Keep The Best, Churn the Rest:
-- Retention comes back in vogue...
The times, they are a-changin'...
It seems just yesterday that recruitment and retention were afterthoughts; we've enjoyed something of a buyer's market in many industries for at least a few years. Not all industries, of course, and certainly not all positions in any industry. But by and large, recruiting--and retention--has been a bit easier since, say, 2008 or 2009, compared to times prior.
For many of us, though, that fun has passed; the tides have changed; that train has left the station. Now, we're thinking, how can we find folks who can substantially change our business (you know, the really good ones), and when we get 'em, how do we keep 'em??
Most executives hear “retention plan,” they immediately think “stay" bonus. And to be sure, those bonuses could very well be a real part of most retention plans.
A well-thought retention plan, however, is much more than simply “money.”
During the sorts of times mentioned above -- the times that drive the thinking behind retention plans -- it’s easy to look to those who have done so much up to now, and convince yourself that a reward is in order. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but a retention plan isn’t the way to go about it.
A retention plan should never be used to reward prior performance, no matter how good, great, or even sheer genius the performance in question. The singular purpose of a retention plan should be to ensure retention of those employees critical for the future success of the organization, both during and after the retention period.
So, what exactly is a retention plan? Think 3 things:
- Employee Development, and
- Bonus Compensation.
For communications, think open, relevant, and frequent. Err on over-communicating, and frankly answer all relevant questions;
Employee Development is part of the future promise of “things to come,” that will provide future leverage; and
Bonus Compensation is just that--a cash “carrot” paid out in such a manner as to be worthwhile to both the employee and the organization.
Retention plans can be critical for future success--but they aren’t simply a promise of payment to a large group of people. Think through carefully what you need, and implement a plan accordingly.
Over 80% of your employees will be looking for other employment in a good market. You're not going to stop them from looking--well-executed retention plans can prevent some of them from leaving. It stands to reason, then, that even with the most well-intentioned efforts, you won’t be able to keep them all.
So, would you rather keep the key employees, the high-potentials and “A” players, or would you prefer to hold on to those mediocre walking zombies who always manage to do just enough at work to keep from losing their job??
No, that’s not a trick question. Think about it... with whom do you spend the most time today? Mentoring, coaching, and motivating your “A” team, or fixing, scolding, prompting and wondering about your lower “B” and “C” players?
Two words: STOP IT. Six more words: Keep the best, churn the rest. I know, it sounds like blasphemy today to even suggest that we aren't diligently trying to keep everyone. But in reality, you aren't, so Stop It! See Bob Newhart video, for clarification. Watch it, it's worth the six minutes. Sometimes, the very best advice I can give my clients is Stop It!
In today’s environment, few of us have the time, resources and wherewithal to coach and mentor a staff of professionals “from scratch;” they need to bring something to the table to begin with. It’s like living on an island and looking for something... to quote a movie line, "it’s an island, baby; if you didn’t bring it here, you won’t find it here."
Work on--spend the time, effort and money--those things that could otherwise cause high-potential, key employees to leave. In the process, you’ll also be keeping the upper fringes of those “B” and “C” players who may be demonstrating some future value.
What about the “rest?” God bless ‘em and good luck. The positive part about mediocre or subpar performers, is they just aren’t that hard to replace. Let them stay, if their work continues to be at least minimally satisfactory, but don’t spend money, time, and undue efforts to keep them, and don’t regret their departure. Keep “churning” those semi-performers, and continue improving your quality of replacement hires.
In other words, when given the opportunity, upgrade. Do it constantly and consistently. Spend your effort and money where it matters.
But that's just me...