Over the years I have been working at different Dynamics NAV partners in many different roles:
- Systems Architect
- Technical manager
- Department head for the NAV department
- Manager for my own Dynamics NAV partner company
During that time, I got to see many different ways to handle your employees. Weather this was me being employed or me employing consultants. I mostly managed to keep my employees and luckily didn’t have to have many of the “difficult” conversations, firing or issuing warnings to employees. It is always easier to see what others do wrong than to see your own faults. Here are some of the (sometimes) hard earned points:
Hold on to your employees
When an employee in a Dynamics NAV partner quit, it means losing a stable revenue for the department. However, it also means losing a whole lot of knowledge. The loss of knowledge is almost the worst, because the documentation level of many projects is inadequate and other consultants will have to fill in the gaps to the customer and new colleges. Many customers also take advantage of the situation stating that the previous consultant has promised this and this. In some projects I have participated in, all consultants, sales people and project managers have been replaced and sometimes even people on the customer side, leaving the history of the project to be, whatever you can read from the documentation.
“We can hire new consultants, and if we hire experienced consultants, they can earn their salaries from day one”
This is an argument that you hear time after time. However, this is not entirely true. The biggest problem with this, is that every time a consultant moves from one partner to another, the salaries increase, and there will be a decrease in the revenue in that period, because a new consultant takes time to get up to speed:
- Meet the colleagues and find out, who is responsible for what
- Get a new phone and laptop (usually better than the ones his colleagues have)
- Find out the company culture (can he/she address the CEO directly or go through the chain of command, where is the IT department, who is HR and so on)
Find the internal systems:
- Mail system
- Issue Management
- Development environment
- Intranet/SharePoint systems
- The physical structure (Parking, desk, toilets and so on)
Then connecting with the new customers and projects, all of the above will be repeated for each project the new consultant will be assigned to.
This usually means that we don’t get a fully functional employee the first month and probably not up-to-speed in the invoicing until after a couple of months. Another issue is that many customers do not want to pay the full consultancy-fee for knowledge transfer.
I know that there have been examples of consultants who could contribute from day one, but that usually means that:
- They have been hired to fill a certain role with special experience
- They have been hired for a special project
- They are really expensive
A rough estimate would say that a new employee can cost up to €50.000 in lost revenue and this is not even included the cost of losing customers that the previous employees took with them when they left (we all know that it is not legal, but we also know that it happens all the time).
Therefore, it is necessary to dig into the reason why employees quit. Some of the reasons could be:
- Personal issues with colleagues/boss
- Lack of education possibilities
- To get away from customer(s) or project(s). Usually that means that consultants have been stuck with the same customer/project for many years. Leaving them behind working only with old versions.
- Lack of tools (laptop/internal tools)
- Lack of methods used with the Dynamics NAV partner
Some of these reasons are easy the mitigate and some are more complicated. The issues can also be the result of lack of affiliation with the Dynamics NAV partner. An example could be a department with consultants, all working full time with their respective customers or projects. If there are no incentive to stay at the Dynamics NAV partner, then they are easy prey for another Dynamics NAV partner offering more salary or better conditions.
The solution for this could to build up a sense of belonging to the Dynamics NAV partner. That can be done by:
- Having periodic meetings (weekly or monthly) telling the status of the department finances (especially important if the salary consists of bonuses) but also to inform about changes in the organization or staff, listening to problems the consultants might face at the customers and connecting them to someone that can help
- Making sure that everybody knows, who to call when in trouble (Knowledge matrix)
- Upgrading the knowledge with the functionality of the new versions or recent hot-fixes
- Sending employees to conferences, seminars or courses to specialize within an area
- Periodic team-building to enable the colleagues to get to know one-another
Another part of the solution is to provide a salary that can match their expectations (or almost – no one is happy with their salary ). Part of this is to realize that there are three different types of salary increases:
- Annual salary negotiations
- Merit-based increases. If the consultant was hired as a trainee, they should not stay trainees forever. The contract should include merit-based salary increases for trainees, but also other consultants that take on extra responsibilities should receive merit-based salary increases. Otherwise other Dynamics NAV partners will recognize the extraordinary skills and benefit that.
- Bonus or otherwise result-based salaries
All of these can “bind” the employee to the partner. However, the bonus systems can backfire if targets are not reachable. Nothing is more demotivating if the bonus targets are not met because of other departments not reaching their target.
Another thing to observe is the personal state of the employees. Do they seem unhappy or depressed? In these days, it is more and more common that employees burn out with stress. Usually there are more than one reason for burning-out:
- Complicated projects
- Frustrating customers
- Problems with colleagues or boss
- Health problems
- Addiction problems
- Personal problems like marriage, children, house problems and so on
There is a fine line between prying and showing a concerned interest, but it is the primary function of a line manager to read the little signs and to act accordingly. Maybe all it takes is to assign another consultant to take the load of or to reassign the consultant to other projects.
The alternative can be a sick-leave for two-three months or worst case they never come back to working at all.
My own experience is that, when symptoms are observed, people are usually very eager to talk about the problems when you open up the conversation. That alone can help solve the problem. And if action is taken with due diligence, then the employee can continue in the same or maybe in another function and still earn their dues.
One last thing is, who do we hire? Should it be young trainees’ fresh out of college or seasoned consultants with a lot of experience. This maybe a specific choice for the actual position vacant that is in the NAV department, but I want to share a story from my time as a department head.
I wanted to hire a project manager for the department and decided to hire a seasoned person (age 58) that was fully qualified for the position. My boss saw the application and asked “Why do want to hire someone that old?”. My argument to my boss was: If I hire a 28 years old project manager, how long do you expect him to say? Two maybe three years. When I hire someone at the age of 58, he will stay till he retires.
I got my project manager.
Don’t miss out on the next chapter: Training the future consultants