Episode 197 – Thriving Project Teams: Retention vs. Turnover

Original Air Date

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36 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 197 – Thriving Project Teams: Retention vs. Turnover

About This Episode

Cindi Filer

What are the pitfalls that project managers should avoid to prevent turnover? Why do team members decide to leave their jobs or project teams? What underlying factors drive their decisions? And, what impact can project managers have? In this episode, we explore these questions with HR expert Cindi Filer and uncover the intricate dynamics behind the retention of project team members. We’ll examine the traits that make a leader stand out. And, we’ll navigate through the pitfalls and common mistakes that project managers make which can lead to turnover.

As we tackle the pivotal question of how much of team engagement hinges on the project manager’s efforts, Cindi offers valuable advice on how to optimize your most valuable resource: your people. Many project managers claim they lack time to focus on engagement amidst project deadlines. Cindi provides actionable recommendations to strike a balance. Drawing from research insights, Cindi sheds light on the quiet quitters, the loud quitters, and the top factors causing job dissatisfaction. You can create a workplace where team members not only stay but thrive.

Cindi has spent 35 years helping companies acquire talented professionals and learn how to work with them to their full potential. She spent the early days of her career at Delta Air Lines and WorldSpan (A Delta Company) in the Human Resources space. 29 years ago, Cindi founded Innovative Outsourcing – a staffing and recruiting firm dedicated to helping companies find and keep talented professionals. She loves to pair her Human Resources background and client experiences to help her clients hire well and lead well.


Favorite Quotes from Episode

"…make sure you and your team is catching each other doing things that are positive, and then speaking those out to people. Because I think encouragement is oxygen. You’ve heard that. And so it’s amazing when somebody’s leader calls them out for something that they’ve done well. It’s amazing how much they feel grounded in that area."

Cindi Filer

"…be that leader that somebody 10 years from now looks back, and they say, oh, who was that one person that influenced you so much? Oh, it was, …my leader at such-and-such a company, and she really – she changed my life. And we need to aspire when we wake up in the morning to be that kind of leader and not the, I’m just going to go drive my people so that I can get to the results so I can get the promotion."

Cindi Filer

The podcast by project managers for project managers. Have you ever wondered why project team members decide to quit? Join us as we unravel the mysteries behind team turnover with HR expert Cindi Filer. Discover the pitfalls project managers should avoid to retain their team members, foster a thriving workplace environment, and optimize your most valuable resource: your people.

Table of Contents

03:22 … Why are People Quitting?
05:13 … Survey: Three Reasons People Quit
06:03 … Employee Engagement Categories
08:14 … Loud Quitting
10:31 … Importance of Leadership Training
12:23 … What Impacts Employee Engagement?
19:24 … Where to Start as a PM
20:58 … Kevin and Kyle
22:22 … Building Your Team Culture
26:05 … Pitfalls to Avoid
29:43 … Dealing with Pay Issues
32:47 … Well-Being at Work
35:15 … Contact Cindi
36:18 … Closing

CINDI FILER: …make sure you and your team is catching each other doing things that are positive, and then speaking those out to people.  Because I think encouragement is oxygen.  You’ve heard that.  And so it’s amazing when somebody’s leader calls them out for something that they’ve done well.  It’s amazing how much they feel grounded in that area.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m your host, Wendy Grounds, and with me is Bill Yates.  He is our seasoned project management expert.

Today we’re diving into a topic that’s at the forefront of every organization’s success.  We’re talking employee retention.  And together with our guest we’re going to unravel some of the complexities and insights into the importance of maintaining employee and team member retention.  Why do people quit their jobs?  Why do they quit project teams?  What are the top factors driving this trend?  We’re going to be exploring the nuances behind this phenomenon and hopefully answering some of those questions for you today.

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.  This is going to be a, we believe, a very helpful conversation.  We’ll be tackling the crucial question of how much of team engagement is attributable to the manager, and what advice do we have for the project manager who claims they don’t have time to focus on engagement, I’ve got a project to deliver.  Spoiler alert, there’s always time for strategies that boost team morale.

And of course we can’t ignore the pitfalls and mistakes that project managers should steer clear of to prevent turnover on their teams.  We’ll learn from the errors of others so we don’t have to repeat those mistakes ourselves.

