Who Owns Retention? The REAL Employee Turnover Problem

What’s the biggest problem when it comes to employee turnover? No one owns retention! 

At many companies, when turnover rises executives point to HR to fix it – whose plate is already overflowing with terminations, payroll, benefits management, and back-fill recruiting. HR then blames bad managers for running off good people, and the managers push back complaining that executives do not give them enough time or training to manage their people properly.

They all have a point, but this blame game is costing those organizations tons of money!

Stop Focusing on the Symptoms…Find & Fix the Cause! 

After much finger-pointing, associations often come to the conclusion, “We have so much turnover, we need to hire a new recruiter.” Are they kidding? That’s like trying to fix a water main break with duct tape. You may temporarily slow down the deluge, but not for long! If turnover is the problem, then you don’t need to hire someone who’s good at recruiting – they’ll just struggle to fill all the positions that keep unexpectedly being vacated. You need a dedicated retention specialist who will diagnose the core issues, work to resolve them, and maintain a stable workforce moving forward. 

So why is the default next step to invest in more recruiting? Because everyone knows what a recruiter does and which line item that goes under on the P&L.  

Now I assure you, recruiters are great – when you need a recruiter! If turnover is a problem, it is very possible that reworking your recruiting processes might be needed as well. Perhaps you really are hiring the wrong people and/or it is time to revamp the interview process, selection criteria, and applicant communication plan. You may even need to improve your employer brand in your community if you don’t have a positive reputation as an employer in your area. These are all things a good recruiter could handle, but these changes are rarely enough if turnover is rising. 

So if you can get approval for more funding, how about pitching the idea of a retention specialist instead? It’s a tougher sell to get approval from the higher-ups – they’ll wonder what a retention specialist is, complain the role sounds fluffy and become convinced it’s going to add overhead costs that seem unnecessary – but you must fight for it! It’s time to get more resources to fix the real issue. 

What Is a Retention Specialist Exactly? 

More organizations are creating this type of position and the responsibilities certainly vary from company to company, but their primary roles are to determine why people are leaving, and to build relationships and initiatives that extend employee tenure. This often includes, but is not limited to:  

  • conducting and analyzing employee surveys and stay interviews 
  • building staff networks/committees 
  • serving as an employee ambassador who can answer staff questions or listen to feedback 
  • ensuring the onboarding process is welcoming, thorough and incorporates the company culture 
  • determining gaps where additional supervisor/management training is needed coordinating (and possibly conducting) supervisor/management training and development programs 
  • identifying operational/system changes that help adjust to a shorter-term workforce 
  • analyzing compensation, advancement opportunities and scheduling for models that better align with today’s workforce’s needs 
  • implementing recognition and appreciation programs across the organization 
  • ascertaining ways the organization and managers can be more transparent with employees 
  • developing effective staff meeting schedules, agendas, and tools for those leading meetings 
  • crafting organizational messages that instill the company’s mission and core values 

Sounds like a full-time job to me! Who on your current staff has time to do all these things that are needed to reduce unnecessary employee turnover? 

Ready to try a new approach for attracting and retaining today’s new workforce?

One Person Won’t Resolve the Issue – Retention is Everyone’s Job 

While having a dedicated staffer to focus on diagnosing and resolving turnover issues is essential, leaders at all levels must take turnover seriously. Just like customer service, retention should be part of everyone’s job and everyone’s training. Keep in mind, workers today will leave their jobs if they don’t like their immediate supervisor, the leadership team or their coworkers, so encouraging your entire staff to attract and retain talent is critical. 

Is your organization incentivizing peer referrals? Is your company rewarding managers for improved retention within their departments? Or are they setting bonus plans according to the concept of “do more with less,” which is driving away the talent you can’t afford to lose?

Redefining Employee Retention

Embracing a New Approach to Regain Staffing Stability

Become a Champion for Retention 

So where do HR professionals start? Here are a few ways to attack the turnover crisis:  

  1. Create recognition and/or incentive programs for employees who reach certain milestones (after one year, not five!). 
  2. Demand more management training for everyone who has direct reports. 
  3. Make a case for hiring (or becoming) a retention specialist

Same Approach = Same Results 

If the trajectory of your employee turnover is headed in a positive direction, keep doing what you’re doing. But if your retention is getting worse every year, it is time to try a new approach for attracting and retaining today’s new workforce! 

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