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Driving Engagement and Retention

Retaining retention in good times and bad.

Nothing HR does contributes more to productivity than improving employee engagement and retention. Nothing supersedes the value of getting employees to give their best, and to stay. No administrative task such as making payroll, no hiring task such as filling jobs quickly, no program task such as planning employee appreciation week equals this all-important mission. Nothing.

In fact, retention/turnover, employee engagement and succession planning ranked as the top challenges facing HR, according to a 2015 SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey.
But HR can’t improve engagement and retention alone. Digest this data and see if you agree:

  • Voluntary turnover is spiking and nearing an all-time high.
  • Fewer than one-third of all employees are engaged in their work.
  • Engagement has hardly budged for 15 years, and organizations spend $1.5 billion each year to “fix” it.
  • Executives say in survey after survey that their No. 1 concern is “talent.”
  • HR managers say the top challenge they can’t fix is “employee engagement and retention.”
  • Bersin by Deloitte says everything in people management hinges on … wait for it … engagement and retention.
So why can’t HR do this alone? The answer is something we intuitively know: Employees stay or leave, and engage or disengage, primarily based on their relationships with their managers. And that means their direct supervisor, the one whom they connect with, or don’t connect with, every day.
Scores of studies tell us this. Which managers have the highest turnover? The most openings? The most grievances? The most negative water-cooler chat? Which ones can’t build trust?  In fact, a "jerk boss" could be defined simply as someone who can’t build trust.
So organizations need executives to manage engagement and retention instead of leaving it up to HR.
Don’t make retention issues second-tier. Convince your CEO that engagement and retention are as important as sales and service. Replace those mysterious turnover percentages and engagement scores with dollar values. Trumpet data that shows that HR can’t fix retention, but first-line leaders can. Recommend goals for leaders and build reports that reinforce accountability. Train leaders to conduct stay interviews because they have proved to be effective at raising engagement and retention. Ask leaders to forecast how long employees will stay and who on their team will score highly on the next employee engagement survey.
It’s time for a change. Be prepared to tackle HR’s greatest challenge.
Richard Finnegan, @dick_finnegan on Twitter, is the CEO of C-Suite Analytics, which helps organizations engage and retain their employees. He is the author of the recently published SHRM book: HR’s Greatest Challenge: Driving the C-Suite to Improve Employee Engagement and Retention. His other books include The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention (SHRM, 2012) and Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad: Breakthrough Ideas for Keeping Your Best Workers (Nicholas Brealey/SHRM, 2009).


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