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CW 64: Cara Silletto

Have you ever sat on a 3-legged stool with only two legs? No, of course not. Why? Because if you sit on a 3-legged stool with only 2 legs, you and your efforts fall flat. It’s the same in an organization missing any of the three vital components to management effectiveness: data, time, and proper training. And at Magnet Culture, we know that management effectiveness is the key to reducing employee turnover. In this episode, workforce thought-leader Cara Silletto, MBA, shares the 3 vital components organizations need to provide managers in order to create a place where people want to work.

Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Cara Silletto, President and Chief Retention Officer at Magnet Culture, a company exclusively focused on reducing your unnecessary employee turnover. In March, if you heard our podcast, we talked about the blame game: how we’re often unsure exactly who owns retention and that oftentimes senior leaders today are really focused on reducing these overtime and temp agency costs. And in seeing the numbers continue to climb, they tend to point to HR: HR, fix this turnover problem. 


Well then, our HR and hiring leaders, they are up to their eyeballs in FMLA abuse or changes and all the different regulatory changes that we’re dealing with right now from a staffing standpoint, not to mention standard things like gossip and drama and leggings and all of that. And HR tends to point the finger at management and says: look, I’m bringing in good people. It’s the managers and supervisors that are pushing away all of my great hires. They’re letting their staff eat their young, for example. And of course management is going to get pretty defensive in that situation and say: Whoa, whoa, whoa, company. You all have not given me the time, the training and the tools to be successful in this role. 


So where we’re going to go today is really talking specifically about that management constraint. The fact that they don’t feel that they have the time, the tools and the training to do their job well. Right now, it’s kind of a chicken or the egg situation where we know that managers need more development, and that management needs that training and those tools to be successful and yet they don’t have time to even be a manager, let alone be taken off the floor to go sit in a training program.


So, chicken or the egg. How do we get our culture where we need to be? And remember, the culture often is what’s walking down the hall. It is not a poster on the wall with your core values. It’s how the management and supervisors and team members treat one another. So, we really need to make sure that we are giving the management the right tools and trainings to be successful. And yet that’s the constraint. They don’t have time to learn and to gather the data. And so it is a never ending cycle, right friends? Seems pretty tough. 


Well, I will say that we have identified the fact that management attention is the bottleneck right now. It is the constraint in many cases that is keeping us from getting where we want to be. We’ve also figured out that there’s a growing disconnect between the frontline and the management. We talked about that on our June podcast, about the disconnect that is dividing our staff in that the front line often lives, let’s be honest, in a different reality than the management, than the owners. You know, we are salary versus hourly. We have a lot more flexibility in management versus that hourly, if-you’re-late-one-more-time type of world. And of course we’re hiring a lot of single moms who don’t have as much of a support system at home, perhaps some do, some don’t. So we really need to get to know that staff, and yet management doesn’t have time, right? Again, chicken or the egg. How do we get there? We have figured out three different things that management needs to be successful.


Today that’s what we’re going to walk through, my friends. Three different things that managers need from the organization. And we are going to have to figure out how to get it to them. It may be difficult. It may be an uphill battle before we get to coast down the hill with these skills and tools and whatnot. But we have to figure out a plan of attack to get the management where they need to be, because they are the culture, they set the tone, and your culture truly is the way that management is treating people and communicating with those around them. Okay? 


So here are the three things, and you can visualize this kind of as a Venn diagram, right? You know, those three circles that overlap. So the first thing is they need valid data, and I’ll go through each of these in just a few minutes, but the first one is valid data. Understanding their people, stop going off of hunches, okay? They need the data about their staff. 


They also need proper training. They need the time in the classroom to learn management techniques, communication strategies, who is this new Millennial and Gen Z workforce that we’re trying to attract and retain, right? They need the class time for proper training. 


And then finally they need time to execute what they’ve learned with that data, understanding their people and the proper training. Then they need the time to go out and do the things that we teach, like get to know your people and improve your onboarding, different things like that. Now what’s scary is oftentimes we’re dealing with just two of the three. And if you think of a three legged stool, what happens when we are short or are missing that third leg and boom, everybody comes crashing down, right?


So, let’s talk about the fact that some organizations give their managers the data. We do employee surveys and stay interviews and great things like that. And they’ve got the data and we put them in classes. They’ve got training, but if we don’t free up their time and their plate enough to actually go and get to know their people and manage and communicate effectively, then, my friends, data and training alone are good intentions. They would love to go talk to their people more, but they just don’t have time because we have not freed up their workload enough to be a manager. 


