Employee Retention

By: Les McKeown

If you and your managers are doing your job right, you will be having regular 'one-on-one's with your key performers, part of which will cover their general job satisfaction and overall 'engagement' with the organization.

Sometimes however, general busy-ness, or simply a lack of understanding of how to have such a conversation, means that managers fail to have such discussions, leading to the type of unpleasant surprise that no-one likes to get.

Sidebar: It's often the very lack of such conversations between a manager and employee that builds (or at least stokes) the very frustration that ultimately causes the key performer to leave -- a real case of a 'double whammy'.

Here's How To Stop The Surprises

Use this simple Employee Retention Risk Analysis ("ERRA") process to help prompt your managers to regularly assess the 'retention risk' of key performers, and report back to you regularly - I suggest you get them to complete this at least quarterly.

An important secondary benefit of completing this exercise is that it gives a structured environment for your managers to actually have this conversation with you -- you'd be surprised the number of senior executives who believe their 'open-door' policy means that managers will come in and talk about matters such as retention risk of key employees.

The reality is that often they do not -- again, either through busy-ness, or just not knowing how to breach the topic in the first instance.

Adopt this form and process -- make it your own -- and proactively prevent the loss of key performers in your organization, department, division or team.

Step 1: Rank Your Key Employees

The first step in the Retention Risk Analysis is pretty simple -- the manager ranks the individual according to two criteria -- their ability to get results, and their overall integration -- sense of 'fit' -- in the organization as a whole.

(Note that we're not asking for granular data here -- just an overall sense of where the employee fits overall.)

The easiest way to do this is to draw a simple '2 x 2' diagram, with the vertical axis representing the employee's results (low at the bottom, high at the top), and the horizontal axis representing their overall integration into the organization - low integration at the left, high integration to the right.

&bullQuadrant 1

Employees in Quadrant 1 (low results / low integration) are clearly in need of some form of intervention if they are to become productive team members.

By completing the assessment above, you and their manager may come to the conclusion that little can be done to help a person in this quadrant, and you may start making alternative plans.

&bullQuadrants 2 and 3

Employees in Quadrants 2 and 3 are those where we have a decision to make -- they either perform well but don't align with the rest of the organization (Quadrant 2), or they fit in very well, but aren't producing the results (Quadrant 3).

&bullQuadrant 4

'Quadrant 4' employees are our stars -- high performers who also align very well with our culture and goals. This is the area where we need to be most sensitive to retention risk.

It's important that you and the employee's manager take a realistic view of the retention risk of star performers and assess the steps necessary to ensure their retention.

You might even want to involve the employee themselves in the completion of this part of the ERRA form -- nothing says you care more than consultation about their future with the organization.

Step 2: Estimate The Retention Risk

Finally, have the managers complete a quarterly risk assessment, estimating the risk of losing key employees on a 1-10 scale (or any other scale you're comfortable with).

Next, map the 'high-retention-risk' employees to the quadrants on your '2 X 2'. Are any of the high-retention-risk employees also in Quadrant 4 ('Stars')? If so, it's time to develop a specific retention rescue plan, customized to exactly that employee.

What about Quadrants 2 and 3? Any high-retention-risk employees there? If so, can we use tools such as mentoring or coaching to improve their performance, or their integration, as appropriate?

Conclusion: Use the ERRA Process To Avoid Unplanned Loss of Key Employees

Sure, it's subjective, but guess what -- you and your manager's 'feel' for the retention risk of individuals will greatly improve just by doing this exercise, and you'll have much richer discussions about each employee as a result.

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