The “Great Resignation” that started during the pandemic lockouts, as millions of workers quit their jobs, is continuing with surprisingly large numbers of disaffected employees who found new work and are now job-hopping.
If, therefore, businesses mean it when they say that their employees are their most valuable asset, they should treat them accordingly. That means keeping them engaged, interested, and well compensated.
In fact, underappreciation, trapped without potential for upward mobility, and uncompensated were the main factors fueling the Great Resignation.
That’s not good for business, particularly for music business owners feeling the pinch of economic uncertainty. Losing a top performer means have to recruit, hire, train, and—most important—retain a replacement. That takes time and money.
Consider this: Every business has two customers, the external customer, the end user who buys an instrument or takes a lesson, and the internal customer—the employee. Customers generate revenue, which if greater than the cost to convert and retain them, yields profit. Employees who generate more revenue, directly and indirectly, than they cost result in profit.
Also, compensation is more than money, though wages should be competitive. Reskilling and upskilling your employees shows your team they are valued and have ways to advance, leading to personal development and a sense of fulfillment.
Invest in Training & Development
Investments take time to pay off, but wise ones always do.
Investing in employees takes several shapes.
Send them to seminars or workshops to develop the skills and insights that will make them better in the short term and competent for advancement in the longer run. If you’re concerned about one of those 90-day job hoppers who will use your investment to leverage a position with a competitor, put them on probation before they are eligible for paid training. Use the time to evaluate their performance, attitude, and loyalty. If you like what you see, offer training and development. Of course, they’ll recognize that being better trained benefits you and your business, but they’ll also know that you’re investing in them as well and that cultivates loyalty as well as a sense of their own self-worth and value.
Webinars are a less expensive—sometimes free—means of training and development. You might also consider paying them for their time to develop, under supervision, their own job-education programs using YouTube videos, blogs, and industry webinars.
When your top performers are ready to take on new responsibilities, consider educational opportunities that lead to direct advancement. If your music store offers instrument service, for instance, but outsources the work, consider keeping it—and the revenue-in-house. Covering the cost of participating in a program such the woodwind repair classes offered by Lisa’s Clarinet Shop will more than pay for it in loyalty and revenue.
Even if you already have a great repair person, you could potentially double the service part of your business with your newly training employee—reach out to schools or local symphonies. With the added skill set, you can also compensate your employee better. They’ll be able to bring in more profit as a result of their newly acquired knowledge and skills. Additionally, if they’re musicians themselves, the training will be an extra perk they’ll benefit from personally.
Other training can include software and technology. If you’re purchasing new inventory software for example, chances are training will be part of the offering. If possible, include your employee in the training program. Also, nothing wrong with an employee gaining advanced skills in current software like Excel, which will have multiple applications throughout their career in the music business or otherwise.
There’s no better teacher than experience, and the lessons best learned are those that come out of the mistakes we invariably make in life and business. The benefit of your experience, or that of your top talent, is invaluable to new employees. Sharing the benefit of experience often means newcomers can avoid mistakes or correct them quickly if they happen.
The foundation of an effective mentoring program is an action plan that includes a feedback loop. For instance, if an employee is good with customers but hasn’t yet mastered skills such as closing sales, a list of 10 goals to be achieved over a set time span with periodic reviews provides a clear path to success, expectations, and accountability. The mentor is responsible for guiding the employee through those goals; the employee is responsible for following the guidance, coaching, feedback, and correction when necessary to check all 10 boxes off the worksheet.
In offering constructive feedback, always start with a positive. For example: I really like the way you’ve kept impulse purchase items stocked. If you could keep an eye on the dust that accumulates on the displays and clean it off when necessary, I think we’ll be able to move even more merchandise. Customers don’t like to buy something if they think it’s old or has been sitting around for a while.
If a good employee truly seems to be struggling in a certain area, find out why. If they’re doing something wrong, it’s okay to point that out, but never do it in an accusatory way, e.g. You really screwed that up! Show them the more effective way or show them how you’d like something to be done. In general, employees want to do a good job and are open to solutions.
Nobody likes doing performance reviews, but they are business critical. It’s an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation about performance and talk about the professional development you’ve provided.
Here’s the kicker—there should be no surprises in a review. Properly managed, a review is an summary of the ongoing communication with the employee. You’ve set out expectations and provided the means by which to fulfill them through training and development. They’ve either met those expectations or are working to accomplish them.
Going in, if the employee should be aware of areas that need improvement, they’ll likely be more receptive to constructive criticism and open to action plans for remediating the deficiencies.
A performance review also is an opportunity for your employee to hold you accountable. Did you provide the tools they needed to achieve the mutually agreed up goals set in the previous sit-down? Did you follow through on delivering support you promised to work through areas of difficulty? What did you do to make your employee feel valued and engaged?
Money is part of the recognition for a job well done. But do not leave out a sincere expression of gratitude for the contribution they made to your business’s success.
Always Leave on Good Terms
Employees move on. That is the nature of business. At the end of the day, people must decide what’s best for themselves when it comes to employment.
While you may be a great employer, another opportunity may be more in line with their career objectives. Whatever the reason, if they leave respectfully, they deserve respect in return—even if they are a Great Resignation job hopper. There’s always a chance that a new employment opportunity will not work out for them. They may want their old job back. If you haven’t replaced them yet, and they were successful in their role, they may deserve a second chance.
Also, if you really liked that employee, ask them for a referral. Good people often have good contacts. Maybe they know a friend of family member who would be interested in filling the position they’re leaving. Knowing their reputation and legacy is on the line, there’s a good chance they will recommend someone of quality character who may also become a valuable employee.
The music business is very much a business. Keeping good employees employed takes effort and investment on your part, but the benefit to the bottom line as well as your peace of mind can pay dividends for the life your business!