The “no man’s land” of employee turnover

This is an aerial photograph showing opposing trenches during World War I and the no man's land which is the black area running from top to bottom left


“No Man’s Land” is commonly associated with World War I to describe the area of land between two enemy trench systems. Neither side wished to cross nor seize the land due to fear of being attacked by the enemy in the process. You only crossed into No Man’s Land when forced to.

You have the same situation with your employees. There is a huge gap between your employees who are working diligently (aka engaged) and the employees who are just taking a paycheck until something better comes along. No one is between these two positions. So what does it take to get your employees to cross over “No Man’s Land”? As you know, it is easier to work with the customers you have then to find a new customer. This is equally true about your employees.

Many business owners and General Managers tell me they just need to “clean house”. I have never found that to be the answer. The answer is to find what is creating the lack of engagement and what needs to be done to eliminate the root causes of your disengagement. Business owners and managers who I deal with are stunned when they learn how quickly we can start to move people across “No man’s land”.

Root causes of disengagement are organizational – not cultural, perks or benefits

One company which I worked with felt they had a GREAT culture and upper management felt the employees loved it. The problem was the culture did not cover the entire company. There were two senior managers who consistently got low ratings on the employee engagement survey. Upper management was fully aware of the employees’ feelings. Nothing was ever done. This was not a culture issue, it was an organizational issue by which these two senior managers were not being held accountable.

As you can imagine, in these two departments the employee turnover was dramatically higher then everywhere else. So what do you think happened when these two managers were held to the same level of accountability to the culture as everyone else? Obviously, there was a lot of talk and the employees took a wait and see approach. They wanted to see what happened the first time the previous issues came up again.

When employees start crossing No Man’s Land – it will quickly become a Land Rush

An issue came up and everyone held their breath to see what would happen. It was hard and there were plenty of excuses and justifications but the organization knew what they had to do. When the employees realized the organization was going to do the right thing – the response was overwhelming. There were a lot of employees who crossed over No Man’s Land that day.

How wide is your No Man’s Land?