How Should We Deal With the Growing Employee Retention Problem?

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: Retention after the recession

Dr. John Sullivan says he gets a lot of questions from business leaders and HR people about employee retention, and if organization’s will have a retention problem, once the recession is finally, completely over.

His answer: “Absolutely. If you look at the data, and there is plenty of research to show (this), if you ask people if they are going to be looking for a job when the job market opens up, literally 30 percent of them say, ‘yes.’ So we’re going to have to be concerned about that.”

One problem, he points out, is that during the recession a lot of retention people got laid off. In fact, many retention departments in companies no longer exist anymore.

Article Continues Below

He also notes that long before people quit, they stop being as productive. This means that a big part of the challenge for organization’s is simply keeping workers productive and motivated, even if they do eventually decide to leave.

Dr. John feels that companies need to prioritize their needs and focus on retaining the very best employees by being proactive and finding out just what it is that needs to be done to keep them happy.

“The ultimate solution to retention,” he says, is doing something about all the bad managers out there — the real core issue in retention. “Until you do s, you are going to (continue) to have a huge retention problem.”

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “Employee Engagement: Nice to Have, But Productivity Should be the Goal.” You can see it here.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “How Should We Deal With the Growing Employee Retention Problem?

  1. While I agree that bad managers are a lot of the problem when it comes to employees quitting, I don’t think that is the only problem.  I’ve written a lot about these topics and there are many different causes and solutions to retention problems, as well as the difficulty in attracting top talent and controlling company brand.  But most of these challenges come down to rebuilding trust.  This recession has created A LOT of mistrust – people don’t trust the government, retirement funds or even the banking industry as a whole, let alone their employer. 

    If a company is working to rebuild trust, the company is then listening to their employees.  Listening creates engagement, which increases productivity, and should also help you to know who is planning to leave.  Even without an algorithm, you can still get a good idea of who will be moving on.  Listening also helps you determine what needs to happen to engage your employees.  All of these things can be part of a retention strategy, even if you don’t have a retention department. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *