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Seven Retention Steps

October 1, 1998
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Related Topics: Retention, Featured Article
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The steps to retaining key employees today have evolved because knowledgable workers have become such a valuable resource. Organizations who succeed in keeping these respected employees will ultimately flourish using principles such as these:

Identify the most valuable resources to retain. In order to control turnover, leaders must first focus on building their pool of top talent. Leaders should determine which people represent the most critical resources for the organization. The first principle of controlling turnover is knowing who the company’s critical human assets are. It’s a fundamental flaw to try focusing on every single employee as if he or she is key.

Drive out myths. Becoming realistic about driving retention is the second principle. There are myths and misconceptions regarding the best ways to keep top employees. Inaccurate explanations abound as to why employees leave organizations. Leaders must sort out fact from fiction, determine the competitive situation within their industry, and deal with the hard reality of their organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Adhere to the new rules to compete for top talent. There are different rules which govern a new generation of employees who have different needs. Playing by the old rules can lead to losing important resources to a competitor that has already dealt with the new reality. Determine what you want and will do to retain top employees and do it consistently in accordance with the new rules.

Develop retention plans. Employers are spending more time and capital to attract resources, but are missing opportunities to keep them. Once you’re sure who your key employees are, recognize that they have different needs. Key employees are more apt to stay with organizations that are interested in their unique situations. Consider what the organization is willing to do to retain each key person, and develop individual plans that tie that person to the organization.

Employ powerful conversations. Best-in-class organizations today are reassessing their HR practices, testing underlying assumptions, and challenging them by talking to key employees and asking them what they want from the organization in the short and long term. Upfront, they ask key employees, "What will it take to keep you motivated, interested and linked?"

Evaluate. Have a powerful conversation strategy with the top third, and then work down. A powerful conversation is one in which the leader can honestly ask an employee, "What do you need and what do you want?" These discussions are best when they’re completely focused on the employee. For the manager, out of this conversation comes a vulnerability report which leads to a plan.

Plan. This final stage is where the leader and the employee reach an agreement on how to approach the needs and wants via a structured plan.

Workforce, October 1998, Vol. 77, No. 10, p. 76.

Recent Articles by Philip J. Harkins

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