The Culture Beyond (employees have baggage) Post Two in the Employee Retention Series by Dwayne Castle

The Culture Beyond (employees have baggage) Post Two in the Employee Retention Series by Dwayne Castle

In post one of this Employee Retention Series I shared how I'd recently had the privilege of speaking to our area Human Resource Council on the topic of Improving Employee Retention. That first post discussed the product of current workplace culture; a lack of engagement & loyalty, poor customer experience, high turnover and even higher turnover costs; all of which lead to a shrinking bottom line.  

I previously shared the idea that businesses often treat people like capital, the same as they treat their fleet of vehicles, with the exception that the vehicles get scheduled maintenance. And that makes sense because vehicles are pretty much all the same. Oil changes every 3,000 miles, new tires every 6 months, fluids checked at every fill up. But people? People are messy. They bring with them the drama and trauma of life.

Since the quality of output is directly related to the quality of input, this post will discuss many of the external factors which are causing such disastrous results. Step away from the spreadsheet for a moment and take a good long look at the lives of the individuals who make up your local labor pool and the culture in which those individuals (your employees) are immersed.

The number of employees coming from well-adjusted, stable, and emotionally healthy homes seems to be on the decrease. Look at your local statistics. How many people have been affected by separation or divorce? How many have been raised (or are being raised) by a single parent, teen parent, grandparents, or even great grandparents?

How many families in your town or city are affected by drug & alcohol abuse, criminal activity, and incarceration? When it comes to physical and mental health issues, do you believe that there has been a decrease, or like me, do you happen to know a significant number of people adversely affected?

The people that work for you are often the product of some of these very real and very tough circumstances and are often raising their own children (your future employees) in these same environments. Then they come to work and are expected to just “be” mature, productive, and well-adjusted members of society.  

In addition to those struggles, it seems that divisions abound among people based on race, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or whether you root for the Cleveland Browns or not.  And it’s almost as if there is no end to the amount of fuel available to pour on those social fires. 

All these issues combine to create a society made up of individuals weighted down by the very real baggage of life. This baggage has brought about a lack of healthy coping skills, an inability to effectively or even verbally communicate (unless texting, tweeting, and passive aggressive Facebook posts count). It's led to an inability to constructively resolve conflict, and to poorly developed social skills (which is weird considering that we are living in the "social" age).

Basic soft-skills like teamwork, responsibility, leadership, adaptability, etc. have been disappearing over the course of generations and it represents many of the people who are coming to work for you.

Many employers are either blind to the fact that the culture “out there” is impacting the culture inside the walls of the workplace, or they have thrown up their collective hands and determined that there is nothing to be done about it but to continue cycling through the labor pool, hoping to hire the exceptions to the rule.

They seem to routinely welcome a person into "the family", put them on the payroll, and then do anything but treat them like a member of a healthy and productive family. They seem to have taken the tack that the employees are grownups who will “get their act together” or simply be replaced. Because that's what families do, replace one troubled child with another. Wait. Scratch that. Healthy families don't replace troubled children, they love and nurture them.

We have a choice when it comes to the people we are counting on for the fulfillment of our vision. We can continue the cycle where we are continually hiring people with the same problems, or we can change our approach to the people on our existing teams. As the saying goes, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

I say that it’s time to flip the script. Instead of your vision continuing to lose out to the existing culture, let’s make changes so that the culture of the workplace reflects your vision and let that transfer to a positive impact on the culture beyond the workplace.

You can’t do that when you equate people to the other line items on your assets and liabilities sheet. But you can when you recognize the inherent value of people and approach them accordingly.

Let me put it this way; when you run into a product quality issue, you don't just assume to replace the machine on which the product was made. You look into the process, you inspect the machine and make any necessary repairs or modifications. Replacing the machine and investing in another one is your last resort. 

The costs associated with people are extremely high, but it seems we would rather spend the money than the time on a solution. Machines we can figure out, people, not so much.

But if we were to change our pattern and begin treating people like they matter more than the machines and systems we use, and we begin demonstrating care for them as individuals with value, we will see a positive change in the workforce. You will get the best from your team.

You want a workforce or a team or a family that well represents you and your vision. Will that take some work? Sure, it will. And your business, your vision, and your family are worth the effort. You can't get where you want to go without changing your approach to the people that are necessary in getting you there. 

In the subsequent posts in this series, I will be sharing how changing your approach will directly impact not only your bottom line, but the fulfillment of your vision and a level of personal satisfaction you may have thought impossible.  I'll also share how, just like calling in a specialist to fix your machines is sometimes necessary, having a people specialist may also be necessary.    

This is the second post in my Employee Retention Series. If you haven't seen the first one, it's available by clicking this link. I hope that you will share it with your favorite HR person or business owner. Also, be sure to subscribe so you don't miss subsequent posts. And if you are ready to see change in your workplace culture but think you might like some help, just click that orange button below and let's talk. 


I've recently published my first book, The Relationally Driven Approach, which contains the three principles that will help you to evaluate, improve, and grow your professional and personal relationships. The "buy on Amazon" button below leads to a "free sample" for you to preview before deciding to purchase and it's available in paperback ($6.99) and Kindle E-book edition ($3.99). It's a quick read and I've been told it's insightful and very helpful. I hope you'll check it out.