Human Capital Management

The Secret to Employee Retention

OAUG President Douglas Manning shares three organizational practices that can motivate and retain employees in the tech industry.

By Douglas Manning, President, Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) Board of Directors

February 2019

The average tenure of employees in the professional and technical service industry is 3.9 years, a downward trend from 4.4 years just six years ago. With the lifespan of the average ERP system being five to ten years, the typical organization is losing at least one and possibly two of its top people before system end-of-life.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has been using Oracle E-Business Suite since 1994 and throughout that time has been able to hire, develop, and keep almost the same core group of talented and hard-working team members. This solid foundation of exemplary personnel has not only allowed our organization to provide sustained and sound solutions and support for APL’s investment in Oracle’s application products, but it has also afforded each team member with the opportunity to reach for and attain professional development goals and satisfaction in their respective IT careers.

Creating an Environment of Trust and Respect

For an organization that uses Oracle Applications products to be truly successful for the long term, it is not enough to be composed of highly experienced and qualified professionals. This attribute will sustain you only for near-term goals. For long-term success, you also must build and maintain a teamwork environment built on trust and respect. According to Stephen Covey in The Speed of Trust, “When trust is high the dividend you receive is like a force multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and life. High trust is like the leaven in bread, which lifts everything around it. In a company, high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders.”

For an organization that uses Oracle Applications products to be truly successful for the long term, it is not enough to be composed of highly experienced and qualified professionals.”

As the old saying goes, trust and respect are never given; they are earned. In my 23 years as a leader in the Oracle Applications arena, the essential elements that I have seen and used to bring about an environment of respect and trust include the following:

  • Provide clear, concise, and truthful expectations to individual team members and to the team as a whole.
  • Build a one-on-one and team environment of open communication.
  • Continuously engage and communicate with individual team members and with the team as a whole.
  • Follow through on statements and promises made.
  • Have each other’s back.
  • Build an environment of helpfulness and learning, and become a partner and encourage partnerships for success.
  • Reward excellent performance genuinely, thoughtfully, and in a timely manner; conversely, discipline poor performance genuinely, thoughtfully, and in a timely manner.
  • Develop sincere relationships outside the workplace; as Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “If you wish to win a man over to your ideas, first make him a friend.”
Douglas Manning, President OAUG Board of Directors

Douglas Manning is the president of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) Board of Directors. He has more than 32 years of experience (22 of which are in the Oracle Applications space) developing and managing both custom and COTS software implementation projects in the commercial, nonprofit, and government arenas. He is a senior professional staff member at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and has led and managed numerous successful Oracle Applications projects.

In terms of why building and maintaining a work environment that is built on trust is so important, Management consultant Susan Heathfield writes, “Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, and employee motivation and contribution of discretionary energy that people voluntarily invest in work. When trust exists in an organization or in a relationship, almost everything else is easier and more comfortable to achieve.”

Providing an Environment of Continuous Education and Training

Heathfield also writes, “One key factor in employee motivation and retention is the opportunity employees want to continue to grow and develop job and career enhancing skills. In fact, this opportunity to continue to grow and develop through training and development is one of the most important factors in employee motivation.” As always, highly successful people in any environment are curious by nature and are always looking to improve their skills and competency through learning.

One of the ways an Oracle Applications organization can harness curiosity in their peak performers, and keep them in the fold long-term, is to provide them with regular opportunities to increase their skills and knowledge and to impart this knowledge to others. The following are some of the continuous education and training techniques to consider:

  • Provide team members the chance to network and learn from other peer professionals by supporting membership in related Oracle-based user groups, such as the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG), including special interest and geographic user groups, and by allowing and paying for attendance in associated user group conferences.
  • Work one-on-one with staff members on their training desires and needs.
  • Trust staff and provide staff with the opportunity to research and select books and other nominal training materials they feel they need to have in order to be more educated and effective in the performance of their jobs, and pay for these items.
  • Provide team members the opportunity to present their work to peers and colleagues both within the organization and at regional and national user group conferences.
  • Foster, encourage, and reward employees who create, develop, and implement a work environment based on helping peers and colleagues learn and master skills that they have learned and acquired.

Providing Challenging, Creative, and Attainable Work Assignments

Because talented Oracle Applications professionals tend to be highly motivated individuals who crave challenges and rewards, it is up to competent Oracle Applications leaders to harness and channel these attributes to the benefit of both the individuals and teams that they manage and to the organization as a whole. They can do this by developing challenging, creative, and attainable work assignments that fit their individual employees’ and teams’ strengths and capabilities.

Some of the methods to establish and promote challenging, creative, and attainable work assignment environments for individual team members and teams include the following:

  • Put in the time required to comprehensively and completely know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of individuals who work on your Oracle Applications team in order to fit the right person with the right role.
  • Create challenging work assignments for individuals and teams that exploit individual and team strengths.
  • Provide an environment that fosters open communication and creativity.
  • Put in the time required to ensure that individual and team assignments have a better-than-average chance for success.

Successful Oracle Applications leaders create the structures and put in the effort required to determine individual team member strengths, weaknesses, and creative desires. They then match those to individual and team assignments that are achievable and that take advantage of these synergistic forces in order to create individual, team, and organizational success.

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