WENDY GROUNDS:  We are honored today to have a distinguished guest with us in the studio.  We’re so excited.  We actually have a guest in the studio that we’re not sitting on Skype or Zoom.  We have Cindi Filer with us in the studio.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, Wendy, this is exciting to have Cindi in the studio with us.  By the way, we have been using a new studio.  It’s called Summer Street Productions.  It’s a local Kennesaw-based studio that has fantastic equipment and facilities.  We’re delighted to be in here, and super excited to be enjoying the quality and the production value they bring to us.  So thank you guys at Summer Street.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Cindi is a seasoned professional who has dedicated her career to help companies acquire and optimize their most valuable asset, their people.  She spent the early days of her career at Delta Airlines and Worldspan, a Delta company in the human resources space.  Twenty-nine years ago she founded Innovative Outsourcing, which is a staffing and recruiting firm dedicated to helping companies find and keep talented professionals, both part-time and full-time.  So stay tuned as we unravel the secrets to fostering a workplace where team members not only stay, but thrive.

Hi, Cindi.  Welcome to Manage This.  Thank you so much for joining us.

CINDI FILER:  Oh, I’m so glad to be here.  Thank you for asking.  Can’t wait to talk about some human resources stuff.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, it’s good to have an expert in the studio.  We’re so excited.

BILL YATES:  In the studio, yes.

CINDI FILER:  It’s nice to be in person.

BILL YATES:  Yes, yeah.

Why are People Quitting?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes, yes.  To start off with, why are people quitting their jobs?  What are some of the top factors that are causing people to leave their jobs?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, it’s amazing how still today, you know, we had this great resignation several years ago, or even up until last year.  And the reason why people were leaving their jobs then was there was just so much opportunity.  So there was such a shortage of workers.  And when you have a shortage of workers, you really have a great opportunity and market for the employees to go looking; right?  And so there were some employers that were offering, you know, 20, 30, 40% more pay than other employers.  So we had a lot of people jumping ship really fast because many of those people were still working home remotely.  And when you work home remotely, you know, you can kind of unplug from one company and plug into another company, and your life really doesn’t change.

BILL YATES:  Your commute’s the same.

CINDI FILER:  Exactly.  You’re not losing your best friends.  You’re not missing the Friday lunches, those kind of things.  And so I think it just became very easy to switch jobs.  And because right now, well, in 2023, if you left your job and went to another company for a job, the average increase was about 12 to 15%.  If you stayed in your company and got a promotion, the average increase was 5 to 6%.  So basically they knew those numbers.  And so they decided, “Hey, in order to really increase my pay, I’m going to have to get out rather than move up in my own company,” which is unfortunate because we know as company owners it’s really, really important to keep talent within the company because it helps you grow the company.

BILL YATES:  It’s important for project managers, too.  Retention is so big.  I think of some of the projects I’ve worked on in the past, and I’d have a key team member either get plucked away from my team and put on another team.


BILL YATES:  Or, you know, the same kind of thing happened that you were describing.  They left for a better opportunity.

Survey: Three Reasons People Quit

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, it’s amazing.  You know, there’s this survey that came out last year, and basically they said that in ‘21 and ‘22 there were three reasons people quit their jobs.  So 63% of those workers say that low pay was the reason.  So it wasn’t really low pay, but they could get higher pay.  No opportunities for advancement, 63%, meaning that they could advance better at a different company.  And feeling respected at work, which is amazing; 57% said they left because they didn’t feel respected at their jobs.

BILL YATES:  And that’s something that we can all have a part in.

CINDI FILER:  Absolutely.  And as leaders of people, we can all change that.  We may not be able to, as the leaders and maybe not the CEO, change the low pay or that opportunity.  But we can definitely change how they feel respected and like they’re part of something.  It’s amazing.

Employee Engagement Categories

BILL YATES:  All right, Cindi.  Let’s talk about retention, and let’s talk about employee engagement.  You’ve given presentations on this topic.  I’ve actually had the privilege of hearing you speak on this.  In my experience, I think back to project teams.  I think about project leaders and what can they influence and what can they not.  So much of what you share just really speaks to that.  But I want to start out with the three categories for the project manager to consider, the statistics.  And this was back to an employee engagement survey that you referenced in June of 2023 in the United States.  Talk a bit about those three categories and just let us know what those percentages are.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  This was actually done by the Gallup organization, and it kind of is a little bit stunning because they put people into three categories.  One is people are thriving at work.  So, well, let’s go back and talk about what is employee engagement.  You hear that word a lot, and a lot of us business owners kind of throw that thing around, and HR people.  But what does that really mean to you as a leader of people or as people that are working somewhere?  It basically means that I feel totally connected to my job.  Not only do I enjoy what I do, but I feel like what I do matters; right? 

