How’s Your Employee Retentionship Going?

 In Company Culture/People At Work, HR Tools

How's Your Retentionship Going?I have to admit, I feel somewhat vindicated.

For months I have been observing an increase in a rather counterintuitive phenomenon: top-notch management people leaving their jobs in the midst of the worst recession in 60+ years.

Pshaw you say. After rounds of firings (including middle management and C-level business leaders) employees who actually keep their jobs work that much harder. It just makes sense, right? Well, maybe not.

Researching my theory has turned out to be a little easier than I thought. Out in the expert HR blogosphere there seems to be consensus that the carefully crafted corporate strategies for responding to recession are the same strategies that spell trouble for employee retention. Companies under pressure to retain market share will tend to downsize keeping only those employees deemed absolutely necessary to maintain normal business operations. But the wave of resignations that frequently starts immediately following the downsizing upsets the intended balance the downsizing was supposed to achieve.

Surprise! Turns out people are really not so grateful for keeping their jobs if that means that they are reassigned their former co-workers’ responsibilities, especially managers who often find their teams decimated. And many managers are on performance-based packages, which makes the situation even worse.

In his fascinating article “Retaining During a Recession: Is It A Problem?” international industry consultant and blogger Gabor Holch takes this one step further; “The catch is that most HR experts I talked to agree: it is the best that leave firstif you are smart, have good connections and your boat is rocking, this is the time to hop over to a boat that is not rocking so hardand those companies that have the cash can have the best people their competitors shed even cheaper now thanks to the recessionary mood.”

A couple months ago Michael Page International published an interesting bit of research on why employees leave their jobs. This research revealed that 36% of employers surveyed thought that “more money” was the major reason people left their organizations. However, 46% of the employees surveyed in the same study reported leaving their positions for “career advancement”! This is a pretty clear disconnect. In yet another survey conducted by Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, high-performance employees reported the most frequent reason for leaving their positions was not feeling “valued, engaged or appreciated.” This is another disconnect that comes with a high price tag for employers.

So what’s an HR manager to do? I think it’s time we all recognized that a lack of loyalty and connection to an organization results when people feel un-engaged, under-valued and misunderstood, and this is truer for top-performers than it is for any other class of employee. The good news is that creating a retention-focused workplace is the Human Resource function at its very best.

5 Ways To Create More Engaged Employees

There are a number of ways to create more satisfied, engaged management employees. Here are 5 that I have adapted from Greg Smith’s book Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Transforming Your Workforce From High-Turnover to High Retention:

    1. Never demand that one person do the jobs of two or more people resulting in consistently longer days and weekend work. Avoid long-term, pervasive invasion of personal / family time.
    2. Don’t cut back on administrative staff to the degree that professionals find themselves spending their time copying, stapling collating and filing. Respect the experience and professional level of your management staff.
    3. Play the wage and promotion freeze card as little as possible. Remember, your best employees can jump to another boat. Don’t take employee loyalty for granted.
    4. Ensure that goals are clear. Work rejected outright based on unclear or constantly changing objectives is a real motivation killer.
    5. Don’t sleep with Sun Tzu while preaching the Dalai Lama. Take a hard look at your organizational structure and management model. Are you working within an internally competitive, rigid departmental structure while you are preaching teamwork and cooperation?

At this point (if you’re still with me) you probably think I’ve gone a bit off my rocker. I mean, what is the president of a career network doing trying to convince his clients that they should find ways to retain their current employees? Well, the fact is I learned many years ago that the stronger your employment brand, the easier my job actually becomes. I can interest top-notch passive candidates in your organization much more easily, and I can generate a lot more networking activity in the web-based social space for clients whose organizations know how to attract and retain the best people.

It’s important to realize that you really don’t own your employment brand. That brand identity is comprised of the collective experiences people have had when engaging with your brand at all levels- as customers, business partners and of course, employees. Empowered, engaged employees are brand ambassadors, representing your company both online and off, and they have the power to add value to the company or not.

Kevin Wheeler recently pointed out in Using Career Sites to Create A Positive Candidate Experience, that smart retention strategies begin in the recruitment process and “A positive candidate experience directly translates into more referrals, more hires and better quality candidates.” According to Wheeler, online encounters on blogs, social networks and in other Web 2.0 spaces can serve your company’s bottom line well.

At CPGjobs we increasingly find ourselves using the professional social networking space on behalf of our clients to find high-quality, well-connected CPG professionals that can help build candidate pipelines and connect our clients with pivotal “influencers” within their respective communities. Combined with our People Search product we’re finding that this approach works extremely well for clients that are actively engaged in employment branding initiatives, need to fill specific positions immediately and/or create a community of professionals within specific CPG specialties and classes of trade.

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