FACT: You really can’t afford avoidable turnover.

The cost of losing a new or experienced person carries with it myriad costs. Replacement costs alone, recruiting, management time, the interviewing/hiring process and testing, can quickly exceed $15,000. And, if you make the wrong hiring decision, you get to start all over again.

But replacement costs are only the beginning. In addition, a drop in productivity is inevitable. If the departing worker has veteran experience, knowledge goes away and, with new people contacting customers, you run a very real risk to your company’s reputation in the field.

To avoid preventable turnover, be sure you are not falling victim to these 10 key management mistakes that result in workers saying again and again, “I won’t work for you.”

1. Managing by the numbers alone.

That means, in everyday terms, you are a task manager. Task-focused managers lose people. People take jobs because they sound good but only stick around if they feel good. It is no longer all about the work.

Does this mean you have to “give the inmates the keys” and relinquish control of your operation? Of course not. But, if you’re smart, you will create the right workplace environment, one in which workers willingly meet your expectations. And it can be done if you simply rethink and adjust your concern for the human resource, your key resource. So, strike an even balance between your concern for the task and the person performing it.

2. Lack of an effective onboarding process.

This leaves new hires doubtful about the decision to work for you. Ensure a successful start-up by structuring the new employees’ first few days and weeks so that the experience is 100 percent positive. No, you do not have to sugar coat the realities of the position but you can and should focus on how these new hires can and will succeed.

One of the often-identified reasons for turnover is that today’s worker wants to identify with co-workers. Simply, don’t allow your hiring process to put a square peg in a round hole. There was a day when getting the job was everything; no more. A cultural fit means a lot to today’s worker.

3. Failure to provide and follow up on skill-building training.

Employees who don’t receive adequate training usually fail to meet expectations and begin to doubt their value to the organization. Usually, it’s downhill from there. Far too often, managers provide required information on processes and procedures but, because the focus is on quick productivity and revenue, they fail to build the skills necessary to succeed.

Knowledge is not skill and, without skills, too many new hires fail over time. You won’t have to fire them; they will quit, leaving you repeating the old adage, “nobody wants to work anymore.”

As you plan new-hire schedules and task assignments, be sure that you front-load the likelihood of success. If a new-hire succeeds quickly, self-motivation will take over. If early results are negative and the employee feels like a failure, too many simply give up.

4. The company’s culture lacks professionalism.

This is an often missed but significant retention factor. I’m talking not about a specific manager’s mistakes but a company-wide condition. When employees are directed or permitted to do things in shoddy and unprofessional ways—taking shortcuts and tampering with quality—no amount of rhetoric or company claims on brochures will keep them motivated and on the job. The best workers become disenchanted and begin to look for greener pastures where they feel more comfortable. Again, it is not just about the task. Too often, management talks about doing the job right, taking no shortcuts and letting customers know “we are simply the best.” Then, before the sun sets, workers see the opposite going on and, in fact, being condoned.

What is the worker to think? Mixed signals. “They tell me one thing, but I see co-workers getting away with exactly what I have been told cannot happen. These people are just plain sleazy.”

Believe it or not, most workers do want to do the job right.

5. Lack of strong, positive leadership on a consistent basis.

Related to the point above, positive leadership is even more important. In fact, one of the key reasons given for job switching is the lack of a positive role model on the job. In addition to a lack of a cultural professionalism, managers who simply assign tasks then disappear without important, consistent reactions to performance, both positive and negative, send a clear signal that workers are not that important. And when people feel they are not important to the team, they leave. People need and seek leadership.

The old slogan “the speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack” is very true. It starts at the top. I recall an instance when the “leader,” after making his usual speech about the importance of “everyone on the team working hard during the busy spring season” then sending the crew out for the day, was spotted within the hour teeing off at the local golf course! Sure, he had the right to do so, but what signal did he send? You guys work your tails off and I’ll hit the links. Inconsistency between what the worker is told and actually experiences really is important.

