Leadership Boot Camp: Associate Retention
What Would You Do To Keep One Person In Your Organization?
From June 1981 to Dec 1983 I was a Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning, GA the home of the Infantry. Each cycle of soldiers that came through numbered roughly 250 “trainees”. They came from all over the world and every socioeconomic level. I had soldiers from the country, city, farmer’s sons, General’s sons and congressman’s sons. It was a great group of diverse people and they served their country with honor.
One evening I was setting in my office when one of my trainees knocked on my door. I told him to come in and have a seat. In his hand he had a letter from his wife’s doctor. She was pregnant and living with her parents in the Bronx, New York City. He said her parents didn’t like him and were placing her in a stressful situation. The letter from her doctor said that if she wasn’t removed from her current environment, there was a good chance she would lose their baby. He told me he needed to get out of the Army and go home to take care of his wife.
I asked him, “What are you going to do”? “Do you have job?” He said “No”. I told him he was a good soldier and we needed him. Additionally he needed us. He had no healthcare or prospects of a job. I asked him to give me 24 hours to come up with a solution. He agreed to wait.
I looked at my training schedule and talked to another Drill Sergeant who agreed to cover my platoon for the next four days of training. Next, I went to my Senior Drill Sergeant, First Sergeant and Company Commander. I told them the circumstances and that I wanted to go to NYC get his wife out of her current environment and move her to Georgia. They agreed and gave me permission. Who said the Army doesn’t have compassion?
On a Friday morning I packed up my pregnant wife and my trainee, dropped my 18-month-old daughter off with the babysitter and headed to NYC. As we started to drive up I-95, the further north we drove the harder it snowed. It took us 36 hours of non-stop driving to make NYC. We drove into the Bronx Saturday evening, picked up his wife and drove to New Jersey to spend the night with my wife’s uncle. The next day we started our drive back south. We again drove non-stop and arrived in Georgia early Monday. I returned my trainee to the barracks and took his wife to my home.
My wife was a nurse in the Army and she worked to get my soldier’s wife an ID card and processed into the “Army system”. She took her to doctor appointments and made sure she was healthy. She stayed with us for three weeks until we got her an apartment. I would bring her to visit her husband and my wife would take her grocery shopping. Her health turned around and they had a healthy baby boy. My soldier and his wife made a career out of the Army and we stayed in contact for a number of years.
So…what would you do to keep a good person in your organization? What would you sacrifice? People are looking for leaders that care about them as much as the leaders want them to care about the organization. Loyalty is a two way street. If you want people to be loyal to your organization, you have to be loyal to them: you get what you give. Providing them a job and a check is not loyalty. Every job does that. As the old saying goes, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Leadership Coach & Facilitator