The answer, of course, was to learn and incorporate effective retention strategies at all levels of management. But Cellular One wanted more than dime-a-dozen management theories. For real-world solutions, the firm turned to Integral Training Systems Inc., a Behavioral Technology partner. Its "Retaining Top Talent" program focused on the day-to-day realities that theories sometimes neglect, and also emphasized the Cellular One corporate culture.
"They had practical tools," King says, "and they customized them for us using our data." As a result, the data and examples are truly relevant to Cellular One.
Behavioral Technology takes several approaches to retention.
Retaining Top Talent incorporates a workshop, self-assessment and action-plan development. The workshop discusses retention strategies using examples and attrition data from Cellular One and from the industry to give managers more tools to enhance retention, followed by a managerial self-assessment and the development of retention plans for specific employees. The goal was to move from the short-term solution of raises and bonuses, to a long-term solution that addresses the causes of attrition.
The program is mandatory training at Cellular One.
Before offering the course to all managers, Cellular One and Integral Training Systems ran a pilot project involving some vice presidents, directors and managers. "Everyone, to a person, said the workshop was practical and should be conducted for other managers," King says. Now it's part of the company's mandatory training. The presence and commitment of senior managers was invaluable in assuring the program's success, King says. That commitment has continued. Vice presidents routinely attend the workshop with their departments and review each manager's action plan.
That attention is worthwhile. King says retention figures for 1999 are 15 percent higher than for 1998 for information services employees, and 4.1 percent higher for finance employees. "Since the program started in 1996, we've seen a real shift in why people leave," she adds. In 1997, the top three reasons for leaving, in order, were relocation and personal reasons, higher salaries and lack of opportunity. One year later, in 1998, the top three causes of attrition were career changes, relocation and a perceived lack of opportunities, although the latter declined by 7 percent. Notably, salary issues were no longer among the key concerns.
These changes occurred because, since the training, "Managers think ahead now when it comes to retaining people," King says. Since attending the program, the sales division has created a career development program for each position, a skills matrix and a listing of educational opportunities to help each sales associate develop a personal career development plan. Results like that, King says, "show we're more committed to employee growth."