6. Dishonest management is a slow but certain killer.

In 30 years of working in small to mid-sized operations, I’ve personally seen the disdain with which an entire team can turn on management they don’t respect. And a key to earning and maintaining the respect of your team is honesty. Sounds a little trite; but it’s a proven fact.

Honest and open management, though sometimes requiring you to deal with unpleasant situations and decisions that you’d rather bury, is, in the long haul, the very best business policy. Further, your people will not only appreciate your honesty, they will identify with your struggle to always be honest, even when it hurts. Yes, people do respect honest leaders. They will follow your lead through tough times and work even harder to see that the company succeeds.

7. The feeling of being unfairly treated will drive people away.

Whether right or wrong, when an employee is convinced that he or she is not receiving fair treatment, there can be no positive outcome. Over and over, while the employee may not immediately leave, the feelings of unfairness doesn’t go away. Sooner or later, the worker will either quit or find a way to even the score, as they see the need. Nothing good can come from unfair treatment.

Sadly, the feeling of unfairness can be the by-product of innocent management decisions and action. For example, an employee on the job for six months, someone who is simply outstanding, is promoted over a more veteran worker. Unfair, claims the veteran! And, no matter how logical or appropriate the decision to promote the newer person, the veteran may never feel fairly treated. The challenge, not often met, is to communicate to the veteran who was not promoted why the decision was made, why it was right and how the veteran can prepare him or herself for the next opportunity.

8. A complete lack of flexibility.

Workers these days like control. Of all the job satisfaction factors repeatedly identified, some level of flexibility is on the worker want list. When companies provide at least some options, employee satisfaction goes up 100 percent. Not always an easy thing to do, companies who think about their people and how to flex positions win every time.

For years, researchers have known that, after about two years performing the same tasks the same way, people get bored. Productivity goes predictably down. Making even small changes in routine, adding additional responsibility or asking for input on how to make processes and procedures work better can reduce or remove these “productivity gaps” and help maintain a higher level of worker motivation. And turnover goes down.

9. No opportunity; nowhere to go.

This perception contributes to your best people becoming bored and looking for a better opportunity to grow. This can be a tough challenge, especially in a small company. True, there are only so many desirable jobs. Take the golf course, for example. Only one person can be the superintendent, right? If there is only one really good job, how is it then that well-run golf course operations seem to keep good people?

The answer is not simple. First, crew members like working there. The superintendent has created a positive and rewarding workplace environment. Next, in most cases, the best crew members understand that it can take years to learn and develop the skills necessary to move up. In that process, many decide that going for the one good job on the course may not be what they really want or need. Those that do pursue a promotion are managed openly, in an environment where the superintendent and worker both understand that after a given length of time, the developing employee will leave. But, in this situation, the departure is no surprise. It is a planned event, which includes bringing on a replacement in a process that ensures a smooth transition. The same can happen in a lawn care service or landscaping company. All it takes is management recognition, understanding and attention. Nobody ever said managing people is a simple proposition.

10. Infighting on the team.

If not controlled, infighting leads to a negative atmosphere that nobody wants to be a part of. Who is right, the office staff or the field team? Inevitably, customer service reps who speak with angry or frustrated customers by phone may not deliver precisely the same message as a technician in the field; someone who, most often, communicates via a written or printed note left with the invoice. And, customers understand what they want and expect the message to be.

It’s so easy to create mixed signals in the customer’s mind. When it happens, the infighting can begin. He said-she said becomes the norm. Before long, management gets involved and assumes the role of referee. Now you have “Trouble in River City,” and nobody wins, including the customer. All this can be minimized and a much more positive working environment can be achieved if and when management maintains clear and constant communication between the two groups of people who touch the customer.

Although it is not typical, field and office supervisors should meet at least weekly to clear the air; addressing misunderstandings and avoiding potentially damaging situations that can escalate. The result is that both teams will be more satisfied that they are represented. As the friction is reduced, so is preventable turnover of disgruntled workers.

Hopefully, with some careful introspection, you will find areas on which you can focus to reduce costly and preventable turnover.

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