And so I feel connected to the company, I feel connected to the work I do every day, and I feel connected to the people around me.  Surprisingly, only 31% say they are thriving at work.  And those are employees that really do feel that sense that we just talked about of high level of employee engagement.  I definitely feel connected.

And then the next category is quiet quitting, which is 52%.  So we’re saying 52% of our employees, they’re not actively pursuing getting out of here, but they are not totally engaged.  And so that is a huge number.  In Europe and overseas, that number is even bigger.  But for here in the United States, to have 52% of our workers be sitting somewhere thinking, I will do the minimum amount of my job to get by, and I’m not going to do anything more because I don’t really love the company.  I don’t really love what I’m doing.  I’m just kind of existing.  That’s better.

BILL YATES:  So they’re punching in and punching out.  But it’s like, I’m just going to give you the minimum, and my brain is sort of halfway here?

Loud Quitting

CINDI FILER:  Exactly.  You know, it might go from I’m halfway here to I have my opportunities open for other things, my ears open.  And then this is so interesting.  17% are loud quitting.  What the definition of that is that these employees are actually trying to undercut their employer.  I mean, let’s talk about that for a minute.  That’s kind of a big number.  17% are trying to actively sabotage their employer or trying to do things so that their employer does not make money, which is unbelievable, which means that that trust is broken.  Those people will probably not be able to be back in the fold. 

I like to say that the quiet quitters, we can do some of the things that we’ll talk about in a minute to engage them, and that’s really important.  But the people that are loud quitters, those 17% if you have those in your company, those are probably not going to be able to be re-engaged.

BILL YATES:  That’s so good to know.  So when I saw these statistics, the thing that jumped out to me with those was, okay, the first thing I need to do as a team leader is assess.  I need to look at my team and go, okay, here are the statistics.  It could be that 17% of my team, or let’s say two out of 10 on my team, they could be these loud quitters.  I’ve got to think back to what are some of the meetings we’ve had?  What are some of the interactions that we’ve had?  It could be that that’s a loud quitter, and I’m just not identifying it.  So I need to assess first.

But then for those quiet quitters, the 52%, all is not lost; right?  We think, okay, we may be able to work with these people and really help them plug in and become fully engaged with what we’re doing, whether it’s the purpose of the project or the company in general.  So let’s talk a bit about that because you’ve got some great advice on, okay, what do we do with these quiet quitters?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  I like to say that the people that are in leadership in our companies today, in many cases – I’m 58.  I was probably the last one that went through leadership development at big companies that we went to management training programs and supervisor training programs.  We remember all of those kind of things.  And then they cut all those; right?  And so we wonder.  We look back, and we say, why are 52% of the employees just quiet quitting, and 17% disengaged? If we add those two together, we have 69% that are not engaged.  Why do we have that?  And we don’t have to wonder too long because we haven’t really trained our leaders. 

Importance of Leadership Training

We haven’t trained our managers.  We wonder why their people aren’t engaged, but we’ve never taught them to be engaged.  So that’s where we need to start because, yes, we can make a change.  We can make a difference with those people.  But it requires leaders of people to understand how to lead people.  And I think we’ve kind of lost that art because those people never went through any training.

BILL YATES:  Again, I’m going to point back to your own statistics because this one jumped out at me:  70% of team engagement is attributable to the manager, 70%.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  It’s a book called “It’s the Manager.”  Definitely worth reading.  It won’t put you to sleep like some of my HR books that I recommend.  But it’s a great book to know that still we go back to the number one reason people leave a job or stay at a job is because of their manager.  Because, you know, we say it’s pay, and we say it’s respect at work, and we say it’s upward movement.  Remember those three things, we looked at those statistics.  But really those all go back to the leader.

So if we can alter the leaders, if we can train the leaders, if we can teach the leaders the importance of leading people, not just leading projects, which is I know what you guys do so well is, you know, how do we lead projects?  But to lead projects well or to lead areas well and have a great productivity and outcome, we also need to be leaders of people and be really mindful about how to lead others, more so than just we need to just get the job done.  Because I think if we spend a little bit more time figuring out how to lead others, some of that will rectify itself.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I love this quote from Scott Berkun.  He’s someone I look up to when I think about how to manage projects and lead teams more effectively, a prolific author, speaker, and a big background with Microsoft.  And one of the quotes from him that I love is “The key to success with projects starts with relationships.  It’s about the people.”  And all that technical background that he came from, and the technical brilliant people that he worked with at Microsoft and other places, he still focuses on relationships and people. 

