I’m not the most important person as the CEO. Not even close. Truth is — the companies could go on without me if I were abducted by aliens tomorrow. There may be a blip for a second, but the companies would go on. That thought actually gives me a great sense of peace.
The most valuable team members are not my direct reports either…..or their direct reports…or their direct reports… (Don’t get me wrong, we are all FABULOUS, but let’s take our high-paid egos out of this for a second)…
The “most valuable” team members are the ones doing the actual work of the company. In a bakery, they are the chefs. In an autoshop, they are the mechanics. In a human service agency — they are the humans that take care of other humans.
In our field, we call them our Direct Care Workforce.
Direct Care Workers are the “soul” of Human Services.
Yet, across the country, the Direct Care Workforce is paid as low as minimum wage with the average National pay of $10/hour. You can’t live on $10/hour. You can’t pay your bills on $10/hour. You can’t take care of your kids on $10/hour. You end up living in poverty while serving others that are also in poverty…..so they don’t do it for very long.
It is a whole group of people that come into the field because they want to help others. They want to make a difference. They want to change a life. They want to feel like they are contributing to the world. They have big hearts and they are choosing a career path that involves serving other people. Yet, they can’t survive on $10/hour….so they leave.
The average turnover rate in human services is 46%. Yes, you heard me correctly. Half of our teams in this industry leave us month after month, quarter after quarter, year after year.
So why does this happen? Well, we default to thinking that these positions are “entry level” and thus should “earn their keep”.
Yet, “entry level” individuals are still the most important people the company has. They are the relationship builders, the caregivers, the brand builders, the time billers. They will make or break your “brand”…and your company.
The cycle of turnover is rotten: People leave. We then have to pay more to have bigger HR teams to recruit more people…that will then leave again. We then have to have more managers to fill the gaps for when people…..leave. We then have managers that can’t focus on customer relationships because they are filling direct care staff shifts….because they left. We then have angry customers that talk about the people leaving and then the customers start to…leave.
It is a vicious cycle that all of a sudden results in an income impact. This is when the high paid “suits” start to take notice. I take off my high heels and I start standing on ladders and opening up cupboards and dusting off old shelves and checking the nooks and crevices for what happened. I look in the toilets and down the drains and in the ovens. Where did the money go? Why did a customer leave?
Truth: Turnover is EXPENSIVE. It is expensive to train someone new, to get someone up to speed, to have them represent your company in a positive way. It is expensive to do that over and over and over again. During this process some of your soul starts to change….and the money does too.
Money follows the people. It follows the talented ones in the door and it follows them right back out.
So, what do we do?
We have to stop the cycle of turnover dysfunction.
We have to stop the cycle of turnover dysfunction. We have to find the talent…and then we have to keep them. We have train them to do their jobs well….and then we keep them. We have to pay them better…and we keep them.
At some point it is a game of “You First”. There is a risk that if I “go first” then they may not follow. There is a risk that more money doesn’t actually equate to retention. Yet, in a 2% unemployment market I have nothing to lose….and a lot to gain.
Money is a dirty word in social services but it doesn’t have to be. Money is my love language. It is an expression of love and appreciation and gratitude. It is also a tool of recruitment in a war for talent. It is a way to say “I see you” and I want to see you again tomorrow.
We say our workforce is the “most important” and we must put our money where are mouths are. We must pay what it takes to retain and train the talent and the rest will follow. We must pay the most talented people in our workforce what it takes to keep them. We must pay our direct care rockstars potentially more than the people that supervise them.
Revolutionary, I know. That’s how we roll at Sample Supports, I guess.
We have to remind our direct care workers that they are the true stars of the show and that we want to see their smiling faces tomorrow….and the next day….and the day after that…
….pretty much forever and ever. #allthehearts #lifechangers
I’ll go first. You will see my love in your paycheck….and I’ll see you tomorrow.