I work with companies on a regular basis to turn around their retention of Personal Assistant’s. I am very successful at taking our clients from a culture of losing their support staff to a culture where this community is engaged, effective and most importantly retained!
So, how do I do this?
100% it has been from drawing on personal experience. A couple of years into setting up C&C Search I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with trying to grow and develop the business. My mentor at the time told me to get it all down on paper. I wrote a solid two pages of whinges, moans and gripes. It was the permission I needed to have my own little pity party. It was effective. It gave me several views – an opportunity to offload, an opportunity to get clear, an opportunity to look at patterns and the light bulb moment I needed… it was all within my control to change.
I now take the opportunity with clients, who are losing their PA’s and support staff to the competition and do not have clarity on why, to do the exact same thing. The lists look the same time and time again, and what they tend to flag up are people, culture or leadership. There are ALWAYS problems attracting the right PA talent and issues with keeping their support staff community engaged, motivated and performing. The impact of this turnover is huge both for the business and for the individual.
Does this resonate with your organisation? Here’s what you can do to turn it around:
Ask for feedback
Give your Personal Assistant’s permission to tell you what they love and loathe, without fear of retribution. If that is too scary or you don’t feel you will get the honesty you need, engage a Consultant or do a 360-degree survey. I discovered that our culture was one of high expectations and high pressure, where the boss was king and the Personal Assistant’s didn’t feel they could achieve a healthy work life blend. This was the number one factor why they were leaving – it was impacting their relationships, health and personal time.
Analyse real reasons for leaving
We all know that when people resign that don’t always tell you the real reason they are leaving. They start with the polite reason such as career development or it’s time for a change. This is not going to service you or the business, it’s up to you to get to the root of why through anonymous surveys as part of your leaver programme. So often there will be a theme related to leadership and culture – this will give you the platform to create the change that.
Ensure leaders look in the mirror
Retaining talent and reducing staff turnover is not necessarily about more money or perks such as days off or free yoga classes (no matter how much we are told that this is all that Gen Y are interested in – it isn’t!). Although nice and staff will appreciate it, it isn’t what gets them out of bed in the morning, excited to go to work and to stay long-term. It’s about the leadership style and the ability to engage, inspire and create an environment that is motivating where your support staff can both contribute and feel valued. I found out myself through analysing my own approach that I was inspiring about 30% of the time and the other 70% I was pushing my high expectations, which resulted in feelings of pressure and an inability to please me. This doesn’t make anyone feel good and inspired does it? Looking in the mirror and seeing the impact this leadership style was having on my Personal Assistant was the wakeup call I needed to reduce staff turnover and increase retention rates (nb. It really worked, my PA has been with me for over 3 years!)
Leadership is culture. Culture is leadership. A leader sets the tone and culture is caught, not taught. Write a list of the type of PA’s you want to attract into your business – what qualities and competencies do they have, what do they want out of an employment relationship and what will make them stay? This is your clue about what you may need to change, adapt, develop or build into your culture. It was for me. I created an environment where flexibility was introduced, people were empowered to make their own decisions and own the consequences, there were ongoing learning opportunities and success was celebrated and recognised.
Action delivers results
Losing your ‘people’ headaches, reducing frustration and ultimately getting your life back involves taking different action – implementing and trying new things. I know it will feel foreign and little uncomfortable – that’s good. You need to feel this to get a different result. For me this was the hardest step. We stopped expecting a set pattern of work for everyone, people left early to go to gym or to pick up kids, we hired part-timers, we set different expectations and had to let go of what others would think (we weren’t losing our drive or ambition!). It took time, but the change was just what we all needed. The results spoke for themselves – retention rates skyrocketed, most exciting has been people knocking on our door to work for us and as for the impact on our financial results…
At the core of what make successful companies great are people, culture and leadership. Become a better leader, develop a great culture and only then can you attract top talent that will stay. Getting this right is the sweet spot in business. Your leadership will feel natural, your stress levels will float away, and this empowerment will bring you work life blend, confidence and profit.