Turnover is one of the biggest headaches for small business owners. It can cost over $9,000 to replace a minimum wage employee, and over $100,000 to replace a high-quality tech industry employee, according to The Houston Chronicle. One Forbes contributor noted similarly high costs of firing, hiring, and training staff.  

The simplest way to avoid these costs is to automate. The second-simplest way is to hire the right people the first time.

I brought this challenge to Donnell Johns. Before starting the leadership and executive training firm Avision Worldwide, Johns was the highest-ranking Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army National Guard’s Human Resources department. He supported over 350,000 soldiers. He is also a founding organizer of 1 Million Cups in Fairfax, Virginia.

According to Johns, leaders should hire people with the right attitude, skills, and knowledge – in that order, because “attitude is a multiplier of skills and knowledge. You can train skills and knowledge; you can’t train attitude,” he said, and “the interview should identify the candidate with the best attitude who fits the culture of the organization.”

Once hiring is complete, “employees will stay at a company that values them and their input,” he said. Small business leaders should “get to know their employees” and provide “opportunities to advance and grow.”

Johns said his company uses a “spaced repetition” method to train executives because “it’s the most effective and powerful way we learn.” The process takes six to nine weeks, two to three hours per day, one day per week. “Clients also read or listen to the chapter(s) one time a day for five days to commit new information to memory.”

Johns said he uses this method because of flaws in the way we train our employees and leaders. “Organizations usually promote top performers because of their success. The problem is that as a manager, individual accomplishments matter less than the ability to manage people. However, the organization would throw individuals into greater responsibility with no leadership or management training or 30-90 days of training. That leaves very little time to internalize the training or understand how to implement their knowledge to achieve organizational goals.”  

“I found that when an employee understands goals, rules, boundaries, and limitations they will exceed expectations. I’ve been able to use the leadership best practices learned from my 26 years of military service to create Avision’s effective training method.”

Johns didn’t pretend that people won’t leave a firm. “A health amount of turnover is good for every organization,” he said. “Company culture will dictate whether an employee will maintain a relationship.”

“In a great culture, the organization values their people and support their growth” inside and outside the firm, he said. “They also protect their values and empower their employees to do the same. Some people won't fit, but the culture should give them ample opportunity to integrate because everyone is trainable.”

“If it's not a good fit, it may be best to part ways gracefully. Companies should also look for other positions internally that may be a better fit for that employee. No matter what, however, leaders must always be professional and understand the departing employee’s perspective.”


Dustin Siggins is CEO of the publicity firm Proven Media Solutions and a business columnist.

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