Where Does Retention Start?

The biggest thing in HR and TA in 2016 will be retaining your employees. Not just top talent, but that middle of the road, shows up every day, glue type talent.  Retention is a concept that most HR and TA pros haven’t had to worry about this for a long time, but it’s quickly the hottest issue facing most organizations.

My question is, where does retention start?

My friend Laurie Ruettimann and Dawn Burke talked about this on Dawn’s FOT Videocast ‘No Scrubs‘ earlier this month. Laurie’s opinion is that retention starts at the Orientation. Solid theory for sure. You want to catch them day one and start retaining them from the start.

What Laurie knows, is that most organizations don’t start retaining employees until it’s too late. You know, when you find out that the person is out interviewing with your competition! Or when you find their resume on CareerBuilder, or see that they recently updated their LI profile, or when they turn in their two weeks notice!

I tend to believe that retention, at its core, starts with selection.  Hire people who actually want to work for your company, and crazy as it sounds, they tend to stay around longer!  Most turnover happens because of poor organizational, or positional, fit. Hire people who have a strong desire to work for your company, specifically, and retention tends to take care of itself.

So, if retention starts so early, regardless if Laurie or I are correct, why do organizations still wait so long to address it?

I think organizations are still under the belief that employees leave organizations because they hate their boss.  We’ve allowed this thought to percolate for a decade and its now become fact.  This is one small aspect of turnover, but I tend to believe now that most employees expect and deal with bad bosses fairly well.

The problem with focusing retention efforts so late in the process is that it’s, well, too little, too late!

Another piece to this retention dilemma is that HR doesn’t really believe they own it, and I tend to agree with this theory. The reality is the direct supervisor should have a better handle on retention. It should be a measure that all first-line leaders are held accountable to. Therein lies the real problem. We all take some responsibility for retention, but no ownership!

It’s the classic house on fire analogy. One person sees a house on fire and they do all they can to help. Ten people see a house on fire, and they all watch, believing someone else will do something about it. Your organizational retention is a house fire. To stop it, one person, one group needs to own it, measure it, make it public, ensure everyone sees the fire burning.

I’m not sure, exactly, when retention starts, but I always know how it will end.  With you posting a job and refilling a position, you already had filled…

4 thoughts on “Where Does Retention Start?

  1. I was placed through campus selection in one of the software joints in India which was doing fairly good.I was not from software background so was depending on training from their end. The training lasted for 1 and a half month and it just gave me briefs about different domains that I was suppose to know post which I was sent for on-job training which meant I was to learn from real projects that were going on.
    From the beginning itself they didn’t pay much attention on my training.Even though i was hard working ,I couldn’t gain much post which i was given a project on the technology which I had no knowledge of. I had to do a lot of learning on my own and I was always depressed with fear of under performance which was a serious blow to me as I have always been a good student. Within 6 months of joining,I was looking for other alternatives.
    Identifying skill gap and working towards reducing skill gap is very important for retention.If you cant motivate the employees and train them to be fruitful you are always at threat of loosing resources who under proper training would have done wonders for the company.

  2. I don’t think most companies understand how important this is. I started a new job 3 months ago and I was quite excited about it. I’m very good at what I do and was eager to challenge myself in the new position.

    The problem is they basically forgot about me for the first month. I did little grunt work things here and there, but mostly I was totally on my own. I would ask questions or ask for work and get insults in return.

    Needless to say, I’m already deep into a new job search after only 3 months on the job. I tried talking to them about the ignoring/insults culture and was told I’m too nice and “need to start being more of a jerk.” I feel like a heel for having one foot out the door already since they can’t afford to hire someone and have them leave, but I can’t stay here, either.

    I feel like retention starts in the interview. Employers need to be honest. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “we only hire people who can give and take extremely personal insults.” Also, be honest about the hours and holidays.

    I agree it’s not an HR thing.

  3. Ah – the seriously concerning “bystander effect.” It’s amazing how people’s natural reaction to fires, whether literal or metaphorical, is to do nothing. In the case of talent retention, it can be a costly mistake.

    Also, I love how you say “hire people who genuinely want to work for your company.” I don’t know if you know this but I actually interned at Ultimate Software (I kept the name consistent… see? 😉 ) over the summer. I was supposed to join an MBA program full time. On the last day of my internship, I was so sad and thought “why am I leaving?” People who feel like they “belong” somewhere, as cheesy as that sounds, are more likely to stay – even if they hadn’t planned on it!

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.