The Retention Revolution

retention revolution

The Retention Revolution

main article imageWith Spring in the air, I recently decided this would be a good time to revisit my fitness goals.  So I recently had a long conversation with my trainer about how I could improve my results.  Expecting some tough love about working harder in the gym, the conversation surprised me.  Even though I workout with him 3 days a week, his sage advice had little to do with my cardio routine or weight lifting regimen – it had everything to do with my nutrition.  He explained that the even the best exercise plans are no match for poor nutrition.

In other words, it didn't matter how much harder I worked, if I wasn't willing to work smarter.  Seemed ironic to me that the key to unlocking better health – eating right, sleeping, drinking water, etc- is a heck of a lot easier than my workouts!  And yet, it still had not been a true priority.

That simple but powerful lesson is the same one that  companies around the country are learning with regards to employee retention.  We know we need it, we know it's good for us and yet, it never really seems to get the focus it needs (or deserves)…until now.  That's because much like the healthy eating movement in the U.S., there is a similar one for retention.  The conversation is changing, the priorities are shifting – the retention revolution is here.

Whether you are trying to revolutionize an industry, your bottom line or your waist line, there are two key ingredients: 1. a clearly defined and focused goal; 2. A massive amount of focused action.

Let's look first at the goal of retention.  Every business has turnover.  Every business incurs significant costs (some more than others) as a result of that turnover.  So one would assume, that every business has an interest (a goal) in retaining it's very best talent.  However, much like nutrition, it's something we are all aware of but very few have a clearly defined plan on how to attack it.

For most organizations, it is simply a matter of priorities.  Before committing to a focused plan to improve retention, we have to understand why it is so important.  If you think about it, retention already is a top priority as it is  tied to nearly every key talent management outcome.  From recruiting to compensation and performance management, nearly every talent management function impacts retention.  And it's been shown that better retention dramatically improves: turnover costs, profitability, shareholder value, employee morale, productivity, innovation and more.  So the “why” behind your retention goals should be easy to understand and justify.   By clearly defining and focusing on one retention metric to improve you will see results throughout your organization.

Now that you have your goal, it's time to take action.  Revolutions are not always won because of the sheer numbers of people, they are won because of those people working together.  The retention revolution is a team effort.  One that will require commitment and support from the c-suite executives, strategy from HR leaders and buy-in from the line managers.  Together, these three groups can dramatically impact retention.

Much like the nutrition advice I received, the retention revolution is not just about working harder, it's about working smarter.  Focused activity on the right things.  And much like the realization I came to that the real results came from activities that I could control and that were much easier – the same is true for retention.

Improving retention also requires a new approach.  While surveys felt like the right activity and everyone loved those  special company events – the retention revolution cannot be won without trust.  Helping your managers gain the trust of their teams is critical in this movement.  Using stay interviews, a structured one on one conversation between a manager and their direct reports, will begin cultivating conversations about their “why” and how the manager can help.

By implementing a simple, strategic stay interview program, you will have all of the focused activity you need to create your own retention revolution.  And like eating right, it takes some getting used to but you will soon find it's a lot easier than wat you were doing before and the results will be much better.

So, the retention revolution is not going away.  It's something most companies need, and even better, something everyone one of them can do. It does not require more effort, just the right kind.

If it is time for you to evaluate your retention results, just know the formula for success is not that complicated.  A clearly defined retention goal + consistent stay interviews will get the results you are looking for.  And, by the way, it is a lot easier than sit-ups.