Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Your Best Workers Will Leave Your Estate





I love summaries. In school, I'd often pick up a CliffsNotes pamphlet and quickly scan through to get to the main points, first, before moving on to reading the entire original book. This was a bit backwards from how they're generally used, but it worked for me. I mostly think I was just anxious to see how someone else would summarize the book, almost like peeking at a treasure hunt map before starting the journey - and then seeing if it really took me to the same place as the author of the book itself. I also like summaries because they represent very hard work; it takes a lot of time and skill to accurately condense thoughts into a really usable form.

Such is the case with summaries of articles which are already less than ten minutes to read; I think it's even more of a challenge for someone to condense those thoughts beyond that - and that's why I find them especially interesting. And when the subject matter is anything Human Resources related, it then becomes doubly interesting - and especially, of course, as applied to domestic staff and teams.

Such was the case today, reading Why Top Talent Leaves: 10 Reasons Boiled Down To 1. Could there really be such a simple summary of why top talent leaves an employer?  

Well, as it turns out:

  1. Yes, and
  2. It's not just why top talent leave a job; it's why anyone would leave a job.

Spoiler alert....  here's now the summary of the article - which is already a summary of the first article - yet I feel compelled to write it here for the benefit of those domestic workers who enjoy summaries (and summaries of summaries!) as much as I do:


Top talent leave an organization when they're badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.


You may also notice the article by Ms. Anderson dropped the original reference to "large companies" contained in the first article. I believe this was intentional, to bring the greater working population into the discussion. No one in either article went into great detail on how to define "top" talent and I think it really doesn't matter for the purposes here: In summary, you will risk losing any of your domestic staff by not paying close attention to her following two remedies:

1. Create an organization where those who manage others are hired for their ability to manage well, supported to get even better at managing, and help accountable and rewarded for doing so.

Now that we have the first suggestion summary, let's expand it back out and and see how it relates to domestic staff teams:

  • Create an organization where those who manage others are hired for their ability to manage well.  We've all seen, in virtually any type of industry, people who are hired or promoted into management positions because of their technical skill. Occasionally, the estate gets lucky and the person is also a good manager, but the first never guarantees the second. The best Estate Manager I met in my career didn't always know if the fork went on the left or the right side of the plate, but he always knew how how to bring out the absolute best in everyone on staff and because of that, the people actually setting the table always knew - and even better than that - they always placed the fork correctly without him ever needing to ask them in the first place; that's the type of work ethic and culture he was able to create though his hands-on management skills. 
  • ...supported to get even better at managing.  Most good estate managers (and managers of estate managers) know that management itself is a lifelong learning curve - one that goes off the chart and never quite comes to an end.  Many estate owners will send their private chef to specialty coursework to keep their skills sharpened; it's not an unreasonable expectation for a manager to make similar, concerted efforts to keep improving their management skills, also. Real support goes beyond just shipping your EM off to a weekend seminar, however; real support also means giving your manager the tools and resources to, well, manage. Much like the chef is given the best Viking range, the warming drawers, the Sub-Zero fridge, the best produce from the best farmers' markets, and perhaps even an assistant in the kitchen to prep and clean up; managers also need the support of being given authority to actually manage the staff, to develop performance management plans and hold their team accountable for producing the services they were hired for; and perhaps most importantly: the autonomy to make decisions on ground level on a day-to-day basis - to not get bogged down with raising their hand a dozen times a day and asking permission for simple operational processes. In turn, a manager who is sufficiently supported to do her job will be inspired to provide a similar level of support to her staff.
  • ...and held accountable and rewarded for doing so.  Estate Managers, like any other domestic staff member, don't simply run on auto-pilot. Despite the well-known job advertisement expressions we all see in the online boards of "must be a self-starter," managers are - shocker now, brace yourselves! - workers, too, and need the same opportunities for feedback, communication, and reward as the housekeeper does. Yes, this means after being given the appropriate level of support and tools to do her job, the manager's manager (often the estate owner or their rep, such as a private attorney) needs to have regular performance reviews with the manager - just as importantly to ensure goals are being met, yet also for the purpose of the manager having the opportunity to highlight her accomplishments and provide 360-feedback for what she may need in order to improve a staff related process or meet a domestic service goal.

2. Then be clear about what you're trying to accomplish as an organization - not only in terms of financial goals, but in a three-dimensional way. What's your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world? What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that? What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you're embodying that mission and culture? How will you measure success? And then, once you've clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.

And again - the expanded version, as related to our domestic staff team efforts:

  • Then be clear about what you're trying to accomplish as an organization.... in a three-dimensional way. What's your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world?  This is not the no-brainer many people think it is. Notice the part of the sentence, "as an organization."  Estates without a focused effort to continually discuss and agree upon a team mission often wind up with fifteen staff members who are each focused on their own private version of what needs to be accomplished for the estate. Have you heard the expression, herding cats
  • What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that? What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you're embodying that mission and culture?  Discussions about organizational culture may seem like just some lofty academic 30,000 ft. big-picture meanderings, but they're really not. Everyone on a domestic staff is concerned about the team culture and how they fit in. A good way to start to build the one you want is to talk about it, straight up, at the ground level, during your next staff meeting. No staff meetings, you say? Then I can guarantee a culture is already being created for you - even without any efforts - yet it's probably not the one that you want. 
  • How will you measure success?  Individual performance to meet the team goals? Try here. Team performance to meet the team goals?  See mini-summary of culture, above.
  • And then, once you've clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.  Here's where it always succeeds - or always falls apart. Despite the best intentions, managers who run processes need to dedicate commitments to follow up. Human domestic workers just don't function like robots, and neither do entire teams of human domestic workers, either. How you keep your team's vision top of mind and work together to achieve it is beyond the scope of this post, yet it must be done, however you decide to do it. And after you decide to do it, it's very attainable - if it's actively nurtured and respected. Just like how good estate managers take care of their staff, so must they take care of the team and their larger organization, as well.

To read Erika Anderson's full article in Forbes, please click here.





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