What Impacts Employee Engagement?

BILL YATES: Let’s dig into a little bit about that, looking at the quiet quitters and what can we change about their work environment?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  So in that book, “It’s the Manager” book, they did a study that is what are the 12 things that impact employee engagement?  So what are the things that we can do to kind of move that needle?  And so over these years that I’ve done HR, lots and lots of years, I’ve worked with a lot of companies that have done some of these things.

So that’s why I’ve really gravitated to this list, so that when they surveyed them, they said, what would make you be more engaged at your company?  And it was frontline workers, it was managers, it was directors.  It wasn’t owners that were surveyed.  And so the top 12 things, that’s what they, you know, put in this book.  And some of them are just so interesting to me.  Things that you would feel that are normal and shouldn’t need any extra attention, like I know what’s expected of me at work.  Oh.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.  You’ve got to spell it out.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, 80% of people don’t have a job description, or a list of what they’re supposed to do.  So how are they supposed to know what is success for them on a weekly, yearly basis if they don’t even know what they’re really supposed to do?  So, I mean, just little things like that.  I’m just going to look at some of these 12 things because I think that would be really impactful.  So some of them I’m going to spend a little bit of time on, and some I’m just going to kind of brush through.

But number one, I know what’s expected of me at work.  Really important that people know what they need to do at work.  Do they have a job description?  You know, 80% of people don’t.  So make sure that the people that report to you do.  I have the materials and equipment to do my work right.  Sometimes we make sure that people have the right software and those kind of things.  And maybe they don’t feel like they have all the up-to-date equipment.  So make sure they do that.

At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.  Now, this is one that’s really important because there’s a 70/30 rule.  And the 70/30 rule means that, if you were doing what’s in your sweet spot 70% of the day, then you’re going to stick at that job.  Then of course 30% we have to do things we don’t love.  And that’s okay because every job we have to do that.  But if that gets tipped and, you know, you’re only doing about 50% of the things that you really feel called to do during the day, you’re going to be looking for a job.

So we need to give people opportunities to understand, you know, what they’re good at, what their sweet spot is, what when they get up in the morning they want to do.  In the last seven days I’ve received recognition or praise for doing good work.  I think this one’s really important.  As a manager, you can really move the needle here because this is not like, you know, we have to do an app that says you’re a 10 this week.  We don’t have to do that.  It’s just catching people doing things well.  Right? 

Are we in the habit of calling out people, saying, “Hey, Bill, I heard that you did this presentation to this new client today, and it was so good that they signed right on the spot.  Thank you so much for doing what you do.”  Doesn’t cost us anything.  Doesn’t take a lot of training.  But are we purposely looking for ways to catch people doing things good?  And that will make a huge difference.

My supervisor is someone at work seems to care about me as a person.  You know, take somebody out to lunch and ask them how their kid’s doing at baseball.  Right?  Don’t just ask them how’s that project going.  So, you know, a while back we made this long line between work and home, and we told people not to cross that line as HR people.  And what this survey is saying is that those people want to be known for themselves at the company, not just for what they do.  So that relationship we go back to.  People want relationships.  So those managers, you’re going to have them take them out for coffee, for lunches.  It’s amazing what productivity you’ll get out of that.  There is someone at work who encourages my development.

You guys are great at doing that because that’s kind of what you do; right?  You know, so using these guys really does help you develop your people.  But are we developing all of their skill sets?  And especially as managers or as leaders or just as, you know, employees on emotional quotient, how they react to other employees, how they handle conflict.  Are we developing them?

At work my opinions seem to count.  So important that we let people give their opinions on how things are going because our frontline employees are probably our best ones to see how to serve our customers.  The mission or purpose of my company  makes me feel my job is important.  Are we connecting as leaders and as people who supervise people?  Their job, what they do, whether it’s the secretary, the project manager, the leader of sales, to the success of the company, and then the success of the company to why it matters in the world.  Right?  So they need to know that what they do matters.

