Keeping the People Report
LB@keepingthepeople.combullet (913) 620-4645bullet
E-letter Number 1—Summer, 2004

In this issue:

  • Article by Leigh Branham reporting on Employer-of-Choice conference in Las Vegas
  • New book announcement: The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (AMACOM, publication date—November, 2004)
  • List of Keynote Presentations, Workshops and Consulting Services
  • Tools available: Automated Cost-of-Turnover Calculator and Post-Exit Survey
  • Free articles available
  • Special offer for new subscribers

Top 100 Employers Share their Secrets of Success

In June, I was invited to speak at a “Workplace of Choice” conference in Las Vegas sponsored by the American Strategic Management Institute. Representatives from seven of this year’s Fortune list of the “100 Best Places in America to Work” were also invited to share the secrets of their companies’ success, along with the co-founder of the Great Places to Work Institute, Robert Levering.

For the inaugural edition of this e-letter, I thought I would pass on to you the highlights of what these presenters had to say. With the economy primed for full recovery and a return to the war for talent, leaders of every organization stand to benefit from their insights and innovative practices.

Levering was a San Francisco labor reporter in 1981 when his newspaper gave him the assignment to write an article about great places to work. His initial reaction was to ask, “Are there any?!” After conducting his initial research, Levering discovered that there were indeed—so many, in fact, that he has since built a career by tracking and reporting their best practices. Over the years, competition among companies to be selected for the prestigious list of 100 has become so intense that CEOs now seek the listing as a conscious, separate business objective.

Great Employers Score High on 5 Dimensions

Levering pointed out that candidates for the list are judged on five dimensions—credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie.
Here are some of their best practices in each area:


  • Xilinx (#10 on Fortune’s list) made a determined effort to successfully avoid layoffs when jobs were threatened by a downturn in the economy. Instead of forcing employees to take pay cuts, Xilinx asked employees to volunteer for salary reductions as an alternative to lay-offs. The CEO, Wim Rolandts, set the example by taking a 25 percent salary cut. Some managers volunteered for six-to-eight percent pay cuts, and persuaded employees to buy-in to the idea of sacrificing part of their own salaries to keep their jobs. The “lay-offs-as-a-last-resort” policy has attracted technology workers who have been laid off at other companies.


  • At Duncan Aviation (#77on the list), even with a male population of 89 percent, the company had zero incidents of sexual harassment.
  • Bright Horizon’s has built a culture where managers give “explanations, not orders,” ask “why not?” instead of adhering to rigid rules, and where workers remember to say “thank you” to each other. (Bright Horizon was # 10 on Fortune’s best employers for minorities)
  • Duncan Aviation has no time clocks, no fancy offices, no reserved parking for managers, and allowing a balance of work and family.
  • Duncan’s president who speaks personally with all new employees for 90 minutes during their first week on the job, and invites them to view their commitment to Duncan Aviation not just as a job, but as a career.
  • Duncan also makes a commitment to listening, as in: “when talking with someone, we don’t answer the telephone.”


  • Valassis (#68) pays out nearly 10 percent profit-sharing yearly to each employee.
  • Duncan Aviation provides bonuses to all employees contingent on meeting company goals.
  • Ninety percent of Valassis employees have stock options, including some millionaires who wear overalls to work each day.


  • Microsoft (#25) rewards “Gold Star” spot bonuses to recognize significant contributions.
  • To discourage the development of an “entitlement mentality,” Valassis has employees who left and came back tell their stories about how the grass was not greener on the other side of the fence.
  • Microsoft selects new hires carefully—those actually hired will have sat through an average of ten or more interviews.
  • Quicken Loans (#13) gives spot bonuses that reward customer service and help maintain a 90 percent customer retention rate.
  • Valassis prides itself on having 24 ways of recognizing employees and makes a special effort to recognize the “steady Eddies”—the solid citizens who comprise the backbone of the company. Employees’ families are invited to all employee recognition ceremonies.


  • Quicken Loans has annual barbecue, and parties for all occasions—birthday, anniversary, holidays, and even tailgate parties.
  • Quicken also holds annual “Academy Award” ceremonies for top achievers.

Great Employers Give and Get Back

Another earmark of great places to work is a management mindset characterized by an interest in giving, which triggers the willingness of employees to give back.

