Stop Targeting Employee Retention – Do this instead

With the realisation that most products, services and technologies can be copied and even refined over time, the one thing that can give a business its sustainable competitive advantage is its workforce.

And with the high costs and disruption involved in turnovers, approximately equivalent to “six to nine months of an employee’s salary” , Employee Retention remains one of the key HR metrics.

While the retention rate shows the percentage of employees who are still around, it also reveals the turnover rate of the company. However, it does not give any further insights to why employees are staying or leaving, it shows what happened yesterday and does not take into account the larger environment that the company operates in.

A high turnover rate is indeed cause for concern but it does not highlight the problem areas. More importantly, it does not reflect how it impacts the company’s profits and goals.

Not armed with sufficient decision-making information, senior executives are left to guess and so they shift their focus to other issues.

Employee Retention is too late!

Employee Retention implies that employees have an innate intention to leave. Although it is true that employees cannot be at one place forever, early or unnecessary turnover can be prevented.

Focusing on Employee Retention can be likened to putting out a fire. Not only is it reactive, the cause of the fire is unknown so the logical remedy is to spray water frantically. Relying on guesswork, there can be much wastage of limited resources. Just as how fire safety precautions are built right into a building, we need to weave that into the fabric of employment.

All it takes is to treat them right

We learn that “highly engaged organisations have double the rate of success of lower engaged organisations” and engaged employees WANT to come to work. They feel valued, take great pride in their work and feel they have a stake in the company.

In this ideal workforce, absenteeism rate is low, employees are happy and productivity is high. Take Google for instance; in 2016 it is named by Fortune, for seven years in a row, as the world’s best employer.

It may seem like an easy feat for the world’s biggest search engine to offer incredible perks, but not known to many, they started off by offering just free cereal and M&M’s. The key differentiator is that the founders knew how people want to be treated and they treat them that way.

“Google’s exceptional success shows how far a company goes when it celebrates and nurtures its staff, rather than considering them replaceable tools”.  – Elizabeth Matsangou

A Paradigm Shift

Employee Engagement is more than just an employee satisfaction/ happiness survey or merely “feeding the bears”. It is a shift to being people-centric, viewing employees as stakeholders rather than just tools.

It is a disciplined, ongoing process that seeks to improve Employee Engagement – the levels of involvement, commitment and enthusiasm of employees. It starts from the first point of contact with the potential employee and continues right up till the end of the tenure or beyond.

As Andrew Carnegie said, “You must capture the heart of a supremely able man before his brain can do its best”

This is what the Geek Squad dedication looks like. Image credit: Techcrunch


Start right at the beginning

For some companies, employee engagement starts even before they join the company. The process of inducting a new hire into the company, known as Onboarding, seeks to ease the transition into the company’s culture, helps them get up to speed efficiently and engage employees right from the start.

Like Trello, it may include an email with a checklist for the first day, employees’ introductions and even insider stories from the past. For others, it may even take the form of an elaborate process, like Medallia, where new hires embark on a transformational journey of self-discovery and open communication.

The company understands the importance of honest and open communication in a safe environment and more importantly, the company wants to help their employees succeed in whatever they do, wherever they go. Take a leaf from its founder, Amy Pressman as she speaks more on creating the Medallia’s corporate culture here.

Invest in People Development

From the study conducted by Dale Carneige and MSW Research, leadership affects engagement levels on two out of three counts; the immediate supervisor and senior leaders.

There is no doubt that immediate supervisors play the largest role in affecting the levels of involvement, commitment and enthusiasm of an employee. With daily interaction, people sometimes leave a bad manager and not a job.

These are the 10 common ways to lose good employees and the best way to avoid them is to ensure that supervisors are well-trained and supported; so that they will in-turn be in a better position to develop, coach, mentor and nurture their team.

Similarly, it is worth investing in leadership development of senior leaders, who are looked upon for inspiration and for wider company direction and strategies.

DHL Express’ mentoring program sees 60 percent of the mentees advance their careers in the company over a year. Through the mentoring program, employees learn new skills, understand the company’s culture on a larger scale and were able to develop a career path with the company.

A company that is concerned with People Development will foster a strong learning culture. Google invests in people development by allowing employees to use 20 percent of their working time to work on personal projects, outside allocated duties.

By allowing full autonomy to explore and learn, individuals become highly passionate and creative. It is during these times that Gmail, Google Talk and Google News were created.

Keep communication lines open

Keeping communication open is crucial to employee engagement because the only way to know what is important to employees is to listen to what they have to say.

Good leaders stay approachable, provide frequent feedback and recognition, maintain transparency and act with integrity. To be able to give honest feedback in a safe environment will encourage employees to speak up more.

Companies that administer Employee Engagement surveys can go one step further to encourage more feedback and to act on them. Realistic measurements or goals can be built in to ensure that the changes take place.

The Virgin group of companies are known for their listening culture. Listening demonstrates to employees that they are valued and their feedback and opinions are recognised. This encourages employees to innovate continuously – making it a win-win situation where “the organisation keeps on learning and employees feel important and engage with the organisation”.

Build a positive work environment

Employees spend so much time at work that building a positive work environment that is fair, humane, safe and all-inclusive should be a hygiene factor. With the ease of connectivity, some companies introduce flexibility in work arrangements to make work fit into employees’ lives.

Showing recognition and appreciation is another way to infuse positivity into the work environment. A research by New Bersin & Associates Research shows that organisations that excel at Employee recognition are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results.

Companies like SAS, Zappos, GoDaddy, Facebook and Apple have one thing in common; unique perks for employees. From free food to onsite gyms or childcare services, to pet insurance, tuition reimbursement, and even infertility coverage, these people-centric companies take care of their employees’ so that their employees will take care of the company.

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace”

Former Campbell’s Soup CEO, Doug Conant

In today’s stiff competition for talent and business, disengaged employees are like zombies. Make the organisation come alive; stop retaining, start engaging.

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Author: A.LLY

A.LLY is a contributor to the EngageRocket blog. A marketing buff, entrepreneur, mother and coffee addict, A.LLY has a rich background in marketing services, destinations and niche products. She has good business acumen and people relations honed from her personal entrepreneurial journey.

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