Thursday, July 8, 2010

What LeBron James teaches us about employee retention

I'm about to make a startling confession -- I could care less if LeBron James signs with the Cavs, Knicks, Bulls, Heat, or becomes the first NBA player in space. It doesn't affect my life one iota (other than the latter outcomes exponentially increasing the availability of my firm's Cavs tickets, at which point I wouldn't want them anyway). Frankly, I'm disgusted by the way King James has handled himself over the past several weeks, waiting for every media outlet and NBA fan to genuflect before him hoping to catch any hint at his impending choice. Our country's southern coastline is an ecological disaster, and we treat the contract choice of someone who plays a game for a living as the most important story of the decade.

Tonights primetime announcement of his team-of-choice on ESPN takes the cake. It is shameless PR for a player that is in love with his own sense of self-importance. Think back 15 years. There was no bigger sports story than MJ's return from baseball to the Bulls.  Yet, he made his announcement with no press conferences, no media circuses, and certainly no hour-long ESPN specials -- just a simple two-word press release: "I'm back." And yes, I know that 2010 is a whole lot different than 1995 in terms of the immediacy of news and the cult of celebrity. But, class is class whether its 1995, 2010, or 2110. Some people have it, and some are proving that they don't.

The LeBron circus leads me to this thought. Yesterday, at the blog of the Harvard Business Review, Sharon Daniels posted Retaining a Workforce That Wants to Quit. Ms. Daniels shares these stats:

  • In each of the past three months, more employees quit their jobs than were terminated.
  • The cost of replacing an employee is estimated at up to 250% of annual salary.
  • Approximately one in every four employees plan to leave their jobs within a year. 
She correctly concludes that the three biggest reasons employees leave jobs -- even in a down economy and tight job market -- are a lack of growth opportunities, dissatisfaction with compensation, and employees feeling their contributions aren't being recognized. As for employers:
Regrettably, too many managers unwittingly encourage employees to walk out because they regard them as replaceable cogs in a wheel. The key to retaining valued employees is to manage them person-to-person rather than with one-size-fits-all management. Every employee marches to a different drummer; successful managers don't make them parade in lockstep.
In other words, your retention efforts have to be personalized. One more thought -- your organization need to have a back-up plan in the event your LeBron leaves. The Cavs have none, and are facing years of obscurity and mediocrity if LeBron chooses Miami (as is now being reported).

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or