addition, you then have the time and effort of bringing new staff up to speed with your systems and processes

Staff turnover should be monitored.  Do you know if a certain department or section of your business has a higher than a normal turnover?  Do you just accept staff leave and start the recruitment process merry go round again?  Do you take the time to find out why people are leaving?  (that is another topic, getting people to be honest about their reasons for leaving a job while they are still there)  Do you provide training to your managers on how to manage?  Do you promote or put the right people into management roles?

Some people it seems just ‘know’ how to manage people.  Most who do it and will need training, guidance and support to develop.  The best will continually look at ways of how to improve themselves as managers and in turn develop those around them.

There are canaries everywhere flying off unnecessarily.  Maybe it’s time to look not at the quick and immediate fix but the root cause. 

Don’t just assume you have good managers in place.  Don’t assume they are bad either.  Take a closer look at staff turnover.  Take a real look at how much replacing them costs.  If all you seem to be doing is replacing staff you have a problem.

Stop hiring bird catchers (recruiters) unnecessarily, look at your bird keepers (managers).  Maybe they shouldn’t be in that role, or maybe they need some training and development.

I know that last line is full of awful puns.  I just hope I’ve planted a few seeds and not ruffled anyone’s feathers.


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