Want to Keep Your Best People? Learn to Grow Garlic! Let Me Explain . . .

Have you ever lost a good person because they did not see a future at your company or they did not feel valued?  Then did you wonder “How could they think that?”  Maybe you even went so far as to tell them after they announced they were leaving, but it was too late.

Keeping people is a big and often complicated topic.  To simplify it I often share a rule given me by a  manufacturing supervisor from Tennessee almost ten years ago.  His wisdom?  “Intentions without actions equals SQUAT.”  My rule for making sure people know they are valued – invest in them through your actions.  Let me share an analogy.

I like to grow vegetables.  My new experiment is garlic.  It takes time to grow a full head of garlic from a single clove when you live in Michigan.  The process starts in the fall, when you plant a single clove so it can put down some roots before winter.  If everything works, next June I will have 20-30 full heads of garlic.  My investment in the process is pretty simple:  a little money, time, and patience.

So how does growing garlic relate to developing people?  As a leader you are likely busy with the urgent issues of today.  If you want people to feel valued and show commitment to what needs to be done, they need your time, patience, and support.

Here are five steps to cultivate your people garden:

  1. Evaluate where the person is today (current performance, talents, experience)
  2. Define where they want to be / the organization needs them to be in the future
  3. Make a plan to get them ready(new skills, experiences, mentoring, etc) for what they want/what the organization needs
  4. Revisit the plan every quarter to see how they are doing
  5. Get to work

I believe most leaders care about their people.  I also see lots of situations where these same leaders do not show in their actions what they feel.    Taking time to help your people think about and plan for their future shows a real commitment to their success.  What is the cost of such an activity?  A good development discussion takes about 5-7 total hours (2-3 for the leader / 3-4 for the individual).  If you add in three one hour(quarterly) follow-up meetings, the yearly time investment for a single person is approximately 13 hours.  The ROI?  What would it cost your business to replace a good employee?  What would the lost productivity or stalled projects cost your team if you were short a person for 3-4 months?

Spend 5 minutes making a list of the actions you do daily, monthly, and quarterly to show your people you value them?  If this is not on it – add it!

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