Now, if they only have time to go talk to people and they’ve got data, so I know who my people are and I have time to go talk to them, but I haven’t been trained properly on how to communicate using different styles, different generations, then you’re often going to find poor execution. They’re going to try to go talk to their people, but it may not go well because they don’t have the training and those communication skills built yet to do it properly. 


If we look at the other combination, if they have training, they have sat in the classes and learned the proper ways to communicate and be more effective as a manager. And they have time to go do it, but they don’t have the data. They don’t really understand their people. If they are running off of hunches and assumptions, they are going to miss the mark, okay? They may, in fact, even tick off a lot of people because they’re handling things in such a formal manner that I have been taught. Step one, step two, step three. But I missed the mark because I don’t really understand my people.


We want to make sure that we have all three of these things: the data, the training, and the time to execute. 


First things first on the data. Now, even when we talked about magnet strategies a few months ago, you probably heard us talk about several different strategies, and one of those is: do you know your people? Do you really have that information? Are you doing team-building? Are you doing stay interviews? Not just exit interviews, because of course at that point, those folks have one foot out the door and they’ve already decided to leave. So they may or may not tell you the truth and the exit interview. And we don’t want to go off of just those points of data because they may not even be telling us the whole story. In fact, a lot of them don’t want to burn a bridge and tell you why they’re really leaving, because they may be a boomerang employee that wants to come back later.


So instead we really want to focus on who’s there now and implementing stay interviews, which at, we have a list of stay interview questions. It’s not about the performance review, right? It’s about asking the employee: How are we doing? Why do you stay? What makes you excited about this job? What frustrates you about this job? Right? And it’s really almost like a performance review for the company and/or the manager of how can we support you better as an employee working here? So we really want to gather the proper data. And one thing that I see happen is if you just go off of the employee survey as a whole, we try these blanket approaches. 


“Oh, well, the employee survey came back and says that people want more recognition. So we’re going to get recognition software and do this peer-to-peer recognition program and give away bucks, you know, and all of these great things. We’re going to put a whole recognition plan in place.” 


And I’ve seen that fail miserably, my friends, because the organization didn’t slice and dice the data down to who wants the recognition. Many of your staff members are fine with the way that things are communicated or the level of recognition and feedback they are getting. Oftentimes, it is maybe the younger workers, those Millennial and Gen Z folks who want more constant feedback and more recognition for showing up because everybody’s hiring. Remember? Everybody’s hiring. So if you’re not going to recognize that I came in today and I did a good job, I’ll go somewhere else that will recognize me. 


So we want to make sure that we slice and dice any of our employee survey data in a way that helps us target and pinpoint who wants the different changes, different styles of communication, different level of recognition, different programs, different resources. We don’t want to take a blanket approach to things because then you will likely be spending a lot of time, money, and effort that will fall flat, or that half the group isn’t going to appreciate, and you didn’t really have to go that broad with it. So we want to make sure we’re not making decisions and changes within the organization based on hunches and assumptions. 


Also, anytime you are going to implement new software, for example, across the organization, you want to make sure that is not just done at the leadership level, where you’re vetting the software and pricing it out and whatnot. We want to make sure that the people who are going to be using the software in the end, right—whether that’s our caregivers or whatever it is on our campus—we want to make sure that they have a say in that vetting process as well, same thing, philosophy applies here, right?


We want to get the right data. We want to slice and dice and figure out who feels what way about that topic or that tool or that resource, and not just make assumptions and do blanketing. So we need to make sure that the leaders are given the tools and the data to really understand their people. Also in the vault is a list of team building questions. So if they need to get to know folks, they can use it at their staff huddles or morning meetings and things like that, where they are asking a team building question every day. And that really helps them gain valid data about the people that they are working with. Again, instead of running on assumptions. 


Now, we have talked in the past about the retention specialists as well. This is another great way to collect the proper data that we need is to have somebody in our building that is focused on retention, not just recruiting. So the next time you want to hire another recruiter, because we’ve got so many positions to fill, I encourage you to transition that over to be either a retention specialist or a 50/50 recruiter-retainer. That person is focused not only on bringing more people in, but keeping those folks


You want that person to check in right regularly during that first week and those first weeks on the job, because they have the strongest relationship with that person, and they can gather the most candid data. Maybe somebody comes in and they don’t like their manager, for example, or they don’t like that particular role or some of the responsibilities in that role—that person who is the retention specialist that did help throughout the recruiting process, they can maybe shift them to a different role or a different supervisor and keep them within the organization instead of them just never saying a word and bolting out to go somewhere else.


