As we return to post pandemic normalcy, employers are finding not everyone is returning to work. Consequently, there’s a shortage of good workers at every level in every industry. It only makes sense there should be a renewed focus on retaining employees, especially the good ones. This reminds me of a personal experience I had with one of my employees.
In 2003, my wife CJ acquired a traumatic brain injury that left her permanently unable to walk, dress, bathe and feed herself. Suddenly, I went from being a fulltime speaker and author to also being CJ’s full time caregiver. Since the speaking part of my work requires me to travel 50+ days per year, I needed help, so I ran an ad in the local newspaper for a home caregiver.
Lucia was one of the those who responded. At first, I was hesitant to even consider her. Here on a work visa from Mexico, Lucia’s English was almost nil. CJ’s brain injury had impacted her ability to speak clearly and I wanted to hire someone who could help her practice the exercises assigned to her from her speech therapist. As the interview progressed, however, I began to be more open to Lucia.
At one point, CJ started to drool as she sometimes did. Lucia noticed right away. She quickly took a handkerchief from her purse and dabbed CJ’s chin in such a loving, tender manner that I realized Lucia could be the right caregiver, even if she couldn’t help with CJ’s speech exercises.
So, I hired her.
Step #1 To Retaining Employees: TRUST
After 18 years, she still works for me and, according to Lucia, a big reason for her loyalty was the trust I placed in her from the beginning.
First there was the trust from the heart touching feeling I got as she tenderly attended to CJ’s needs during the interview. (I also carefully checked Lucia’s references because your heart can often lead you astray – just ask anyone who’s fallen in love with the wrong person.)
Second was the trust I soon had to place in her with her work/pay schedule. When I was in town, she would work five hours per day, five days per week. When I was out of town, however, she would stay in the house with CJ 24 hours per day until I returned. This could be one or two days, and sometimes for more than a week.
I explained to Lucia in my insufficient Spanish that she would be paid her regular hourly wages while I was gone, except when she was sleeping. Then her wage would be one third less. She seemed OK with this. That evening, however, her husband, Guiermo, who spoke fluent English, called to clarify the terms of the deal. Thinking he was going to argue that she should be paid the same whether she was awake or asleep, I patiently explained that it was only fair that she shouldn’t make the same wage when sleeping as when working. There was a pause and then he said, “When you’re out of town then, how will you know when she’s sleeping and when she’s awake?”
I replied that she could let me know the number of waking and sleeping hours she worked at the end of the week when she submitted her hours. He then asked, incredulously, “You would trust her that much?” to which I said that I was trusting Lucia with the life of the person I love most in all the world. If I didn’t think I could trust her completely, I wouldn’t have hired her in the first place. After a pause, he said OK.
So Why Is Trust Such A Powerful Component For Retaining Employees?
When CJ passed away in 2019, both Lucia and Guiermo told me that my trust in her was a big reason Lucia remained loyal as CJ’s caregiver for 16 years. According to a study published in Home Healthcare News, home care aides in the U.S. in 2020 had the highest turnover rate (36.53%) of all home health positions. So my trust in her was reciprocated with her willingness to remain loyal to her job.
That fits with research in the field of employee retention. In his book A Great Place To Work For All, Michael Bush describes the research he and his team conducted over 30 years, looking for companies that were reported by their employees as being great places to work. He states unequivocally:
“Trust is what we discovered to be the cornerstone of great places to work 30 years ago. And trust – specifically, a relationship of trust between employees and leadership – remains as important today as then in retaining employees.”
Question: How are you retaining employees by showing you trust them?
PS: Shortly after I hired her, Lucia got her Green Card. Eight years later, CJ and I had the privilege of attending her U.S. Citizenship Graduation ceremony.
(Read more on team trust at https://larryjohnsonspeaker.com/team-trust-is-a-two-way-street)
BTW, in addition to my speeches on leadership and change, I offer a special, keynote speech about CJ’s and my journey through the health care system. To learn more about how you can invite me to speak at your next meeting, call 602-943-0985.
1 Robert Holly, “Home Health Turnover Rate Hits 22.18%”, Home Healthcare News, October 27, 2020, https://homehealthcarenews.com/2020/10/home-health-turnover-rate-hits-2218/#:~:text=At%2036.53%25%2C%20home%20care%20aides,care%20aide%20turnover%20at%2025.36%25.
2 Michael C. Bush, A Great Place To Work For All, page 61, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., Oakland, CA, 2017.