5 Steps to Help You Trim Your Turnover

Hiring and developing great employees is only half the battle—now you’ve got to keep them.

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With the talent wars raging once again, employee retention and turnover is the top focus for HR professionals, who, in a recent survey by Society of Human Resource Management, said it was the biggest challenge their companies face today. Corporate leaders increasingly are finding that the old methods of engagement don’t work for today’s diverse workforce, whose members seek not only competitive pay but also flexibility, recognition, mentorship, a sense of purpose and a clear path to their next job. When they don’t get those, they tend to walk.

The best employers are experimenting with a host of new tools for engaging their best employees. Here are a few best practices gleaned from the field.

1. Kill the annual performance review. The time-honored tradition of getting together with direct reports in a closed-door session to reveal strengths, weaknesses and the year’s compensation numbers is a fail, says Mike Preston, chief talent officer at Deloitte, noting that it keeps the focus on remediating past behavior rather than focusing on the future career of that employee and on what will energize him or her to want to do better.

“The No. 1 complaint Millennials have is they’re unprepared for their roles as managers. They’re moved into roles too quickly, but they’re not prepared and are not as successful as a result.”

Millennials have “grown up in a culture of transparency, in a world where you can get online and see what people think about everything, good, bad or indifferent,” says Erika Anderson, founding partner of coaching firm Proteus International and author of Leading so People Will Follow and Growing Great Employees. They want the same transparency at work, she says.

2. Engage and evaluate at the team level. For those who thought simply increasing the frequency of performance reviews might be the answer, Marcus Buckingham, founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company, a global provider of engagement and performance solutions offers a resounding negative. “The first problem isn’t frequency; it’s who the heck is this for?”

Buckingham believes engagement begins at the team level and that assessment should be driven by team leaders, not by central HR or even the C-suite. What employees want isn’t feedback necessarily, adds Buckingham, but coaching and steering in the right direction. “Think about what people yearn for—positive attention that helps me get better. That’s a 180-degree flip from these ranking systems.”

3. Develop your best people—and recognize them. Upward mobility has always been a key draw, but today employees want to see specifically where they might track upward from their current roles, and what sort of training and development they’ll receive to get there. Too often, the support to progress is lacking, creating a frustrating experience for Milliennials, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of consultancy Millennial Branding and partner and research director at Future Workplace, an executive development firm. “The No. 1 complaint Millennials have is they’re unprepared for their roles as managers. They’re moved into roles too quickly, but they’re not prepared and are not as successful as a result.”

Employees all want to be recognized for a job well done. The more tightly the recognition is tied to the company’s mission, the better the retention, according to a 2015 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

4. Hire the right people. As many experts will agree, a good share of retention problems begin with hires that weren’t good fits for the company culture or for the role. Bryan Kennedy, CEO of Epsilon/Conversant reports that being much more intentional about college recruiting has led to a 75 percent retention rate after five years for employees hired out of college. Mike Wachholz, president of workforce solutions provider Pontoon, adds that hiring the right people and onboarding successfully should apply to contract and temp workers as well.

5. Know what you’re trying to accomplish. Before investing in any new systems or technology aimed at better retention, CEOs should first determine the ultimate goals, says Linda Brenner, co-founder and managing partner of Talent Growth Advisors. Having a retention strategy that’s too broad or general, and one that groups people together by title, say, rather than by role, can jeopardize your efforts to hold onto your best people.

This article was adapted from one that appeared in the September/October issue of Chief Executive magazine.

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