We spend no small amount of money on employee retention. Do we spend the right money on retaining the right employees?? Hmmm, I wonder…

Employee retention, the RIGHT employee retention, is a significant issue for businesses today.

Retention is personal; there are some things we can do to create a generally favorable environment, but that’s a small piece of the big puzzle.

You know how to retain key employees?? You ASK them what it takes to keep them. This isn’t rocket science, though we sometimes try to make it as difficult as possible.

Now, most managers would prefer it not be so ‘personal,’ since that brings them in close with employees, and puts them – as managers – squarely in the bulls-eye if the retention efforts don’t work out.

Sure, there are some foundational things we can do; Frederick Herzberg called them “Hygiene Factors.” [Shameless commercial plug: I identify these “Input Assumptions” in my Performance Triangle model] Acceptable compensation and benefits, a safe work environment, generally free from harassment, etc. All these are necessary, but simple. They aren’t, however, “satisfiers.” They merely remove the “DIS-satisfiers.” Not nearly the same thing, but significant nonetheless.

I sincerely believe that key-person retention and development should be a significant part of every manager’s accountabilities, and a central component of his or her incentive program. Succession plans are neat; employee and managerial development programs are great. All of these initiatives, of course, hinge on us KEEPING those employees. It’s time to take retention seriously.

Also interestingly, I have two clients who have retained me to find quality engineering and process-consulting professionals. These have become challenging searches, to say the least. Finding “bodies” is simple; online postings, a few databases, and you’re there. Finding QUALITY candidates, however, who can add value to these organizations, has become incredibly difficult.

Where did they go? 6-7 years ago, we couldn’t find technical talent, since it was all absorbed. 5 years ago, there was a glut. Today, there’s a shortage… did they all change fields? I suspect they are still there, just not as open to discuss leaving an organization that has hired and been good to them – much different than the “free agent” thinking that brought chaos to hiring in the late 1990’s and 2000.

Curiously, the things that retain workers today – development, skill enhancement, advancement opportunities – are those things that can create the vacuum necessary for an organization to get those workers to consider their opportunities.

Keep an eye on your workers, and develop necessary plans to keep them. Someone else — your competitors, likely — are looking at them as a potential trained talent pool…

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