Tag Archive: employee retention

Retaining Project Management Top Talent

June 19th, 2015
retain top project managers

It takes valuable time and effort to replace talented managers. Instead, invest more attention, feedback and support on your top performers.

As the recovery takes hold and businesses become more comfortable investing money, top project managers have become scarce. In order to grow the business, improve profitability and accelerate cash flow, projects are integral. Having the ideas is “easy” in comparison to executing those ideas. Solid project management will ensure these results occur. Thus, those companies who retain top project management will thrive and leave the rest in the dust. What can be done to ensure you are in the driver’s seat?

First, recognize that the world has flipped. During the recession, executives could ask for a broad set of skills, multiple certifications, vast experience and other superhero qualities and potentially find a project manager who fit the bill. Often, it was even possible to find someone willing to take the long term perspective on compensation. This ship has sailed!

In today’s environment, if you aren’t focused on retention, you not only will have trouble retaining top talent but it will also be challenging to locate top talent. Top talent is leaving for opportunities closer to home, for creative compensation packages, for greater flexibility – and for retirement. Thus, your priority must be on retaining talent to thrive.

The great news is that retaining top talent is not rocket science; it is actually quite simple. It is NOT easy to implement; however, it is simple. Consider a comprehensive approach to retaining top talent: 1) Focus on your top performers. 2) Address non-performers. 3) Provide passion and clarity on goals. 4) Ensure frequent communications.

1. Focus on your top performers.Instead of focusing most of your energy on the issues and non-performers, focus the majority of your effort on your top talent. It sounds easy but is far from easy to implement. Yet this one simple rule can make all the difference in the world! The idea is to focus your efforts on those who drive your project and company’s results.

You must focus on your top talent with what you DO; not with what you say. Set up regular meetings to check in with your top talent. Do not reschedule for “the crisis of the day”. Stop by on a regular basis to show support and ask questions. Be visible and make sure it is a clear priority.

2. Address non-performers. One of the best incentives for a top performer (assuming they are paid within reason for the role based on the market) is addressing non-performers. I typically see non-performers riding on the coattails of top performers yet no one is willing to address the issue. The problem is that the above average performers (and especially top performers) know exactly who is not performing, and it provides a constant source of frustration.

One of the best sources of motivation for a top performer is to know that the value of his/her work is understood; thus, slip-shot work will not be tolerated. A clear priority on maintaining a culture of accountability is cornerstone to success.

3. Provide passion & clarity on goals. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of employees would prefer to make a difference while at work. It isn’t about just collecting a paycheck for top performers. Instead, he/she wants to know that their piece of the project directly contributes to a core company goal. Explain the company’s strategy and goals. Tie the project’s objectives to the company objectives. Clearly communicate the value of the project manager (and each team member) to these objectives. Demonstrate passion and excitement for these results and confidence in the team. Suddenly, focus and results will accelerate!

4. Ensure frequent communications.Although this sounds like suggesting motherhood and apple pie, it is often overlooked, and, unfortunately, it is not nearly as easy as it sounds. My most successful clients are those who spend the majority of their time communicating.

Set up a communications strategy upfront. What makes sense for this particular project and project team? How often do critical path milestones occur? How often should communications occur to make sure bottlenecks are being addressed rapidly? How should communications occur? In person? Over the phone? Via a webinar? In emails?

For example, I’ve been working with a client on an ERP implementation. We had to change the day of the week for our communication updates in order to make sure the critical participants were available. We also had to change our mode of communication because the sharing of files was creating frustration for people working remotely and traveling. Both of these were easy fixes but greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the communications. Be willing to be flexible. Determine what works for the particular team and circumstances and modify your behavior instead of expecting others to cater to you.

My best clients support and deliver many millions of dollars of revenue growth and increased profitability through projects. Thus, what could be more important than retaining your top project management talent? Follow these four simple strategies, and results will follow.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars


Employee Performance: Do Not Ignore Your Stars

October 2nd, 2014
human capital investment

Identify and focus on how to nurture your higher performing employees to net a better return on your human capital investment.

Since the beginning of 2014, the job market has been robust and employers are struggling to find high-skilled, qualified candidates for key positions. I’ve talked frequently about this skills gap and performed research on the topic as I am convinced that those who get ahead of the skills gap will thrive and leave the rest in the dust. Join me at APICS 2014 to hear more about my research findings and strategies for success.

