In this episode: Granger Whitelaw looks at employee retention In Asia with guest host Dan Gray. Employee retention Is a major Issue In Asia, with massive growth and very low unemployment in Vietnam and other countries, what can you do to keep your employees happy and engaged? Grab your coffee and let’s talk!
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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.
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Granger: Good morning. Granger Whitelaw here with Monday morning coffee. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I am going to welcome Dan Gray back today. Dan. Good morning.
Daniel: Hi everybody. Nice to be back.
Granger: Daniel I’m sorry is it Daniel or Dan?
Daniel: It depends. Normally my mom’s the only one that calls me Daniel when I’m in trouble. Yeah. Dan, Danny, Daniel, whatever.
Granger: Danny, I like Danny. Danny boy. So, Dan, how was your weekend?
Daniel: All right, it’s good. Thanks. I’ve got some family visiting, so I’ve been doing the usual.
Granger: Oh, your mom’s in town?
Daniel: Yeah, she’s around for a couple of weeks, so showing her a good time.
Granger: Oh, that’s cool. Do you like having mom in town?
Daniel: Yeah nice to have her here. She certainly loves it.
Granger: What does she think about Saigon?
Daniel: She’s can’t stop coming back. She’s like a boomerang. She kind of tends to come here about twice a year, so she actually loves it.
Granger: Boomerang mom, I’ve heard helicopter parents, but never boomerang mom.
Daniel: Yeah. No, she comes back all the time. She loves it and loves the food and the atmosphere.
Granger: That’s awesome. That’s great. You guys must have a great time.
Daniel: Yeah, she loves it. She gets into the swing of things and hanging onto the back of my motorbike whizzing through the traffic. That’s when you hear Daniel. Daniel!
Granger: My mother, mother, are you listening? My mother has never been here.
Granger: You know, I got to get mom over here. She wants to come over.
Daniel: Well, maybe this podcast would be the inspiration she can hear about my mom having a good time.
Granger: Mom guilt trip. Anyway, so well let’s talk about an important subject today. And thank you for joining again. Employee retention in Vietnam. This is a major issue in Vietnam. One that has only been rising and at an alarming rate over the last three years. Really, it’s huge. Human resources are a major issue here. There are so many new companies coming here. There are companies expanding here, right. And the staffing levels, are almost like 1%, right. They’re just fully staffed everywhere, which is great for employment, but there’s a tremendous amount of talent loss and people switching jobs. Do you see that in your teaching world?
Daniel: Yeah. It’s a pretty high turnover. Yeah, for sure.
Granger: They turn over?
Daniel: Yeah, there is. Yeah.
Granger: So, is it monthly, is it quarterly, is it semiannually? When’s the turnover occur in the teaching world?
Daniel: Well, I mean, different schools have different rates, but ours is kind of 12- and 13-week courses, so once your course is finished, you know, it’s quite easy. It’s not like you’re breaking off in the middle of a school year. So, it’s quite high, you know, I have a staff of 30, you know, you can kind of see a couple of leaving every month really.
Granger: And so why do you think that happens in your industry, in the teaching industry?
Daniel: In our industry. I think a lot of people are of, you know maybe about 30 years old, you know, they’re not settled down with a family and, and they’re still kind of Footloose. So, they’re here working, footloose and fancy free in Saigon. Yeah. Maybe we can make a little, a documentary about that.
Granger: So, well you know, it tends to be in staffing levels in Vietnam, based a lot around salary earning levels. So, those who make around 430 USD, 10 million Dong, are the highest rate of leavers, people leave, about 29%. As you get into team leaders and managers, and as the salaries go up, certainly the attrition rate goes down and as you get into executives where they’re making a $33,000 or more, they don’t really leave as much at all. So, it certainly is something that, is one salary driven and then another ratio, people quitting. It’s much higher in generations, that are younger generations. Right. Which is understandable. The younger generations think that they can just kind of, you know, jump jobs and get a pay raise.
Daniel: Yeah. That’s what the pattern suggests.
Granger: Have you seen that? Or have you heard that?
Daniel: Well, yeah, obviously the older you get and the longer you’re in a job, the more kind of settled you are. And, you know, the less impetus for change, I guess.
Granger: It’s a weird statistic. I mean, I hear like 15 to 20% of people, especially the younger generation, tend to lean towards leaving their job in the next year, even though they’re happy at their job. Why?
Daniel: Well, yeah, it could be a sign of being ambitious looking for something. The grass is always greener.
Granger: Well it’s really interesting and the most attractive industry for employees besides their current ones that people tend to want to go into banking. Certainly, real estate and financial services, and retail. The number of new businesses is increasing rapidly. Right. The situation now is that they need to hunt for talent, right. If you’re starting a business, you need to hunt for talent. And the younger generations really know that. Right. So, people who have any type of inkling to leave their job can kind of really just play the field and wait for a headhunter to call them, or to see a job posting and they can just jump that job.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like a good, good time for them. Rather the opposite to what’s happening in my country, England right now, all the young people are almost got no opportunities. Might not know.
Granger: Is that right?
Daniel: Yeah, I mean that’s another reason why there’s a lot of us young guys out here right now is because, you know, the opportunities are not quite what they were in our parents’ generation.
Granger: So, in England you have an issue where you don’t have a lot of opportunities. Here you have an industry or a culture where the average age is 32 or something now. The middle class is rising. About a third of all employees think about starting their own businesses in the future or are starting their own businesses. So now you’re not just looking at jumping to a new job, but maybe, Hey, I’m going to work here for a year to get a little training. I’m going to start my own company with a couple of buddies of mine. Right. Because there’s so much growth in Southeast Asia and in Vietnam.
