One of the topics that sometimes keeps me awake at night is knowledge. The sheer amount of knowledge in the minds of our staff members is staggering. In the past few years we’ve had a few highly competent people attempt to retire, and we’ve had a great strategy in place to reduce the impact.
How can you reduce “brain drain?”
Here’s a great piece of information that was passed on to me by John Dooney, a ninja research guru over at SHRM:
From the recent Sloan Award Survey conducted by Families and Work Institute:Â When the organizations were asked the number of employees at their work siteÂ that were allowed to phase into retirement by working reducing their hoursÂ over a period of time prior to retirement, the answers were as follows:
Just a few: 6%
How we do it
I have a great recent example. We have a staff member who has been working for our customer in some capacity for 20 years. He planned to resign outright, and we asked if he would be interested in working a 20 hour flexible schedule to continue the customer relationship. He was pleasantly surprised at the availability of the option and instantly accepted. He’s still working happily for us, we’re trying to staff up in the event he would like to leave permanently, and our customer is appreciative of the opportunity to transition to a new familiar face.
So why don’t more employers do some version of this?
I think it’s pretty simple.
I think more companies could start by offering the “stay” opportunity to those leaving for voluntary reasons. We do this as a regular practice. It’s not rocket science–you just ask. The worst they can say is “no” and walk out the door. The best option is for them to continue working for some period of time on a reduced schedule. They are invaluable and it makes for an easier transition for them and for the company.
The biggest benefit for us as the person transitions to a part time schedule is us finding out where knowledge gaps are and using them while they are on staff to help close those gaps.
What type of flexibility, if any, does your organization provide?
Recently I received a copy of 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham to review. It was great timing, because I’ve had the “big picture” retention ideas floating through my head in preparation for the HR portion of a leadership retreat at work. This truly was a fantastic book with many great insights, and I can’t list them all here. I’ll hit on some of the high points that really got my blood pumping as an “in the trenches” HR pro:
- There is a major disconnect with regard to how managers understand retention. According to the research, 89% of managers believe employees leave/stay for money; however, surveys show 80-90% of employees leave for reasons not related to pay (job fit, manager, culture, work environment, etc.)
- In many companies exit interviews are handled by HR. Surely we’re using that opportunity to learn where our weaknesses are and how to manage them, right? Wrong! 42% of HR departments admit their exit interview program isn’t effective. Continue reading
One of my earliest posts talked about how a previous employer seemed to have a disproportionate ratio of reprimands to commendations. Here’s a snippet:
In my time working here, I\’ve seen hundreds (thousands?) of reprimands. I\’ve seen a single commendation. That leads me to two possibilities. One, there really aren\’t any other staff members who deserve being commended for performing well (not likely). Or two, there aren\’t any supervisors willing to commend someone for doing well (quite likely).
Or maybe it\’s more benign, and the supervisors really don\’t know the power of a short note letting someone know that he/she knocked it out of the park.
Whatever the cause, it\’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Check out your own ratio. I don\’t think you should be praising your employees daily for every little action, but when someone really takes up the slack and goes above and beyond, then it really wouldn\’t hurt to show some appreciation.
A world apart
Fast forward to today, and things couldn’t be more different. The problem I’m running into lately is the paradox of choice–too many reward options means that fewer rewards are made overall. I’m working hard on not adding more layers of tools for commending employees in case too much choice ends up slowing down the process.
We’ve had one person that I can think of in recent months that received a reprimand. In that same period, we’ve given dozens of awards for exemplary performance to people who absolutely deserved every bit of the reward (both monetary and verbal/written).
Affecting the bottom line
When I look at overall company performance for the long-term, I see a trend there as well.
- The company that focused on telling people how they were doing things wrong? They went belly up. Bankrupt. Out of business.
- The company that focused on telling people how they were doing things right? Morale is high. This year is slated to be the best yet.
Some people will tell you the “little” things like that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I would counter that those “little” things are what great companies are made of.
Which of the two workplace examples do you identify with? Why?
Retention management is a responsibility that is pushed from HR to managers to executives and back again. As the ones closest to the action, supervisors can have a positive impact on employee turnover if they take the right steps.
â€œPeople leave managers, not companies.â€
Marcus Buckingham in First, Break All the Rules
Whatever your turnover rate is, it could always be better. Especially when the estimated cost of turnover is 30-50% of the position\’s salary, and that can jump to 400% for highly specialized or senior level positions! There are many ways that you as a manager can influence this statistic. Don\’t believe me? Here are 11 ways to improve your retention rate.
- Feedback-providing regular, honest assessments of someone\’s work lets them know you care
- Regular meetings-take the time to be transparent about what you know
- Explanations of work-remind people of the end purpose/goal for the work they are performing
- Goals for the future-help your team members develop positive, challenging goals
- Work/life balance-when work and life come into conflict, don\’t make them choose between work performance and family
- Professional development-give opportunities to learn and grow; people appreciate the managers who challenge them to be better
- Ask for (and seriously consider) input/opinions-when they know you are honestly asking for input, they\’ll be honest with you
- Focus on strengths-give tasks based on strengths when possible; it gives people something to look forward to and ensures the work is being done well
- Serve them-servant leadership beats fear-based leadership every single time; if you\’d rather be feared than respected, it\’s time to hang up your manager hat
- Clear expectations-if you want something from them, make it obvious; hinting and beating around the bush just frustrates everyone involved
- Internal equity-treat your high workers well and challenge your low performers to get better; treating both parties the same is a recipe for disaster
If I had to boil that down to two short and sweet actions, it would be walk and talk. Get out of your office/cube and go see your people. Take opportunities to not only talk with them about what you know, but to ask them for feedback on your performance.
One question I often receive is â€œbut what about my low performers, isn\’t that good turnover?â€ If we\’ve taken the time to put an employee through the disciplinary process and they still aren\’t turning around, then yes, there are sometimes no other options. But that is to be exercised only after you\’ve attempted activities like those listed above. It\’s a last resort, not a quick fix to a performance problem.
While we have a well-established process for performance appraisals, that annual/semi-annual conversation should be a restatement of the facts you both already know and understand. Neither party should be surprised during review time, so make sure you are regularly building in opportunities to provide two-way feedback. Your people will appreciate you for it!
Employee retention. AKA “let’s keep our good people working for us.” As the economy turns around, up to 84% of employees across the US have said they are looking at the possibility of changing jobs.
That’s a lot of people.
We all know the numbers on employee turnover and the impact it has on the bottom line. So what’s our alternative? Retention. Keep the good people around (not by force, hopefully) and keep them on our team.
Recently I reached out to a few people to see if they wanted to contribute to an eBook to help HR pros, managers, and business leaders learn more about retention. The response was a good one, and today I’m happy to share the free eBook with you. It’s titled “Where do you think you’re going? A guide to employee retention.”
Special thanks to Shauna Moerke for helping me to promote the guide through the HR Carnival channel. I also want to thank the contributors for offering up some great, useful content: Tim Sackett, Heather Vogel, Benjamin McCall, Chris Ferdinandi, Paul Hebert, Laura Schroeder, Dave Ryan, Keith McIlvaine, Robin Schooling, and Stuart at 1.00 FTE. You can find links to each of these contributors’ websites within the guide.
Click here to download Where do you think you’re going? A guide to employee retention