Essential HR

It was quick and simple – the incoming CEO moved three key advisory positions to report to the General Manager instead of to herself. Less work for her, but within 6 months all three had left, taking significant knowledge with them and leaving a sizable recruitment headache. Was it good for business? – “no”. Why did it happen? – because the CEO didn’t consider the needs of the individual managers.

With a little consultation and a tweak to the structure, their needs could have been met and the above debacle avoided; yet, regularly in the business world, good individuals are motivated to move because they don’t want to stay! I remain amazed by this, as there are plenty of reasons for companies to bother making a serious attempt at keeping staff working for them for the long haul.

This article is the first in a series designed to make employers more aware of why they should seek to retain staff and how to make that happen. Most businesses understand that any employee attrition will cost, as the intervening recruitment process and loss of productivity can be both time consuming and expensive (estimates are up to the annual salary for the position). However the loss of a key staff member is not just about a monetary figure as it can be a huge blow in other ways:

Staff retention is essential to continued commercial success.

The key to keeping staff is understanding who is important, why they might leave and addressing this … it is not primarily a matter of $s.

So, stop and think about who is really important to your business. Look out for all staff, but plan Retention strategically. Focus on your long term view for your business. Ask yourself: What will happen to your industry? What plans do you have for change? What core skills will you need to achieve this? What skills do you need to be able to continue delivering to current standards? What knowledge is core to your business? And who has or needs to have these knowledge and skills?

These are the key people in your business, these are strategically important. They may be current top performers, future stars for your organisation, or stalwarts (those individuals who hold everyone together and are a source of your core knowledge). These you must look after.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how committed and happy your employees may seem, it is important to put effort into maintaining their satisfaction – particularly where top talent can be poached easily through passive media such as LinkedIn and Facebook, even when your staff aren’t actively searching for something new!

There are many reasons why people might leave an organisation, but it is important to remember that “the largest predictor of whether someone will stay with an organisation is their satisfaction with their immediate boss” (Jay Conger, The Practice of Leadership: Developing the next generation of Leaders). Poor culture, little respect and recognition for efforts, and a lack of communication and clarity are also push factors, as is the level of flexibility offered by employers. As I stated above, it is also critically important to treat people as individuals and help deliver what they need – if you want to keep them.

Better work opportunities and better pay do, of course, still pull people into new jobs and organisations, however people generally stay with security – if they are happy where they are, it takes a lot more to make them move.