Attention! It’s Time to Talk About Retention

The festive season is long over, winter has hit us with a bang, and we are slowly pinning down what our 2019 should look like. Your high-potential employees are thinking the same. It is no secret that every people manager’s top priority is employee retention. Imagine this; unexpectedly one of your top employees gives their two weeks’ notice. Your next course of action is coming up with a plan for someone else to temporarily take over daily responsibilities while you try to find someone with similar skills and attributes to fill the role.

As a people manager, you can ponder all day with “should have, could have, and would have” scenarios, but here are a few quick ways to do things differently with your next star talent. Improving retention requires engaging with employees directly to understand their likes and dislikes about their role, the company, and what motivates and engages them. Some key things to look for and quick things to do are as follows.

Recognition: There are simple and inexpensive ways for managers to recognize an employee: a short email thanking the employee for going the extra mile or a shout out during a team meeting for hitting a target or being a good team player. An unexpected and warm email is especially sweet if you’re a manager working at a different office or on different floor than your employees. According an Employee Recognition Survey by SHRM/Globoforce, companies with strategic recognition reported a mean employee turnover rate that is 23.4% lower than retention at companies without any recognition program (2012). This boost of recognition may sometimes be just the motivation they need to work harder or smarter. If you intend on making this a regular thing, just make sure give recognition in a way that is meaningful to the employee.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, lack of recognition takes a terrible toll on morale, productivity, and ultimately, profitability. A key finding: 40% of employed Americans say they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often (HBR, 2016). That is an astounding number. A short email or a shout out is almost a universal way you can recognize your talent.

Professional Development: McLean & Company’s data, collected through years of administering our New Hire and Employee Exit diagnostics, highlights that one of the biggest motivators for new employees joining an organization is the potential opportunity of professional development. Our McLean & Company Exit Survey Database (2018; N=2,218) shows that opportunities for career advancement is the top reason employees leave an organization and opportunities for career-related skill development is #4.

Regardless of their tenure, employees want to feel motivated and excited at a future opportunity of growth, advancement, and long-term stay at a company. If employers are able to offer cost-effective training and development tools and resources, such as access to in-house learning management systems or pay to attend conferences or industry events, this would be a good way to demonstrate the employers are equally invested in their employees. If the budget is limited, there are a myriad of cost-effective online courses or virtual conferences that employees can attend.

There is also the 70-20-10 model for learning and development: 70% is experiential (learning from doing difficult or challenging work), 20% is social (learning from work, interaction, and discussion with colleagues, experts and managers), and 10% is formal (formal learning events or activities). A few suggestions would be to give stretch assignments and opportunities to participate on strategic projects. This would give employees the opportunity to try something new that is aligned with their career interests. To start you would need to know their career interests. This not only is low cost, but also builds loyalty, and ultimately, retention.

Continuous feedback: If you wait until an annual review to get feedback on how your employees feel, it may be too late. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your employee either in-person or virtually.

One way to gather feedback on how your employees are feeling is with a regular stay interview. McLean & Company’s Stay Interview Guide is a great tool to help managers conduct stay interviews with current employees, enabling the manager to understand: 1) the employee's current engagement level; 2) the employee's satisfaction with current role and responsibilities; 3) suggestions for potential improvements; and 4) an employee's intent to stay with the organization. You can keep the meeting short and sweet: give them the opportunity to share their concerns and new ideas and have open and honest discussions about performance improvements and team efficiency. This allows managers to anticipate and address potential turnover issues.

Let’s face it, business is a number’s game. It is important to be a data-driven HR function, so you can make informed decisions that support organizational strategy. Use McLean’s Retention Plan Workbook to keep track of turnover data and cost of turnover. This helps to get a sense for problem areas and employee segments to prioritize. This tool helps you to analyze employee feedback survey data and identify key employee needs and solutions to address these needs. Use this tool to capture key information in one place as you work through the process, and assist with assessing and prioritizing.

In the end, managers are regularly tasked with keeping employee morale high, keeping turnover low, and ensuring productivity is high while leading a team of talent who need to contribute to company profitability. We regularly hear that there is a war for talent, in that companies are in an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees. Can we win the talent war?

People managers can keep talent from walking out the door by discovering and addressing moments that matter to employees. One of our blueprints that can aid in addressing employee retention is Develop an Effective Talent Retention Plan. It helps in building the case for creating retention plans by leveraging employee data and feedback to identify the key reasons for turnover that need to be addressed, targeting specific employee segments, and working with management to develop solutions to retain top talent.

By Laili Choudhury

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