Ghosts Of The Departed
April 29, 2014
With metronomic regularity, people leave us. Only a couple of decades ago "turnover" was a working metric in most fields. Highly sophisticated practitioners of personnel productivity datum like Met Life or IBM actually troubled over the loss of people across their skill departments. Today, turnover appears in radio lexicon -- but as a passive noun as opposed to an active verb. There will probably never be a great awakening; a return to the science of retention as a working value ... and most assuredly not in radio at large.
This leaves some of us stymied who have actually contemplated the terrible cost of losing someone valuable. The bullet train of time and the blasé acceptance of "expletive happens" combine to endow us with indifference about the comings and goings of people. The price we pay is incalculable. Let's start with the most obvious example of unwanted turnover: college sports. Like a bullfight, college sports are a tool for our amusement. When a coach is building a championship culture with talented recruits -- only to find an All-American freshman won't return for his remaining years to head instead to the NFL or NBA -- we mourn "Oh, what could have been!" But when a top-tier PD or a rookie sales sensation suddenly announces their departure for another endeavor, we shrug shoulders and fall in line with convention ... "hate to lose 'em but we can't make them stay; it's just part of the business."
There is heterodoxy in other fields. For example, top trainers in the insurance industry have developed complicated but impactful validation formulas through which they can precisely determine when a field agent becomes truly profitable. Hint: It's not in the first or second year. Only a handful of radio leaders recognize and develop low-turnover schemes knowing that a 25% increase in sellers who pass from a first-year "commercial visitor" to a fourth-year "sustaining resource" can make a massive difference in the company's top-line.
Most companies tolerate high turnover in their sales ranks believing it's just part of the game. This is crushing revenue potential since assuming good training, once a seller attains their third or fourth year means the odds of their retention and their productivity are far superior to rookies in the market. Think about calculating the cost of recruitment, in-field training, and the unseen sales gone-glimmering. The damage is incalculable and it continues by the day.
On the programming side of the building, some turnover, like sales, is unpreventable; generated by the company or the person. We've lost count of the occasions managers call with the directive to start a search; they're losing a key position. It is this hidden loss we can't measure. When a high-skill PD leaves owning advanced knowledge of ratings mechanics, a high level of music and perceptual research savvy and talent development skills, you can't possibly affirm with certainty the next PD will be on equal footing; even with a track record comparable to the exiting PD. Highly-rated talent departures are even more devastating. No matter how good replacements may sound, they're not Scott Shannon. It may be years before brand equity recovers and anyway ... what's a rating point worth in New York?
We can't completely stem turnover, but we can do a hell of a lot more to reduce it within the so-called skilled-positions of our business. Over in the sports arena, we continue to hear the pop-syntax from coaches who when losing a key player invoke the catch phrase, "next-man-in." But catchy phrases con brio like "next-man-in" become their own contradiction. That sobriquet simply means the next man was riding the pines, holding the headphone chord. What's the real price of turnover in your building?