Lessons From LeBron

I’m going back a few months, but there’s a story here.  I’m talking about the departure of LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers which left the ownership, and the city, in absolute shock.  Owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to the fans, in which he stated, “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. You have given so much and deserve so much more.”

So, what’s the lesson here?  LeBron is a fink?  Dan Gilbert is a jerk?  Cleveland fans deserve what they get (did I say that out loud?).  Nope.  It’s about an employer taking an employee for granted.  Regardless of how much money James makes or that he plays a game that overpays all its players, he’s an employee.  And when the grass is greener (or it appears that way), employees move.

The economy is not as bad as it was a year ago, and in a year it will be better.  Thus, what better time to start thinking about making sure that your “stars” are treated that way.  Robert Half, the staffing firm, did a survey of employed workers and found that 40% are now more inclined to search for opportunities.  Per Heather Ainsworth, who was quoted in a recent online Dallas Business Journal blog, “For a lot of them [employees], they made it through the downturn, and through those times, they were short-staffed and had to take on a bigger workload.  In addition, Ainsworth said, employees have become frosty due to salary freezes and other cutbacks.  The concept of “they should be happy they have a job” is not a long term attitude a company can take.

What’s the solution?

Start by doing an internal review of your employee teams with your key managers .  Yes, at this point, they’re all keepers, but which ones do you really need to keep?  How does their compensation and benefits match up with their peers?  (MidAmerica’s Annual Wage & Benefit Survey can help).  Have you invested in their training and helping them grow their talents?  Also, it never hurts to find out what motivates them.  In some cases (especially now) it could mean more money, or possibly more time-off.  Determine which one works the best — and it’s not the same for everyone.

Regardless, don’t assume, as Mr. Gilbert did, that your star(s) is going to stay with you forever and take your basketball team to the NBA promised land.


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