Also at, we have a sample job description for that retention specialist person. And if you aren’t ready or don’t feel like a part-time or full-time retention specialist is exactly where you want to go, you can also create a retention taskforce of different folks from different, different departments, different roles, and have them meet at least monthly to talk about retention specifically. What are we doing to retain people? How could we do things better to retain people and how do we keep our people longer? There are a few ways to gather the data that is needed that our managers need so that they’re not doing just the one size fits all approach, because, as we know, one size no longer fits all. 


The second leg of the stool is the training. It is the classroom time. It is the skillset that we need to develop in our managers. So often we’re promoting somebody into the role without giving them the actual tools and training that are needed to be successful in that job, because we just think, “Oh, well, they were the best person on the team. So we promoted them up” or “They were next in line. They must be ready. They must be equipped.” Not always. 


We know that we’re typically gonna put somebody into a management or supervisory role who has the technical skills. I’m hoping that you’re never going to put somebody into that role who doesn’t know how to do the job itself from a technical standpoint. So that’s kind of the level one of training: it’s making sure that they’re qualified and know how to do the job. But beyond that, we need to make sure that they reached the second level, which is more self-awareness. Do they understand who they are, how they come across to others and hopefully how others are?


So we’ve talked in some of the previous sessions as well about the DISC assessment you know, different behavioral styles. We’ve talked about emotional intelligence, those types of things. Do your managers know how they come across to other people, how others perceive them, are they aware of that perception? And can they then flex? Can they adjust that?


I know for me, once I realized how energetic—we call it a high I in DISC—once I realized how energetic and, and you know, dynamic, I was as a communicator, I also realized that people who haven’t had their coffee yet before 9:00 AM, don’t care for that part of me. So instead they would call me chipper, which was not a positive thing in their mind. And once I learned that that’s how I came across to folks, then I could tone down that chippiness in the mornings and I was still true to myself, but just make sure that I wasn’t driving people crazy, and that I was helping to bridge the gap between different styles instead of divide people who did or didn’t like that level of energy for me in the mornings. We gotta be more self-aware and be able to flex that. 


The third level here, once we have that self-awareness is really building out our communication skills and being able to effectively communicate across different generations, across different mindsets, across different styles, right? Different upbringings. There’s so much diversity on our staff, in the lens that they have. What do they think is professional versus unprofessional? How do they deem strong work ethic? Because remember: professionalism and work ethic are subjective. It is your opinion. Whether you believe someone has a strong work ethic or is or is not professional in a certain situation. We really need to make sure that once we can understand ourselves and understand others, that we can flex our communication style in order to reduce any conflict, that’s on our team as a leader.


Now finally, once we get those communication skills, really where they need to be, then we’re going to pop up into a leadership mentality where we become a more magnetic person that people want to work for because they trust us, we communicate well, we have trained on how to handle conflict and different generations and giving feedback appropriately and those types of things. Ultimately, we want all of our managers and supervisors to have the technical skills, the self-awareness, be effective communicators, and ultimately be a magnetic leader themselves. 


So if any of that stuff is missing in your leadership development plan, then, I mean, give me a call, but also just try to figure out what those gaps are and start filling the gap with proper training that is needed for those folks. Your managers need that proper training. 


The third leg of the stool is time. And I would argue that this is the toughest right now, because for years, we have been asked to do more with less, do more with less, do more with less. And I’ll tell you: that has gone too far, my friends. We can do no more with no less. We cannot squeeze our people anymore for that. In fact, the plates are just overflowing, and think about how many people, particularly in management positions—probably including yourself—how many people, it would truly take two new hires to fill their shoes because their plate has just overloaded itself over time, as we’ve been asked to do more with less. 


So one of the big strategies that I’m seeing work in this space to get our workloads back in check is what we call job pruning. You know what pruning is—now, I’m not a gardener. I have the opposite of a green thumb. But I do understand the concept of pruning that we sometimes have to chop off the little dead ends. We have to pull back on some things in order to be able to grow, bloom, and blossom stronger later. 


