‘… From Your Employees’ part one
by Lee Caraher
Published by Bibliomotion, Inc.
eBook ISBN: 9781351816571
Copyright (c) 2017 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
It is rare today for employees to stay with one organization for the long tenures that were the norm before the Great Recession. In fact, “job hopping” is the new norm, especially for Millennials. In The Boomerang Principle, companies learn how to leverage this fact rather than fear it. By engendering a lifetime of loyalty from former employees, leaders can see them “return” in the form of customers, partners, clients, advocates, contractors, and even returning employees.
Author Lee Caraher has built several companies and managed many Millennials along the way. In her first book, Millennials & Management, she shared her wisdom on how to get an intergenerational workforce to contribute to the larger goals of the organization. In this follow-up book, she shifts the emphasis to creating valuable, long-lasting relationships with your employees to ensure they remain your biggest fans, even if they leave the company.
The Boomerang Principle is a pragmatic answer to the outdated corporate mindset around employee turnover. Instead, it shifts the focus to creating lifetime loyalty from your alumni who will bring back business again and again.
Lee McEnany Caraher is the founder and CEO of Double Forte, a national public relations and digital media agency, based in San Francisco, that works with beloved consumer, technology, and wine brands. A sought-after communication strategist, Lee is known for her practical solutions to big problems. Her first book, Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making It Work at Work, was informed by her work helping organizations around the country create positive intergenerational workplaces.
Lee is active in her community, and sits on the board of directors or trustees of KQED Public Media, San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, and Menlo College. A graduate of Carleton College, Lee has a degree in medieval history which she finds useful every day. She lives on the San Francisco Peninsula with her husband, their sons, and Al, their blind cat.
“They’re dead to me.”
“I’m not going to spend all this time training them just to have them leave.”
“They’re job-hoppers who don’t know a good thing when they see it.”
“I’m on a constant training revolving door—as soon as someone’s trained up, they’re out, and I have to start all over again.”
“Why am I wasting my time? It’ll be faster if I do the work myself.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these sentiments from entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, and supervisors over the past three years in my work helping companies create positive intergenerational teams, organizations, and workplaces of all sizes. I can’t tell you, because I stopped counting. I’d set out to answer the questions these people and companies had about Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Silent Generation members working together well, and I’d end up addressing a deep-seated resentment about the perceived lack of loyalty shown by employees to their colleagues and employers.
The disconnect is palpable, and the consequence of the resentment is debilitating to businesses of all sizes across the country.
My personal journey on loyalty—or “hanging on to people,” as I think of it—began during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. I had started an integrated marketing communications firm for one of the big three international media/marketing agencies in San Francisco, which was ground zero for the dot-com boom. Right when Gen Xers, a generation almost half the size of the Boomer (and now Millennial) generation, were coming into the job market, money was flooding into online businesses, and everyone in Silicon Valley seemed to be in an arms race for talent given that spawning, scaling, and then either selling, acquiring, or IPOing as fast as possible was the name of the game. Our firm’s business was driving awareness for our clients among customers, consumers, and, most importantly, potential investors to increase the perceived value of the client through media and expert coverage of the companies with which we were on retainer. Frankly, given the vast amount of capital flowing into dot-com businesses, which in turn drove the race for awareness-induced valuations, if you had a pulse, you got a job.
As I grew the practice, my office became a revolving door of people who’d been offered new jobs with higher salaries and who wanted me to counter. At first I did, scared to lose revenue-generating people when I had big numbers to bring home for HQ; without people I couldn’t make my numbers. The result was an increasingly contentious workplace where colleagues questioned one another’s value, plotted to get more, and felt they were being screwed. Everyone knew we would cave to an employee’s demand for more money, vacations, or perks when she presented other offers in hand, and employees seemed be waiting their turn to either test the boundaries or cast scorn on those who did. It sucked.
One morning, I woke up exhausted and said “Enough.” I decided I wasn’t going to counteroffer anymore. I was going to focus on the people who were doing their jobs and looking for opportunities to grow, not those who were planning to leave for more money, and screw it if I didn’t make my numbers—none of my peers were making their toplines either without a huge hit to their net profit. Let them walk me out of a happier workplace. I felt lighter and more rested immediately.
I didn’t even have time to roll out my decision to my leadership or the rest of the company before I got a chance to put it into action. That week, the first person who wanted me to counter, post-epiphany, came into my office to tell me that he had a new job. I said to him, “Good luck.” He was incredulous. “Aren’t you going to counter me?” “No,” I said, “your head is already out of here, and I’m not going to pay you more for less of your brain. How can I help you?” And I proceeded to give him some pointers for working with his new company. The ripple was fast and positive. While that young man did indeed leave (and left that next job quickly), other employees responded to the news of “no more counters” first spread by that fellow, and then reiterated by me at the next staff meeting, with what I like to think was a palpable breath of relief. People stopped demanding counters, and our leave rate dropped. My numbers went up.
That started a new way of thinking for my staff and me. We would focus on making our organization the best it could be with the belief that environment and culture would translate into a better workplace, which would translate into better work and better business. Instead of just showing people the door, we’d actively help them find what was next and welcome people back to us if they wanted to rejoin, we had the right position for them, and we had had a good conversation about expectations this time around. While the dot-com bust curtailed our ability to actually bring anyone back to that company, my own company, Double Forte, began in 2002 with a handful of people who had worked with my cofounder and/or me in the past; what I call the ‘Boomerang Principle’ has fueled our business from the beginning, with many employees returning for a second employment, referring clients and other employee candidates, and becoming clients.
Of course, I am not the first to base a business model on exiting people successfully. Consulting companies McKinsey, Bain, and Deloitte, among other long-standing strategic consulting firms, all have long traditions of helping place thousands of employees with clients or other companies, and these people then extend the consulting contracts and services with their previous employer; it’s a key revenue driver. These former employees “boomerang” as clients or referrals. Intuit, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Xactly, and many others all have a good history of boomerang employees—people who left and then returned to serve in either new or expanded roles. Beyond this, some of the highest-profile CEOs have been or are Boomerangs; these include Howard Shultz of Starbucks, Brad Smith of Intuit, Tim Westergren of Pandora, and the most famous, Steve Jobs of Apple.