What do preeminent employers give? Levering says they don’t necessarily give “all the bells and whistles” or flashy benefits. They do tend to distinguish themselves from “merely good” employers by giving over and above what is required. Here are some of the ways they do it:

  • Instead of providing basic good communication, they make every employee feel “I’m talking to you.”
  • Instead of matching the benefits and perks of other companies, they ask their employees, “what do you want and need?”
  • Instead of trying to implement several new initiatives all at once, they concentrate on doing the two or three most achievable ones that are also tied to their business objectives.
  • Instead of trying to improve their weaknesses, great employers accentuate their strengths, building on what is special in their organizations.

In return for these gifts, employees give back greater individual effort, greater innovation and creativity, and better cooperation and teamwork. Perhaps this explains why, from 1998 to 2004, the evolving list of public companies on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list experienced stock growth of 133.8 percent compared to only 25.2 percent by S & P companies!

What All These Employers Have in Common

As diverse as all the practices and benefits are, they do reveal two things these seven companies have in common—1.) a commitment to becoming and remaining a great place to work, and 2.) the wisdom to create cultures and human capital practices that serve and fit their business strategies and objectives.

To find out how your company can apply for selection to the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list, visit

If your organization has implemented an employee engagement or retention practice that you would like to share with other readers in a future issue, please send an e-mail describing it to

“Companies which, perversely, don’t put shareholders first do better for their shareholders than organizations that only put shareholders first.”

—Robert Waterman, Author, The Frontiers of Excellence


New Book to be Published in November, 2004

For those of you who have inquired about my new book, the official title is:

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late (AMACOM Books, 250 pages, $24.95). It is due out in November, 2004.

Here a brief preview:

More than 85% of managers believe employees leave because they have been pulled away by “more pay” or “better opportunity.” Yet, more than 80 percent of employees say it was “push” factors related to poor management practices or toxic cultures that drove them out.

This gaping disparity between belief and reality keeps organizations from addressing the costly problems of employee disengagement and regrettable turnover with on-target solutions.

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave gives readers a deeper understanding of why conventional exit interviewing doesn’t work, and what organizations can do to identify, prevent, and correct the root causes. There are also specific recommendations for steps employees can take to increase their own engagement levels.

Chapters include: how to avoid job-person mismatches, how to align employee expectations with the realities of the position and the company, how to provide constructive feedback and coaching that breeds employee confidence, pay/recognition practices that amp up employee engagement, innovative practices in employee career development, prevailing trends and ideas for achieving life/work balance, and the unique role of senior executives in securing employee commitment.

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave incorporates data from 19,700 employee surveys performed by Saratoga Institute, an internationally recognized research organization.

If you are interested in advance orders, contact my publisher’s website— or call (800) 250-5308.

“What my business experience has taught me is that the key to competitiveness is innovation, and the key to innovation is people. Taking care of people, therefore, is an essential way of taking care of business.”

—Randall Tobias, chairman of Eli Lilly


How Keeping the People, Inc. can help you:

Keynote Presentations and Workshops on:

  • Becoming a Magnet for Talent
  • Weasels in the Woodpile: The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave
  • Employee Engagement and Retention Training for Managers
  • Behavior-Based Interviewing
  • Employee Assessment and Career Self-Management
  • Workforce Trends: The Road to 2010

For more detailed descriptions of the above, visit:,
call me at (913) 620-4645, or email me at

Consulting Services:

  • Strategic Planning to Become an Employer of Choice
  • Talent Management Scorecarding
  • Third-Party Post-Exit Interviews and Surveys
  • Employee Engagement Surveys
  • Employee Career Development Systems
  • Management Assessment and Coaching

For more detailed descriptions of consulting services, visit:,
call me at (913) 620-4645, or email me at


Practical Tools Now Available on Web Site

FYI, the Keeping the People Web site now includes an automated cost-of-turnover calculator and a confidential employee post-exit survey that I’m asking all visitors to complete.
Your willingness to take a few minutes to take this survey will deepen our ongoing research into the root causes of employee disengagement. Consolidated confidential results indicating why visitors to the website left previous employers will be announced in future e-newsletters.


Downloadable Articles Now Available on Web Site

The following articles by Leigh Branham are readable at and are organized by topic:

Employee Retention Best Practices:

Employee Retention Requires More Than Good Benefits

How employer-of-choice companies are winning the war for talent by putting the emphasis on soft issues, such as good management, measurement, accountability and positive culture.