And I love this next one.  My associate or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.  What this means is you tolerate terrible employees, or the best employee, the best sales guy that has a really terrible attitude, that treats other people poorly?  It’s the number one reason people leave accompany, engagement.  Number one reason that they don’t love to be there is because they see that other people are being allowed to get away with nothing.

I have a best friend at work.  You know, we figure we can’t really affect that.  But how many jobs have we stayed at where there was somebody there that we wanted to go to dinner with afterwards, or we loved to go to lunch with, or we’re best friends with them and their spouse?  And so how do we create opportunities, whether they be, you know, we all go to the Braves game, or we have Friday lunches, so that they can find those friends?

And then just two more.  In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.  If you’re not doing reviews, if you’re not talking to people every six months, whether that be, you know, in writing or just we call them, like, quick catches, then you need to be doing that because  people want to know how they’re doing.  They don’t want to have to guess.

And then that last one, and this last year I’ve had opportunities to learn and grow.  And sometimes this doesn’t mean – I know we talked about development earlier, and that’s more developing in your job.  The learning and growing may mean to do something else.  Like, gosh, I’ve been doing this job for five years now.  I need to learn something else.  So can you add something else to my skill set so that I can be growing and training and being different because used to be back in I guess 20, 30 years ago, people could be in the same job for lots of years, and they did the same thing.  That’s not the world we’re living in now.  And so if we’re not really developing people, if we’re not really training them in new areas, they’re going to leave us.

So all of those, they’re really, really important.  I like to say, you know, somebody says, well, why would I spend any time on that, so soft.  I have a degree in mathematical economics, so I’m kind of a numbers girl.  And I love looking at the numbers on this.  So for those teams that scored in the top quartile in employee engagement, listen to the things that they get, and think about this with your teams that you may lead or the teams that you’re on.  So top quartile of engagement, 41% lower absenteeism, 40% higher quality work, 21% higher sales, 21% higher profitability, and 59% less turnover.

I mean, those are some crazy numbers.  If I could tell you as an HR consultant, I could come in there, and I could give you those numbers for something I’m doing and you paying me for, you’d be like, sign me up.  But the great news about it is, is you don’t have to pay a consultant to do that.  You can just train your managers, and they can get those results.  It’s kind of amazing.

BILL YATES:  That’s an excellent list.

Where to Start as a PM

WENDY GROUNDS:  There are so many good things on that list.  But talking to project managers, I know we’re going to have some people saying I just don’t have time to do all of that.  What are some top ones that you think start with this?  Which are some of the ideas that you think they could really start implementing in their project teams if they want to get more employee engagement?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  A couple of things.  One is that catching people doing things good.  And so make sure you and your team is catching each other doing things that are positive, and then speaking those out to people.  Because I think encouragement is oxygen.  You’ve heard that.  And so it’s amazing when somebody’s leader calls them out for something that they’ve done well.  It’s amazing how much they feel grounded in that area.

And then the second thing is really create that relationship, which is something we continue to talk about because deeper relationships will really help in everything at work.  So if you can take that guy out to coffee, if you can, you know, take that lady out to lunch, maybe do you as the manager and two or three other people, not only do they get to create relationships together, but also – and don’t just talk about work; 80% of the time try to not talk about work.  Right?  We don’t want to go through the taboo subjects like politics, religion, some other squishy subjects.  Let’s not go there.  But you need to ask them how they’re doing, you know, you need to ask them how their kids are and those kind of things because they want to be known.  So those two things are my top.

BILL YATES:  Excellent.

CINDI FILER:  But I’ll throw in there, if they don’t have a job description, you can take them out to lunch…


CINDI FILER:  …as much as you want.  But if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, I mean…


Kevin and Kyle

KEVIN RONEY: Have you ever worked on a project where the client decided to switch things up midway through the project?

KYLE CROWE:  I can imagine that’s tough to deal with, and can be a real headache for project managers. Why do clients do that?

KEVIN RONEY: It could be for a bunch of reasons, like shifting business priorities or new insights they’ve gained along the way. But regardless of the reason, it messes with the project plan.

KYLE CROWE:  Sounds like a real balancing act for project managers. How do they handle it?

KEVIN RONEY: They’ve got to find a way to accommodate the client’s needs while also keeping the project on track. That means assessing the impact of the changes, communicating them effectively to the client, and then juggling everything from schedules to team tasks.

KYLE CROWE:  Must be a lot of uncertainty for the team when this happens, right?

