The Secret to Employee Retention

What is the one thing that employees hate more than anything else?


Bar none, ‘change’ would rank as the most disliked thing that a company can do to employees.  I know, I know, all of you reading this are progressive and you ‘love’ change, you embrace ‘change’, you’re ‘change’ advocates.  Yeah, right.

The people who say they ’embrace’ change are the same folks who go into a deep depression when their favorite TV show is cancelled.  Change for most people sucks.  People like what they know.

They like knowing that they’ll stop at the same place each morning to pick up their morning coffee and Joe behind the counter will know they like it with low fat milk and one sugar.  They like knowing that the doctor they’ve gone to since they started with you right out of college is in your insurance plan, and they can keep going to that doctor.  They like knowing that their check will always be deposited into their bank account on the first and third Friday of each month. No. Matter. What.

That is the secret of Employee Retention.

People, your employees, don’t actually want to leave your employment.  Starting a new job, in a new location, working a new boss, etc., Sucks!  It’s major change!  Your employees want to stay with you, they just don’t want their job and the company to suck.  So, you Change!  And change causes them to what?  Ugh…this is hard.

So, how do you keep your employees, without changing?

Most change fails because of the communication.  This is especially true in so many HR shops, where we tend to overcommunicate and over complicate minor changes, with major communications!

We are implementing a new payroll system that will save us time and money, but in doing so checks will now be deposited on the second and fourth Friday of each month.  OMG!  Our employees are going to freak out, they are used to the first and third Friday!  This. Is. A. Major. Change.  We need a committee.  We need posters and wallet cards.  We need changes to our policies.  We need to have a six month transition period where we will communicate this over and over.  We need…Stop.

What you need is a simple message out to the troops.  Hey all, payroll is getting a great new system.  We’ll have less errors, save the company a bunch of money.  We’re happy we could get them some really good technology for their function.  Checks will now come out on the second and fourth Friday of each month. Plan accordingly.  Let your supervisor know if you need some help in this transition. This will go live next pay period.  Bam!

People don’t like change.  So, don’t maximize change that doesn’t need to be maximized!   If you only communicated truly “Big” change and “Big” change happens rarely, it doesn’t seem like change is happening all the time.  Your employees WANT to stay with you.  They HATE change.  Stop making them feel like change is happening all the time, just so you feel like you have some IMPORTANT to do.

Employee Retention is Easy, simply because deep down, your employees really don’t want to leave.


3 thoughts on “The Secret to Employee Retention

  1. first of all, the very notion of ‘retention’ is wasted energy. the best way to manage retention is to stop worrying about it. retention (and turnover) is an outcome of so many things – from the moment one first encounters your organization and everyone in it to the moment they’ve finally had enough. it’s about everything they experience along the way. no, most people don’t love change. but many people would rather have it than not. and i strongly believe the emerging workforce is far more comfortable making a leap (with a lot of ensuing change) if it means finding an experience that will be more meaningful…purposeful. the tides are shifting – particularly in industries which depend upon highly-trained, intellectually astute, and emotionally-intelligent people (read: most industries). people start with the default that i’m leaving here in one or two years if you don’t provide me a customized experience i can’t get elsewhere. because if you can’t, your job is nothing more than a commodity to them.

  2. Ironically, HR tends to UNDER-communicate major changes (launching pay for performance, benefit plan design, etc.).

  3. Tim, change is not nearly as problematic as ineffective managers. If we want successful employees, then we need to start by hiring effective managers and executives.

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