September 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September 1999 Current Issue
September 1999 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Wayne Outlaw


Enhancing staff satisfaction can keep a planning department intact

When a top meeting planner quits, the easy reaction is to wish her well and start scrambling for a replacement. But by asking some important questions, managers can learn how to make sure no one else follows her lead.

Why did she leave? Could this have been prevented? What can be done differently next time to keep an employee? These questions must be answered to lower turnover and increase job satisfaction.

Although there always are unique reasons employees leave, most fall within 10 common areas, which give managers a starting point to address employees' needs.

1. Basic financial need not met. If pay dips below what an employee needs, and the situation cannot be resolved, she will leave. Few people accept a lower salary to stay with a company, so care must be taken to ensure compensation is adequate.

2. Lack of competitive salary. The paycheck not only must meet an employee's basic needs, it must be at or above competitive levels for the geographical area, industry and position.

3. Bad benefits. Generous benefits packages are an important recruiting tool, and inadequate packages can cause employees to walk. Ensure what is being offered is on par with the competition.

4. Poor communication. Rumors and lack of information can wreak havoc, not only reducing tenure but damaging job satisfaction and productivity. Sudden changes in the company's organization also can hurt. Don't rely on formal communications to get the word out. Take the time to establish effective, informal, face-to-face contact with employees.

5. Negative work environment. How people are treated and how they interact with each other create the office's atmosphere. Management must set the tone, define what is acceptable and facilitate a harmonious workplace. In a booming job market, people know they do not have to stick around in an uncomfortable situation.

6. Lack of recognition. When employees get no pat on the back for a job well done, they feel the oversight acutely. Companies with recognition programs have a better chance of keeping their employees, especially the talented and motivated ones.

7. Unfair treatment. Good will can be erased in a moment if employees feel they are not being treated equitably. For example, if someone thinks work is unfairly distributed or the boss is showing favoritism, it will negate the recognition efforts and erode loyalty. If an employee thinks management has changed the rules or interpreted them to avoid paying a reward, it not only will build resentment but will destroy trust and loyalty. Even the perception of inequitable business practices kills trust and causes departures.

8. Unchallenging job content. Boredom causes the most turnover. Although planning never could be considered boring, a planner should be given more responsibility as her ability grows.

9. Lack of job security. Mergers, re-engineering and downsizing have shown employees that their jobs are no longer entitlements. The value of the position must be re-emphasized to build job security.

10. Life conflicts. Organizations must recognize their employees' need to balance their work and personal lives. Those who ignore this trend will continue to experience significant turnover. If a choice has to be made between work and personal life, work often loses.

Managers can be proactive. Discover planners' real level of job satisfaction and identify areas of dissatisfaction. Use executive interviews in smaller organizations and employee attitude surveys in larger organizations to pinpoint problems and find ways to resolve them before a key staff member disappears.

Wayne Outlaw, based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., is author of Smart Staffing: How to Hire, Reward, and Keep Top Employees for Your Growing Company (

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