KEVIN RONEY: Absolutely. It can cause frustration and confusion among team members. The goal is to provide clear guidance and support to the team, making sure everyone knows what’s going on and stays motivated. Plus, documenting all the changes and getting client sign-offs on revisions helps keep everyone accountable.

KYLE CROWE:  Ruth Middleton-House offers a course via Velociteach called Six Things to Remember When Your Client Changes Direction. If your client has surprised you with unexpected changes, this course will help you explore techniques to anticipate those changes, and stay centered during the process. A successful project manager knows how to identify options, and minimize damage to achieve the best outcome. Hasty changes in a client can complicate the job of a project manager; check out this course so you can be prepared.

Building Your Team Culture

WENDY GROUNDS: We’ve done a lot of podcasts talking about culture, to getting this culture of collaboration and just mutual support.  So how can a project manager really build on that and work on getting that culture going in their teams?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  So one of the things we’ve learned over these last years is that the reason people get promoted at work, or the reason people get fired at work, is because of emotional quotient.  It is that what is it like to be on the other side of me?  You know, what do you know about yourself, to lead yourself?  What are the things that you know how to relate to other people?  And so I feel like, if you’re on a team, you really need to be strengthening that hand, that piece of you that knows what it’s like to be around other people.  Right?

So reading books like “Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni, those kind of things where we’re learning to be hungry, humble, and smart, where “smart” means how is it to relate to other people.  Because I think sometimes especially project managers are very technical.  They’re very organized.  They’re very focused.  And I think sometimes when we have people like that, sometimes what goes by the wayside is that interpersonal connection because they believe what they bring to the table is so important, and it is, so important from a technical section that maybe they missed the whole touchy-feely and maybe don’t value that as much.  But I think that if they could strengthen that piece of them, which is that connectivity to other people, that’s what makes such the good project managers; right?  Not just the technical people, but the technical people that also can relate to other people.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  It calls for some vulnerability, which is tough; right?  It’s like I have to look at myself in the mirror and go, I’m not perfect.  I want to be a better leader.  So I need to have somebody speak into it.  I probably have body language that I’m not even aware of that when we’re in a meeting, and somebody’s sharing an idea, I want to be open, but my body language may be going, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.  You’re wasting all of our time. 

So I need to be vulnerable and say, hey, you’re not part of our team, but I trust you.  Would you sit in on a couple of meetings?  Just give me some tips.  Give me a feel for areas that I’m shutting people off without even being aware of it because I want to be better in this area.  It requires some vulnerability.  And I challenge the project managers listening to this, if you’re a leader, think about someone who you could trust in that and invite in to giving you some honest feedback.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, maybe one person at work, and then one person at home.  So I speak on Myers-Briggs a bunch.  And, you know, that’s kind of more what is it like, how do I relate to people, those kind of things.  And it’s amazing after I speak on that, I’ll have somebody come up to me – because I’m usually doing it in a work setting; right?  So it’s like how do we relate to managers and peers and those kind of things.  And they’ll come up to me and go, now I understand why me and my child or me and my mom, we don’t get along.

So it’s interesting because it’s kind of like they see this thread in their lives, you know, the issue that they haven’t worked with why they don’t get along with a co-worker is probably exactly why they’re having marriage problems.  Right?  And so if they fix it in one area, they really see it in another.  But we have to look at it as that we’re a whole person.  We have that EQ side that used to be the only reason we got jobs and kept jobs, you know, how smart you are.  And now that’s the number three reason you get or keep a job.  It’s not how smart you are anymore.  Although that’s important.

But it’s the PQ, you know, your ability to relate to people.  It’s your EQ, what is it like to be on the other side of me.  You know, those are the reasons that people get and keep jobs.  Now, it’s important to stay smart, stay sharp in our field.  And that’s why new people exist to help them.  But it’s really important for them to also develop these other two skill sets areas.  Because the workmen 10 years from now, that’s going to be so important.

Pitfalls to Avoid

WENDY GROUNDS:  So what are some of the things we’re doing wrong?  What are some of the pitfalls that managers are doing and that they should avoid to prevent that turnover in their teams?

CINDI FILER:  The majority of people, you know, they have their heart in the right place; right?  But they wake up in the morning, and they think about how do we get the job done?  And so they kind of flip it.  Instead of thinking about I’m a leader of people, and my greatest job today is to develop and to clear out any pathways for my employee so that they can do the best they can do.  That’s my job. 

