This blog post was written in response to the May 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “What will it take to retain the best talent over the next 5 years?”
The problem of retention is not one that I have had much experience with; coming from a unionized hospitality background, we very rarely lost our long-term employees. In the hospitality industry the grass is rarely greener on the other side, as switching companies often means a switch back to night shifts (or short shifts) and a loss of valuable seniority. Retention is one of the areas where an organization can actually benefit from being a unionized environment, as loathe as an organization may be to admit it- but the complicated relationship between unions and employers is certainly a subject for another day.
My new role has certainly found me in an environment where managing retention is more crucial. The most obvious piece (and easiest piece to administer) is the performance of regular salary reviews. The money piece however, while the most obvious (and potentially the most boring to write about), is widely considered to be a little overrated. Employees are seeking more than just a good salary.
Generational shifts are part of the reason why money is not the sole focus any longer. The emergence of a new generation in the workforce is a source of concern for many, at least as far as the articles I’ve read are concerned; the supposed entitlement of my generation (most commonly referred to as Generation Y) is considered to be a major issue that organizations will have to overcome in the future. My generation is known for keeping our job tenure short (2 years, on average, according to this article) and expecting more in terms of feedback and promotional opportunities. Brought up to believe that we can have whatever we want as long as we try, entering a workplace that follows a rigid structure is a rude awakening.
I don’t know if I buy into the whole “entitlement problem” that is said to run so rampant in my generation. Part of my previous job involved supervising a workforce that was primarily the same generation as I was, and I found the majority of my employees to be hard-working and reasonable people. I will say though that when we did run into an employee with an entitlement complex, we really noticed; part of that behavior seems to be a need for attention that translates into a feeling of near-constant interaction with a demanding person, and that wears on management.
If I had to say what I would feel would be the key facets to a retention plan for my generation, I give these three major areas: opportunities for training and development, fair and transparent performance management, and low power distance between us and our bosses. The reasons for these are fairly simple. We want to know where we can potentially go and how we’re doing getting there; we want to be able to bring our concerns, ideas, and questions to our bosses and feel like we’re being heard. I don’t think that these wants are very different from what any other generation has wanted. As people we all want to feel valued, and that’s what we’re really seeking.
If an organization takes retention seriously, then they must see the value in their employees, since they’re trying to keep them. Communicating that value that they’re seeing is crucial to encouraging good employees to stay. Communicating must be done through the managers who deal with the day-to-day training, performance, and interactions in their departments. I guess communication is always that magic bullet.
It Takes More Than Money to Retain You Best Talent by Jessica Lau
How to Keep the BEST Ones! by Carolyn Courage, CHRP
To Retain the Best Talent: Find the Right People, Gauge Engagement, and Consider Velvet Handcuffs by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP