I was reading a new study stating compensation is not the main deciding factor in choosing employment for most of us these days. Although not breaking news, this topic is becoming more important to us now as we’re realizing and watching talented individuals change jobs like they’re changing socks. And I’m not just talking about Gen Y or Millennial talent, I’m talking about all generations. Social media, job boards and even simple social gatherings produce endless opportunities for a person to get a new job, as my neighbor just did last month. He told me he was unhappy with his role at his current company (Fortune 500) and the next thing I know, he’s got a new position with a new company, and a Start-Up company at that. Wow, this man left his stable, steady (and I thought easy) job to take a chance with an unproven, new company. And if that’s not enough, the man is in his late forties. What’s going on? Did I miss something or did that just happen?
Now, we’ve all talked about turnover in the past, how costly turnover is, how disruptive turnover is, etc. Although we may not have even come close to solving the problem outright, we did have one heckuva discussion and study session about it! Yet turnover is still at unacceptable levels. I would say now is the time to take action to do everything you can to minimize turnover to the best of your abilities or you may be on those job boards too, only as an active candidate instead of a passive candidate.
Assuming you’ve done your homework with the compensation and benefits package, let’s take a look at some basic, easy and affordable methods to start minimizing turnover and actually implement a plan to stop this costly giant, or at least slow it down to a minimum.
1. Start with your job descriptions. This sounds simple at first and you’re thinking, “Really, this is the advice I’m reading?” YES! Start with your job descriptions. Some companies have none! NONE! While other companies may have some on Word docs saved somewhere on their desktop. Start with basic but real job descriptions and then refer to them when you’re hiring a new person. Visit with the hiring managers and get a real idea of the job. As you’re visiting with the supervisor, make sure these are the tasks of the job every day. Nothing in the world will frustrate star talent more than offering that individual a position only to be tasked with something completely different on the first day, week or even longer. I’ve seen this first hand and not that long ago; she quit, and she quit quickly. Develop your job descriptions and house them in your ATS, HRIS or Payroll system so you can adjust and edit them as needed. Once you have real job descriptions, you can then get with the hiring manager and develop performance profiles to use to advertise, onboard and ultimately use as your first years’ performance objectives. This provides clear expectations and consistency for both supervisor and employee.
2. Provide stretch, add responsibility. Once your new hire has been properly onboarded he or she should be able to start work immediately and after time ask for more responsibility. This is normal, especially if we’re talking about star talent. Most talented individuals figure out the job relatively fast and look for ways to improve the functions of the job or ask for more work. Let them have it or listen to their ideas. By closing the door on creative thinking or added work you could be signaling your talented individual that it’s time to go. Once a star employee decides that there is no room for improvement, no dialogue for creativity, adding value as an employee or advancement down the road, he or she is most liking going straight back to the job board in which you found them. If you want to keep the best talent around, make sure you have enough flexibility and creativity yourself to keep your talented employees engaged. You don’t have to agree with or cave to every idea or request for added responsibility but you do have to give and take, or as I mentioned, be flexible and creative.
3. Let them have the carrot or don’t even hold a carrot. Advancement is huge to most people and not such a big deal to others. I can’t really pin advancement to star talent because most employees, hard working or not, are interested in advancement. I think more so because of social status than compensation but that idea could be argued another time. I don’t agree with the carrot on the stick but some environments depend on that type of motivation for sales and profits. If you’re going to hold the carrot on the stick, let the best catch it. We all know the best employees aren’t always good, or even decent, managers but if you’re going to use that as motivation and he or she has earned it, let them have it. I would definitely advise them that the next role is seriously different and if it’s not a good fit, he or she is welcome to go back to the role in which they were first hired for. But if no one is ever advanced to management while the stick is out there every day, most talented individuals will leave as soon as they figure out your trick. We can also agree that some promoted individuals do very well at the next level which is a huge motivator to rest of the team. However, you can probably spot the employees that will not be a very good fit for management and that is when you need to put the carrot down. Simply discuss this with the individual. Some individuals will accept this and others will not. If you can identify those that will not, try to add a different dimension to his or her role be that specialization, permanent status or even unique recognition. Intrinsic compensation is untouchable to most of us and again, this paragraph is not limited to star talent but includes a big part of your workforce.
4. Manage your managers. I’ve preached this forever and won’t stop now. If you are in charge of the workforce, you’re in charge of the managers too. They just don’t have to know it. Besides developing and maintaining managerial training and leadership skills, you also have to watch for those managers with the highest percentage of turnover. You then need to investigate why he or she has more turnover than the rest of the company. Is this manager asking his or her employees to complete daily tasks per the job description or performance profile? Is this manager allowing for creativity or added responsibility? Is this manger promoting from within the right individuals that will perform better and increase the company’s ROI? And lastly, is there another employee in this department that seems to bully or discourage your new hires? These things are tough to know unless you put on your detective hat and find out. I know there are many different hats to where in HR but this is just another hat to add to your collection.
Attracting and hiring talent, especially talent that fits your company’s culture, is tough to do. The best ATS in the world can offer you many tools to help but the task is not easy and the decision is ultimately yours to live with. The tougher challenge is then to retain these individuals. I won’t sit here and say that onboard and performance management applications are the only keys to success, although they can play a significant role in helping your retention efforts, given they are implemented and used properly. Retaining the best talent will also take time and effort on your part as well as the supervisors they work for. Clear job expectations, creativity, advancement and a unique blend of leadership plus genuine care for your employees will go a long way in making it hard for a star employee to start the process of looking for a new company to work for. Human Resources is charged with multiple tasks and each one requires a certain level of devotion but turnover can make or break a company quickly in today’s fast-paced environment so I would focus on hiring and retaining talented, happy employees first, then worry about the other fires you need to put out.