And so I think sometimes we get that backwards, and so we’re all about the task, and we’re all about the project, and we’re all about the finished product.  If we would spend more time as leaders really thinking about our teams and thinking about how do I help them to be the best they can be, then they’ll take us to the finish line on the projects.  And I think we get that mixed up because nobody ever told anybody that.

You know, as leaders we get this great opportunity.  I love leading people.  And we get this great opportunity, do we get them at one point in their careers, and then they are with us until another point.  And that could be a year.  That could be 10 years.  It could be 30 years. 

But while we get them, it’s such an opportunity to be that leader that somebody 10 years from now looks back, and they say, oh, who was that one person that influenced you so much?  Oh, it was, you know, it was Jan, and she was my leader at such-and-such a company, and she really – she changed my life.  And we need to aspire when we wake up in the morning to be that kind of leader and not the, I’m just going to go drive my people so that I can get to the results so I can get the promotion.

So the studies have suggested that those leaders that really are helpers of employees, rather than the pushers of the employees, they actually get greater productivity.  So, you know, how do we turn that on end?  And then the only way that our leaders are going to do that is if their leaders, the leadership of the company, is going to put faith in them.  If they’re going to show that by example, so if the leaders of the company are actually taking out those second-line leaders, and the second-line leaders are taking out the third-line leaders, and then they’re taking out their employees, I mean, that’s when it works.

Now, that doesn’t mean, like, you might be sitting there and going, well, that’s never going to happen in my company, you know, that’s never going to happen at the high leadership level.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t effect much because for those teams, I’ve seen it happen in some big companies that I won’t mention their name, where we worked with a group of people or a department, and they created such an environment that everybody wanted to bid into that department, and nobody ever wanted to leave.  And then the leaders were going, what is happening there that’s not happening somewhere else?  So, I mean, even in a large organization where the high-level leaders have not bought into that type of mindset, I think you can still effect change.  And people are like, ooh, I want some of that.

 I’m not so certain that that old adage about you can’t change the culture from within, you know, from the bottom side, is correct.  I believe that you can effect much by blooming where you are; right?  By creating what you’d like for the whole company in your company, not waiting for a leader to do it for you.  And if you’re an employee, and not even a leader of people, you can also do this.  You can recognize your peers.  You can lead up. And you can show that care to your manager.  You can show that care to your peers.  You can be very interested in them as people and not just as products or assets.  And it does catch, and people want to be around positive people that, you know, are encouraging people.

Dealing with Pay Issues

WENDY GROUNDS:  One of the figures you gave us was 63% of workers were quitting because of low pay.  Some of the project managers are going to say, well, I have no control over that.  I don’t, you know, set up the salary and benefits for my team members.  So how can they address that?  How can they help their workers over a situation like that when they’re saying, well, I have to quit because I can get better pay elsewhere? 

CINDI FILER:  And I think that the percentage is not so much low pay.  It’s they see bigger pay somewhere else.


CINDI FILER:  Maybe the market rate for that position, they’re getting paid the market rate for the position, so it’s not like their employer is grossly underpaying them.  It’s that they’ve heard that, oh, some of the big box companies are paying 30% more for the same job; right?  The grass is greener.  So that’s usually the reason for that.

A couple of things.  One, if your employer is paying below market pay, then if there is any way to address that, this is not the time to pay below market pay.  You know, you just really can’t.  There are two types of jobs.  There are low-availability positions and high-availability positions.  So low-availability positions are ones that there aren’t hardly anybody that can do.  For example, in Atlanta, controllers are low-availability positions right now because there’s just not a lot of them.  Same with right now some of the paralegals, those kind of things, they’re almost hard to find.  And then there are high-availability positions, like for example an executive assistant that’s virtual.  You know, those are a little bit easier to find.  Of course you have to look to find the really quality ones, but they’re a little bit easier to find.

So you have to determine if you have a low-availability position or a high-availability position, and we need to make sure that especially for those low-availability positions that you can’t hardly find these people, that you are paying above market rate.  And so, you know, I would say if they’re sitting there, and they see that a lot of their friends are leaving at their company because they’re not paying the right amount as a company, then I think we say something to HR, if you can, if you can affect that.  You know, if you say something and they don’t do anything, then there’s nothing you can do about that.  But it’s worth it to mention it.

