Strategising means for employee retention

Strategising means for employee retention


Many students volunteered to render help during the Common Wealth Games that recently concluded in Delhi. The sheer number i.e. 22,000 continues to baffle me. The bafflement stemmed from the fact that these people worked willingly and but, were not paid any significant money and the same people, a few years down the line, will leave well paying jobs.

Why do people stay and why do people leave? Does a person resigning from an organisation matter? A careful observation indicates that it matters like hell! The organisation invests substantial time and money to groom an individual to navigate through the organisation-society and create value by using domain expertise. As such, retaining productive employees is very important and therefore, cannot be left to a chance.

A few years ago, I was asked to develop measures to retain people. My first thought conflict was - should I develop measures to hold back people who have resigned or develop measures where people like staying back? I discussed this with some of my plant engineering colleagues and was prompted that prevention is better than cure. Just to be comprehensive, I focused on why do people stay back as well as why do people leave.

I was not particularly surprised to discover that people stayed back till the organisation cared for them and then left the organisation when it stopped caring for them.
Then the challenge was to identify what people cared about. I remember a particular assignment where we took up a study to discover “what matters”. One recurring concern for people in that organisation (located over 200 kms from a metro) was proximity to home! I asked what did proximity mean - and I was amused to hear that proximity meant 2 kms from the workplace. I refrained from sharing any city-based examples where people travel many more kilometers to get to work.

Most studies focusing on employee retention have established that people care about the following areas which help employee retention:

1.Quality of the selection process: I have heard several managers ask for just hands and legs. Their conviction is that they will be able to provide the brains. What they miss is that heart always comes in with hands and legs. When people sense disconnect with the role, the culture or the immediate senior, they quit. The selection process must assess the cultural fit along with the domain capability as it’s the culture that represents the glue.

2.Building trust: The feeling of being trusted is extremely empowering. A study by one of the world’s leading universities indicated that each one of us likes to be implicitly trusted from the first instant. When a person joins an organisation, he or she joins with complete commitment to create value for the organisation. He or she wants to be trusted and the caring trust communicates respect. Respect generates more respect and strengthens the glue.

3.Clarity and feedback: An organisation structure depicts devolution of roles and responsibilities. Every person in the organisation contributes a part of the whole. A complete clarity of the role ensures higher focus of execution efforts. A supportive feedback enables course correction and helps a person experience success.

4.Degree of independence and interdependence: A component of maturity includes ability to independently decide the way one can contribute. Most people who join organisations are already way into their adulthood; and adults like to be empowered to act instead of being treated like children.

5.Quality of appreciation: All of us like a pat on the back. And, if the pat is visible to the others, it swells people with pride of having made a valuable contribution.  The pat on the back can manifest in a simple word of appreciation, a lump-sum cash bonus (cash or stock awards), an award of a larger responsibility (promotion) or even an inclusion into a select group of people. Incidentally, the remuneration to an individual also forms a part of the appreciation system.

6.Strength of the social bonds: We join organisation-societies to make a difference to those societies. We relate to the people in these societies in many ways. They provide us security, identity, social and emotional anchors and many other relationships. The stronger the people bond, the greater will be the identity of an individual with the organisation.

Several myths float regarding why people remain with the organisation and one of the important ones is money. I have heard that people leave when they feel that their salary is less or lesser than their peers. I have also heard that people run away from responsibilities. But none of these are close to the truth.

A large part of the organisation’s experience comes through the regular interactions with one’s manager.

The manager is always torn between the goals that he or she has to achieve and the relationship that he or she has to develop with his or her teams. An often used shortcut is to focus on goals and hope that the team would “understand”.

A win-win approach that helps the retention of employees is maintaining focus on the organisation’s goals as well as relationships within the team. If the manager adopts an agenda of helping each team member of his or her team experience success, the team as well as the manager succeed.

In addition to helping people experience success, an effort from the organisation to ease the employees’ life by small measures like benefit plans, cooperative plans or facilities like creches and so on enhances the organisation’s glue.

A popular belief is that employee retention measures add costs to the organisation. In reality, most of the retention measures like rigor in the selection process, building trust, ensuring clarity of role and deliverables, ensuring developmental feedback, empower people with capability, and appreciating people for their efforts and contribution cost nothing.

Devising measures for employee retention became fairly simple. A rigorous selection system, a good performance management system, a simple recognition programme, a few initiatives enabling people to bond and have fun and competitive compensation and benefits completed the employee retention program.

Those thousands of volunteers must have been motivated with the chance to make a meaningful contribution to Common Wealth Games which was the nation’s pride. To be a part of this experience, they did not need any money; a feeling of achievement and a word of appreciation proved enough.

(The author is Chief People Officer of Deloitte India. The views expressed herein are his personal views and not that of Deloitte.)

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