One key component to succeeding while others continue to struggle with the skills gap is to retain top talent. I cannot tell you how often employee performance is overlooked at my clients and in organizations across the globe. My estimate is that 80% of companies under appreciate their top talent. Thus, why is it any surprise when top talent heads for the doors?

Luckily this problem is resolvable.  If you follow a few key steps, you will be far more likely to KEEP your stars. 1) Take stock of your talent. 2) Focus on leadership. 3) Address poor performers.

1. Take stock of your talent: Get off the daily treadmill for a “talent strategy session”. If you do not prioritize your people, how do you expect to drive growth and profit?  Set aside the time and gather up your management team. Go through your talent. How do you identify your top talent? Some might seem obvious. Although it’s a start, it is not enough. Look for your “hidden treasures”.  Who consistently gains results and comes up with new ideas?  Don’t look in the obvious areas as I find top talent is often overlooked.  Think about who you would struggle without.  Oddly enough, think about who might annoy you by bringing up potential roadblocks.  Your stars are thinking 5 steps ahead and it might not make them popular. In my experience, the first time leaders realize a top talent has left is when what seemed to be easy and “just happen” no longer occurs. Don’t wait that long!

Once you identify your top talent, take stock of their employee performance. What is important to them? What do they value? How likely are they to consider the “perfect job” if a recruiter happened to call tomorrow? Trust me, a recruiter will eventually find them or they will get frustrated and explore opportunities.

2. Focus on leadership:  Next, go back to basics. People do not stay for the money. The lack of money is a demotivator; however, money is not a motivator. So, why do they stay?  I often work with these stars as they are vital to achieving project results, and so I listen up!  In essence, once your star is being paid in alignment with the salary range for the job, leadership will make or break your success.

Do your leaders seem to appreciate their hard work AND results? Or, are they caught up in whoever “kisses up” to the boss? Your stars will know. Do your leaders ask for input and feedback? Is it a give-and-take conversation?  Listening alone is worse than not listening. Stars want to know their thoughts are not only heard but that they are incorporated into a plan or that they learn what could be improved for next time. Learning opportunities and challenging environments are a must.

Do you provide opportunities for advancement?  For an outsider like me, it can get to be humorous (if I wasn’t so frustrated) – sometimes, we overlook obvious steps. Find out what they do and have done in the past. For example, one client thought giving a star a new challenge would make up for the lack of advancement; however, they didn’t bother to figure out that she had already done that job in the past and found it less challenging than the one she was in!

A simple way to consider whether you are focusing enough on your stars is to think about where you spend the majority of your time: with your non-performers or with your high performers?  What other ways can you monitor employee performance?

3. Address poor performers:  Last but not least, you must address non-performers. There is nothing worse than seeing a non-performer carry on for a star. They want to know that what they are doing is a value-add.  If an obvious non-performer is ignored, it signifies that it is OK to be a poor performer.  Perhaps high performers aren’t even valued…

I would bet significant money that if executives found their true stars and focused half the energy on their stars as they do on fire fighting, they would be wildly successful. Why not give it a shot?

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The Skills Gap is Alive and Well in California

September 25th, 2014
California skills gap

Job openings are still on the rise in California but for supply chain so is the skills gap, which is a hiring headache that then shifts the attention on employee retention.

California was responsible for 1/3 of all new jobs added in August in the nation!  I see this on daily basis at my clients.  They are hiring for key positions and struggling to fill the skills gap.  My research showed that 87% of manufacturers and distributors are experiencing a skills gap.

Not only must you be better than your competition at locating and attracting top talent, you must be able to retain top talent.  What do you have in place to retain top talent?  Certainly some companies have comprehensive training and development programs; however, I find the “simple” is amazingly effective:

• Do you show your employees that you appreciate them?

• Do you give your employees interesting projects?

• Do you allow your employees to experiment and fail?

• Do you hold your employees accountable?  Interestingly, I find that if employees know you will hold folks accountable, you will have a much more attractive environment.  Who wants to pick up others’ slack?

• Do you celebrate successes?

• Do you ask for and LISTEN to feedback?

Consider implementing a few of these “simple” retention strategies, and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

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The Skills Gap

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Motivate Employees as One Critical Way to Retain Top Performers

April 29th, 2014
Motivate employees to retain them

Keeping employees engaged and motivated can be your single greatest competitive advantage.

A motivated employee can move mountains. A disgruntled employee creates havoc. Which do you have? As results are critical to success, I thought it was worth pursuing how to motivate employees; however, as important as results are, retaining top talent in today’s marketplace will put you on top.