And I feel like that’s what we’re doing to our managers. We’re bogging them down so heavily with so many responsibilities and asking them to do so much, they can’t possibly be their best, brightest self. They can’t possibly bloom out from underneath all of that because of all the weight we’ve put on them. So it’s time to start job pruning. And I’ve seen a lot of this happen within senior care specifically. You know, we can do that at the CNA level, if they are overloaded by, for example, making more medication aids. Now, it depends on what state you’re in. Some states still require that a person pass meds has to have an LPN, but a lot of the states, they have made a qualified med aid, you know, QMAs or a certified tech, some kind of medication tech and things like that. That’s just an example of job pruning that we took that off of our nurses, off of our RNs, or even the LPN, and we were able to give some advancement to the CNAs while shifting that responsibility elsewhere. 


Anything that we can think of that we can slice and dice off of the manager’s plate and shift elsewhere. Some of that might go to that retention specialist that we talked about, about gathering more of the data about doing more of the stay interviews or exit interviews, those types of things. And they can really help the managers get to know their people and figure out some incentives and advancement opportunities and things like that. So that could be a way to do that. 


You may be familiar also with the term “job carving.” A lot of times in the disability community, they will ask that a job be carved to accommodate the abilities that someone has, that certain responsibilities might be taken out of the job description for that person to do the role. So we’re looking at the same type of thing here. We want to focus on a person’s strengths. Look at their real job description. Have you had your managers really write down everything that they’re responsible for? I’m guessing no. But I’m thinking if we look at the old job description from when they were hired, it probably does not include everything they’re doing now or the extent to which they are doing things. If it’s a hiring manager, the hiring part of their job has gotten greater and greater and greater over time because we have more turnover and more applicants that we’re having to interview and onboard and whatnot. 


We need to be realistic that if that recruitment and hiring component of their job has gotten greater, what else can we take off of their role and shift to other team members and/or do we need to make the case that we need more management? We need more frontline leaders to help mentor, train, onboard, team build—those types of things because as we made the hierarchy flatter and flatter and flatter, and we got rid of the frontline leaders and some of those types of positions, as we eliminated those, all it did was pile up more on the management, which now has gotten out of control and is just not sustainable. Honestly, it’s just not sustainable, friends.


So we have to figure out some realistic ways, even if it costs us more money, let’s be honest, we are going to have to spend some money on either more staff or divvying up those responsibilities to others. I’m sure the team can structure around a little bit, it will cost some more money to do that. But what we’re doing now is not sustainable. And we are continuing to see more and more burnout and more and more great folks that are great at what they’re doing. They are walking away because their workload is out of whack. They have got to get it back under control as an organization, if we want to keep those rules, the good people. 


So let’s talk numbers for a minute here. Remember that this is all about the numbers and we did a previous podcast about making the case for change in that if you’ve got 500 employees, probably a handful of buildings let’s say, or a handful of campuses, 500 employees, and you have 50% turnover, which I’ll be honest is pretty low these days compared to most of my clients and the senior care organizations I work with from coast to coast. So let’s just do a modest, very conservative number here. If we had 500 staff and we’re looking at a 50% turnover, as you know, from a previous conversation, it’s about $5,000 to replace folks.


And that’s low wage frontline, high volume turnover. We’re looking at a conservative number of $5,000 there that is costing the company $1.2 million a year to have that much turnover. If people tell me: “Oh, we don’t have the budget for training, Cara,” or “I don’t have the budget to add this specialist that you’re recommending.” We can’t afford not to do it because if we can reduce that turnover by 10% at that company, 10%—that is going to save us $250,000. So you don’t think that giving your managers the tools, the right data, the training, and the time—Don’t we think that that will reduce the turnover by 10%? We’re seeing that with our clients, you know, once we go through our bootcamp, for example, our workforce retention bootcamp, we’re seeing, you know, 10, 15 or more percent turnover reduction because those managers are more effective in their roles.


So if we really want to get our culture to where we want it to be, we want increased productivity, higher profitability for our organization, even if you’re a nonprofit, right? We still need to be operationally and financially savvy to be able to care for our residents as best we can. We really need to get the managers their roles back. If we give the managers their roles back and let them be managers, it’s going to give everyone their lives back. Everybody’s going to be able to sleep better at night, my friends, if we can let managers be managers.


I hope this was helpful for you. That’s about it for today. And of course, we’ll talk more about workforce and leadership next month. So tune in!


Of course, if you want to learn more retention strategies or see more of this material, you can always grab a copy of my book, Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave and How to Keep Them Longer. It’s on Amazon Kindle or Audible. And we have a lot of videos about these topics as well on our YouTube page for Magnet Culture. 


I’m Cara Silletto. Thanks for listening to this week’s Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. Don’t forget to connect with me at if you haven’t already.

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CW 64: Cara Silletto