I would say that if you’re paying market rate or over, and people are leaving because of pay, they probably are saying that it’s for pay, and some of these other 12 things we talked about may not be present; right?  It’s easier to say I’m leaving because of pay.  It’s not easier to say I’m leaving because, you know, Matt’s a bad boss.  Right?  Like I think that that’s a tough thing to do.  Or I just don’t like the company because you guys are not nice to anybody, and everybody has bad culture here.  You know, nobody’s really going to say that.  So they’re like, oh, I just found a job with better pay because that just feels better.

WENDY GROUNDS:  So the project manager could really be working on all of these other things.


WENDY GROUNDS:  On the engagement, on…

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yeah, taking them out to lunch, on how can you build up that person, on training and things like that.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, we try to tell our leaders, you need to be able to work on the things that you have control over.  And the things you don’t have control over you just need to kind of let those go and hope that they’ll rectify themselves.

Well-Being at Work

BILL YATES:  Cindi, I want to go back to that.  I think it was the Gallup survey in 2023 that focused on the quiet quitters, that second category.  When they were asked what they would change about their workplace, there were three characteristics or three things that were their responses.  Talk about those, and those statistics.

CINDI FILER:  Yeah.  So again, that group of people that were called the “quiet quitters,” remember they’re not the people that are sabotaging.  They’re also not the people that are highly engaged.  They’re this kind of middle-ground people.  And they’re doing their job.  They’re putting their head down.  They’re just making a paycheck.  So they were asking, like, what can we do to make it just a great work environment?  And the top three things that they talked about were 41% said I would change engagement and culture – engagement was what we’ve been talking about this morning; 28% said pay and benefits, again what we just talked about; and then well-being, 16%.  So that well-being piece we haven’t really talked about.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, what do you mean by that?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, that’s a big word, isn’t it.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

CINDI FILER:  And it’s basically how am I doing at work?  Is it something that they are expecting me to do 60-70 hours work a week so my well-being feels not good?  Is there a caustic environment at work where everybody’s yelling at each other so I come out feeling like there’s no harmony at work, and I don’t want to be there?  And is it so that we were cutting costs so much that used to be three employees doing this job, and now I’m the only one?  And so there’s a whole lot more pressure than there should be on that employee.  Those kind of things, that’s well-being.  That’s how do I feel in this position.  Not really what kind of a job am I doing, but have they put undue pressure, undue stress on me?

Now, there are some thoughts on how much pressure a worker should handle.  And maybe after the pandemic there are some employers and some leaders out there saying, well, our people used to handle this stuff, and now we have them handle the same thing, and they say they’re too stressed.  There’s a whole ‘nother podcast to do on that.  But I think that we need to know about that.  We should be finding that out in the reviews. 

You know, we should be asking the question, do you feel like you have too much work on your plate?  Do you have the right amount of work on your plate?  Do you feel underused?  Those kind of things.  Do you feel like the environment here is conducive to be working?  You know, is there anything I need to be changing?  We need to be asking those questions because they probably won’t offer that.

And I think that a lot of the times we’re so busy we just don’t take the time to do it, but we don’t realize that we’d probably be less busy if they were more productive and we’d spent the time doing it.  It would also be a nicer place to work.

Contact Cindi

WENDY GROUNDS:  Cindi, it’s been wonderful talking with you.  How can our audience reach out to you?

CINDI FILER:  Yeah, probably the best way is through our website at Innovative-Outsourcing.com.  Or you can reach out on LinkedIn.  We have a LinkedIn page, as well as we do kind of a LinkedIn update that comes to your email inbox if you sign up on our LinkedIn page.  So either one of those might be good.

BILL YATES:  Cindi, it’s so cool to be in the studio with you.  It’s like I’ve known you in the community.  I’ve seen you present to leadership groups that I was a part of.  I’ve heard about the influence you’ve had on different teams throughout the community.  And it’s so great to be able to be in here and pick your brain.  Don’t be surprised if you get some follow-up from us going, hey, we’ve got another topic.  Our project leaders need to hear about this now, so get back in the studio with us.

CINDI FILER:  Well, HR is quite the topic right now.  Everybody is trying to figure this out because since the pandemic the world shifted, and we’re having to adjust as leaders and as peers and employees.  And we’re having to figure it out.  So, glad to help.


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you for joining us today.  You can visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to this podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  You’ve also earned your free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com, choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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