1. Let’s start with a “not” – money. Although the lack of fair compensation is a de-motivator, money itself is rarely a motivator.

2. Instead, explain each person’s value – how does each person contribute to the company vision, goals and priorities? Yes, it takes time to translate each person’s value but it will achieve immeasurable results.

3. Diversity – remember, not everyone is the same. Each person has different interests and motivations. Listen and find out what they are, and then modify your behavior to what works for each person.

4. Leverage strengths – I haven’t found anyone who wants to fail (even the miserable, negative ones). Forget about weaknesses that aren’t causing significant issues. Instead, build on each person’s strengths, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

5. Trust – do what you say you’ll do, and don’t commit to things you know cannot be realistically delivered (even if it is what people want to hear at the moment). As simple as it sounds, it’s not simple to do. Yet, trust can have a profound effect on motivation.

6. Reward performance and take action with non-performers – one of the most overlooked, yet critical leadership action items. Many times, this is #1 for your top performers. It is critical to note that BOTH are required to truly motivate your top performers. Do not put it aside for a day when you have “time”.

Did you like this article?  Read more about how to motivate employees and Profit Through People(TM).



How to Effectively Engage Employees and Achieve Results

January 30th, 2014
LMA Consulting Group, Leadership, manufacturing, supply chain

Great leaders know how to engage and empower employees to thrive in the new normal business economy.

In my recent conversations with clients and business contacts, a common concern has emerged: How to leverage the recovery to grow the business and increase profitability. There is considerable uncertainty surrounding how long the recovery will last, how healthcare reform will affect businesses, and what the impact of the global economy will be. Executives are now focused on how to jump start business in the recovery. Those companies who succeed during this “new normal” era and leverage the current recovery will have the opportunity to leapfrog their competition; however, time is of the essence.

In my experience as a former VP of Operations and Supply Chain, and as a global business consultant who has worked across multiple industries, I’ve found the key to success is engaging employees. Undoubtedly, the most significant bottom line results are driven by people, followed by processes, and then systems and technology. I’ve yet to find an example where this truism didn’t exist.

Thus, the question is how to effectively engage employees. Although it sounds a bit like motherhood and apple pie, I’ve consistently found the top three ways to engage employees include:

  1. Vision & goals
  2. Leadership that combines passion and focus
  3. Appreciation


  1. Vision and goals. One of the most common mistakes executives make is to have a clear vision, but they either communicate it ineffectively or do not communicate it at all. When employees do not know where they are going or why, they are not motivated to “get there.”Don’t be confused. Typically, those companies with vision statements on the walls are no better off than those without a vision statement. What matters is when the executives live and communicate the vision on a consistent basis. Is it part of daily conversations? Does it matter? How does each department, team, and employee contribute to the vision? Or translate the vision into goals? Clarity, simplicity and passion matter.
  2. Leadership that combines passion and focus. Day-to-day leadership and communications engage employees. It’s as simple as that: leaders do not have to be charismatic; they must be passionate and focused.For example, an organization I worked with that had the most engaged employees was led by a less-than-charismatic CEO; however, he had passion, drive, focus and integrity. Everyone knew where we were headed and which of their tasks were most critical to the current focus and direction of the company. There was no doubt what was critical. Priorities were clear. And everyone knew that it was likely that the CEO and/or other executives would stop by to discuss ideas and brainstorm about the company’s area of focus. Their input seemed to matter. Suddenly employees were engaged.
  3. Appreciation. A simple thank you can go a long way! It is amazing how much of an impact being appreciated has on an employee’s level of engagement. Unfortunately, I’ve seen countless examples of exceptional employees who don’t receive any appreciation, but instead get negative attention at times for bringing up potential problems or roadblocks that must be tackled in order to achieve the corporate goals. There is nothing more disheartening to an exceptional employee than a complete lack of appreciation for the results achieved.On the other hand, the best leaders who drive bottom line business results speak with their employees. They review goals on a frequent basis and discuss roadblocks. They show interest in the employee’s ideas and provide immediate positive and corrective feedback. The best leaders appreciate progress and congratulate success. And the best leaders with the most engaged employees give credit to their employees for successes and take responsibility for the issues.

Those companies who effectively engage their employees will be the ones to effectively leverage the recovery. And those who leverage the recovery will be the ones to lead their industries and thrive in the “new normal.” The question to ask yourself: Do you consider your employees your most important asset?


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