Employers Of Choice Have To Give Before They Get

Companies such as the SAS Institute make Fortune’s list of the 100 best places in America to work by espousing a “give before you get” philosophy.

Honor Talent That Makes Your Business Productive

Five things that keep companies from capitalizing on their greatest competitive asset—the talent of their employees.

Recognize Results

Building a culture of informal recognition is a fundamental step toward building an employer-of-choice culture. Managers must pay heed to basic human need for appreciation and praise, which, for many, means managing differently than they themselves have been managed.

Firms Need Balanced ‘Campaign To Retain’ IT Workers

This commentary was written before the ceasefire in the war for IT talent, but the way to retain IT workers will remain the same in good times and bad—ask them what they need and give it to them.

Employee Engagement:

Employee Engagement Creates Mutual Bond

Why many companies are switching from conducting satisfaction surveys to creating and administering surveys that track employee engagement, a more inclusive concept that encompasses satisfaction, commitment, and productivity.

Management’s Plea To The Employee: Engage Thyself!

With all the recent emphasis on holding managers accountable for engaging their employees, it’s about time we started challenging employees to do more to keep themselves engaged. Presents five things every employee can do.

Employee Turnover:

Six Factors That Push Good Employees Out The Door

Post-exit interview reveal that most employees who voluntarily leave organizations do so because of “push factors” rather than “pull factors.” This commentary covers six key factors that “push” employees out of the organization

Employment Branding:

Employers Two Branding Missions: Their Product And Their Workplace

How employers are branding their companies as great places to work using the same principles they have used for years to brand and sell their products and services to the right customers.

Leadership Development / Assimilation:

Prevent Derailment Of Your Company’s New Leaders

With four out of 10 new leaders failing in their first 18 months on the job, you might think more organizations would do more to smooth the assimilation of new leaders and take the necessary steps to prevent derailment.

The Best Ways To Identify and Develop Leaders

Because they don’t have enough Gen-Xers available to replace retiring Boomers, only a third of companies have the leaders they need to successfully pursue business opportunities. Presents five ways to effectively identify and develop rising leaders.

Human Capital ROI:

Employees Who Feel Important Are Important

The author responds to a local newspaper columnist who discounted the value of employee surveys and recent findings by the Conference Board that employee job satisfaction has dropped by 20 percent since 1995.

Make Your Attitude An Asset: Think Of Your Employees As An Investment

Many CEOs have changed their mind-sets about employees as expendable resources, acknowledging what human capital research has now firmly established—that the best reason to invest in the development of your employees is that it pays dividends to the bottom line.

Culture of Choice:

Cultures Of Sacrifice Hold Little Appeal At Work

Do you work in a “culture of sacrifice,” where employees are seen as fuel to be burned, or in a culture of mutual commitment, where employees are viewed as a renewable resource.

Generations at Work:

Managers, Employees Can Work Through Generation Gaps

Boomers and Generation-X’ers have fundamentally different expectations and values in the workplace. Still, organizations must find ways to get them to meet each other halfway, including these few guidelines on ways Boomer managers can get more commitment from X-er employees.

Employee Surveys:

A Dozen Deadly Sins of Conducting Employee Surveys

More than 70 percent of organizations conduct employee surveys, but many conduct those surveys in such a way that they wish they had never surveyed in the first place. Knowing these 12 most common mistakes makes it less likely you will make them.

“The thing to remember is that, for great workplaces, there is no shortage of talent. Companies that are short on talent probably deserve to be!”

—Jeffrey Pfeffer, Author, The Human Equation


Free List of Best Books for New Subscriber Referrals

Refer one or more new subscribers to this e-letter and you will receive a free bibliography of 67 best books on a wide range of management topics, including—employee retention/engagement, human capital ROI, talent management and employer-of-choice best practices, turnover, people management, work design/job enrichment, servant leadership, performance management, employee rewards/recognition, open book management, organizational career management, and corporate culture.

To obtain the free list of recommended books, all new subscribers should go to, click on “Contact,” and send your contact information.

Keeping the People Report
LB@keepingthepeople.combullet (913) 620-4645bullet
13488 West 126th Terrace, Overland Park, Kansas 66213

Copyright, Keeping the People, Inc. 2004. Keeping the People Report is written and edited by Leigh Branham.