Why HR Needs to Start Worrying About Retention Again

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Yes, 2014 will be the year retention returns to HR.

Retention almost died during the Great Recession. For almost 10 years, HR pros were able to roam the halls of their organization and almost never had to worry about the issue of retention.

There weren’t many jobs. Most people in times of hardship, hunker down and don’t move. It was like a perfect retention storm!

10 things to remember about retention

There are HR Pros who graduated out of HR programs and started their careers in the past five years that have never known a time when retaining your employees was the No. 1 priority!

That is about to change.

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This year, “Retention of Employees” will once again become a major issue that HR will be looked at to solve. Here are some important things to remember when you begin to look at ways to retain your employees:

  1. It’s really easy to do.” That is what your executives think, so you’re in trouble.
  2. You will get blamed for high turnover. Buy a helmet; life sucks that way.
  3. You will blame your crappy managers that you haven’t given any management training to in at least 5-7 years.
  4. You will tell at least half the people in your organization that, “We don’t have a retention problem, we have a compensation problem. You’ll be partially right, but won’t have the competitive data to back it up, so you’ll come across a a whiny victim.
  5. You’ll make at least one infographic trying to explain retention vs. turnover to your executives. It will fail.
  6. At least one executive will come up with the brilliant idea of “Retention Bonuses” and think $1,000 at the end of a year will stop people from wanting to leave your organization. Everyone who stays throughout the year will get a $1,000 bonus but won’t know why they got it.
  7. To combat your inability to retain employees, you’ll blame recruiting for not being able to find talent. This will work until your head of recruiting gets fired and the new head of recruiting comes in and says this one line – “The best recruit is the employee we don’t have to replace.” Again, retention will be on your desk.
  8. Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Instead of recruiting, you now pass off your problem to the training department. Managers will now be forced to go through soft skills leadership classes. You buy yourself six more months of retention not being your problem.
  9. You’ll buy a “new” assessment that claims to increase retention by picking the right people to begin with. You’ll never really find out if this worked or not, because you’ve been changing so many things that no one will really know. But the HR vendor will take credit and you’ll starn in their white paper and get asked to speak at their annual conference!
  10. Retention will still be an issue in 2015, but by then you’ll turn everything you’ve done, and your 7 percent increase in retention, into a new position with a new company in town who has a worst problem than your old company. See No. 1 for your plan with the new company.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


9 Comments on “Why HR Needs to Start Worrying About Retention Again

  1. The fact is talented people will always be restless. If your people don’t leave and if there is no healthy level of turnover then you have a problem not otherwise. And while that’s the scenario HR will have a job, wont they. Let’s for a change talk about retaining customers. May be that will automatically retain employees too.

  2. It falls working HR however is a collaborative effort. Like the article stated, “people don’t leave companies they leave Managers”. There needs to be top down support and a realstic view that there isn’t a one size fits all approach and there is more than one solution needed. But like the commenter below, sustaining your customers will signal a strong and healthy company and less focus on burning the midnight oil to get the dollars or customers and more on value added incentives and programs.

  3. Putting customer-retention aside for a moment (because without customers, you have no business, so obviously you have to retain customers) and focusing purely on employee retention…retention is hard. If you’re hiring smart, talented, ambitious people, it’s likely that some of them will outgrow their roles if their roles don’t grow with them. And that may not be possible, depending on the type of company you’re running and how quickly it’s growing. It’s very expensive to replace a great employee (in time, money, and institutional knowledge), so my belief is that you should try to create an environment to cultivate their growth.

    Getting ahead of the curve means anticipating people’s need to grow and seeing if and where it makes sense for that to happen within your company. Of course, there are times where their interests and desires cannot be achieved within your walls, but as much as possible, I think you should work to support employees’ growth.

    Retention is always going to be an issue in a highly competitive market (I’m in tech, so…yeah) — I believe that focusing on what the company is giving back to employees AND what the employees are giving back to the company helps to create a place where people will want to stay.

  4. Talented people want the ability and the freedom to grow with an organization. Talented people also want to be appreciated for their contributions to an organization, and not just monetary appreciation.

  5. Great Comments – but I tend to believe Retention isn’t hard!!!

    Yeah, I said it!

    All organizations have the same benefit in regards to retention. The fact that most people, a majority, do not and will not leave you! It’s a basic human trait – people don’t like change, and changing jobs is a gigantic change. People stay in bad marriages, bad jobs and other bad situations constantly, and it’s not because they don’t have options. It’s because they fear the new thing might be worse. That’s just good old psychology 101.

    So, we (HR) always has this in their back pocket. You could do nothing in regards to retention, and there is still a great majority of your people who won’t leave.

    Retention isn’t hard because deep down, people want and need to stay at your organization – just stop giving them reasons ‘not’ to stay!

    1. Well, many of those who stay with a crappy company are crappy employees anyway. The good employees will leave when things go bad. Everyone has their limits, it’s just the competitor will know who to swipe from you.

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