Daniel: Yeah. It sounds like an exciting time for the young people of Vietnam. So many opportunities.
Granger: Just the opposite. So, what do you do? How do you retain workers? I mean, this is a real, real big issue, right. So, you know, I’ve talked about this in some of my other podcasts briefly. One of my friends who runs a big shoe company talks about this and you know, I was approaching it then from space. He has to build factory. He has to go out into more central. Now he has to change the number of days they work from maybe a five- or six-day work week to a three- or four-day work week, provide them transportation or you know, a lot of subsidies for gas and food and meals.
Daniel: Yeah. Well for those of the listeners who listened to or read the profile of Marco Civardi, from last week, it’s something he spoke about saying, and particularly in textiles and some manufacturing, lack of air conditioning is something that’s causing a bit of an issue as well that people are leaving to go to the it sector because they typically have air conditioned factories.
Granger: That’s a great one. You’re making $500 a month or $600 a month or whatever it is, $1,000 a month. And, but yeah, the factories, the factory workers don’t want to be in the hot sweaty factory anymore. They want air conditioning.
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. So, it could be as simple as that, kind of working environment.
Granger: As simple as that. Right. But that’s a big deal. So certainly, a healthy environment, right. Creating an environment where your workers have fresh air, have air conditioning, an interesting work environment. Right. Where maybe it’s just not boring, you know, maybe you have a foosball table or a pool table for breaks. It’s kind of like Google and other companies do in the U.S. something that can entertain themselves or a place where they can get together, eat together, canteen area. Obviously, bonus plans are good.
Daniel: Money always talks.
Granger: Money talks. Dan, I like that about you, money talks. You got right to the chase. Insurance, right. So, if you’re young and you’re having a family, making sure you have insurance and different types of compensation and benefit plans certainly are something that will help you retain employees. But the cost of employee to replace is high. So, if you’re going to go through training them up, you want to really make sure that you build an environment around them that wants them to stay and grow within your organization, right. They become more effective employees long-term. They have more value. Now, I always ask people, are there option plans here? Right. In the United States and other places of the world, a lot of companies will give you stock options, right. Not teachers, teachers don’t get stock options. Barely get a parking space. It’s horrible, but on teachers’ day you get lots of flowers and candy.
Daniel: Yeah. I know. I’ve got quite a lot of flowers at my house right now more than I know what to do with it.
Granger: But in all seriousness, you know these young companies, they’re starting up here and need to look at other types of, participation for the employees. Profit sharing is always a good one. I like profit sharing because it’s not just stock-based, it actually is current, right. Hey, we make money this year. We’re all going to take a little bit of it and share it, spread it around. Right. On top of your bonus, you can have monthly bonuses, you can have weekly bonuses, right. You have quarterly bonuses, but profit sharing is something that we all come together and try to do together as opposed to me on my own trying to make my quota, make a little extra money this month. Right.
Daniel: Absolutely. Yeah. Incentivize the workers, yeah.
Granger: Collectively. Yes. Right. Yeah. I mean, what about when you were teaching, right. If you give a student what project, that’s really cool. And they usually work pretty hard on it, right. Cause they’re being graded. But when you give them a group project do, they act differently?
Daniel: I mean it’s different at different age groups. It’s a difficult question to answer. Yeah obviously if you incentivize the work, the more you incentivize them, you know, the better you get them to work, you know, everyone’s the same in that respect.
Granger: Yeah because it’s a team now. You’re responsible for your team members.
Daniel: If you can build a good team atmosphere, class dynamic, people work together.
Granger: 100%. So, these are things to think about as you’re out there. You know, certainly salary benefits, and hire the right person from the start, right. Make sure you interview well. And if you need to hire a professional to help you, right. An executive recruiter, if it’s an executive or even a really good HR person, will go through the time, not just hiring their cousin or other friends, but like really vetting the right person, right. And hiring the right person. And your managers, you know, keep an eye on your managers, train your managers. We talked about this on Friday about, you know, English language tutoring or other types of tutoring and continuing education. Educate your managers to be leaders, not bosses, right. We’re going to do a profile on Wednesday of a man who is a great leader and a teacher of leaders here in Vietnam.
Daniel: Yeah, absolutely.
Granger: We’re not going to say his name now.
Daniel: Okay, won’t give anything away.
Granger: But certainly, you know, that’s going to be a great article. So, you know, nobody wants a boss, right. And they tend to talk about bosses here a lot. Hey boss, Hey boss. But really the more you can become a leader, not a boss, you know, people will stay. I find that unless there is a real reason why someone has to leave a job, people generally quit managers they don’t quit company or the job. Right.
Daniel: Yeah. Well that’s going to be a very much part of the article on Wednesday. The importance of getting this leadership group dynamic where everybody can feel in a comfort zone and be able to talk about their problems. Not just sit there worrying about how they’re going to be a thought of if they make a comment about something, you know, being able to feel part of the team.
Granger: Absolutely. All right, everyone. So, well I hope this helped you a little bit. Thinking about retention strategies. I guess the thought for the week I will leave you with is what can you do to improve the workplace? Or offers that you are giving to retain your staff. And what can you do? How can you really create an atmosphere that’s productive, that’s healthy, that’s a leadership focused atmosphere, and one that wants people to not only stay but bringing their friends to work in the company and grow with you over time. So that’s the thought for the week. Dan, thank you so much.
Daniel: Thanks so much.
Granger: And to everyone, I hope you have a fabulous week.