Guard your hive

Jun 03 2008 by Roberta Matuson Print This Article

Your company has important resources that are worth protecting. They're called experienced workers. If this sector of your workforce flies out the door tomorrow, their wisdom will follow. Other staff will also follow, because they have more of a connection to these people than they have to the organization.

Think about it. What will become of your organization if these people disappear? It will take years before you can replenish this valuable resource. So why are so many companies helping these workers find the door?

I'd like to relate a story about honeybees and how most of us had been unaware of the integral role they play in our ecological system. Only after they started disappearing did we realize how dependent we are on this tiny sector of nature to fuel our food systems.

An organic farmer in Wellesley, Mass. recently reported an attempted hijacking of his honeybee hives. Fortunately the attempt was unsuccessful or the farmer would have lost his ability to cross-pollinate his crop of organic vegetables. His entire business could have been lost overnight because he would have been unable to replace the honeybees in time for his crop to flourish.

Suppose someone swarmed in and tried to steal your one of your most precious resources. Would your colony collapse? Could your organization survive? Here are some ways to prevent others from stealing the experienced talent you have worked so hard to cultivate:

Climate control

We hear managers say they had no idea exiting employees were unhappy. Perhaps this is so because they never asked. Take your organization's temperature so you can make adjustments before you have a mass exodus.

There are a number of ways to do this, such as climate surveys or employee focus groups. Check in semi-annually or annually to track your progress as you work toward building an environment that is comfortable for all.

Reassure your talent

I am constantly hearing workers over the age of 40 express concerns they will be reorganized out of the company the next time a wave of reductions hit. It is difficult to focus on performance when you are worried about getting whacked the next time the big guys come to town.

So before you finalize your next lay-off list, make sure you are not sending the message that experience is no longer valued in your organization.

Don't give them a reason to leave

Imagine a company where people solicit the advice of those with more experience. This would be a place where older workers would have flexibility in scheduling their hours so they could enjoy the fruits of their labor. Would you ever want to leave if this were your workplace?

It is easier than you think to create an environment where older workers feel welcome. Begin by asking your experienced people how you might improve the workplace so they feel more engaged.

You may not be able to change everything overnight, but at least you will send the message that you value their contribution and are willing to make changes to retain them.

Make your workplace more accessible

Mention the word "accommodation" and visions of large dollar signs pop up in the heads of leaders. But there are many things you can do to make your workplace more accessible for older workers that will not break the bank.

For example, offer preferred parking to those employees who find it difficult to walk from the end of the parking lot to the employee entrance. If a job requires standing for long periods of time, supply anti-fatigue mats or chairs. Employers with large campuses could even invest in Segway Scooters to allow older workers to move about the campus more freely.

And a final thought. Headhunters are becoming more aggressive as the labor pool tightens. Protect your hive and you will be well positioned to thwart off their attempts to steal your honey and your precious bees.

About The Author

Roberta Matuson
Roberta Matuson

Roberta Chinsky Matuson found herself thrown into management at age 24. Through her wits and trial and error, she succeeded and became a widely-recognized career expert. Today she is a best-selling author and president of Matuson Consulting.