Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to retain Employees

The biggest challenge faced by an organization today is not one of growth or profitability. Rather, it is about retaining one’s best employees. For a qualified professional these days, there is no dearth of jobs. He only needs to send out feelers before he’s flooded with offers. This allows him to operate from a vantage position, imposing his terms on an organisation and negotiating a lucrative deal. No wonder every Human Resources manager has recurring nightmares about an employees’ movement.

But let us delve further. Let’s look at the different types of employees that work in an organisation. Essentially, there are three:

Attached: They are motivated individuals with a strong sense of belonging. They are the prime movers in an organisation, responsible for its growth and progress.

Not Attached: They are mechanical workers. They simply do as they are told and don’t exercise their imagination in any way. Their contribution to the organisation is only in terms of the time they spend working.

Detached: They are individuals with a negative mindset. They are unhappy most of the times and spread gloom in the workplace. This adversely affects the performance of other employees.

The first task of management is to identify ‘detached’ employees and motivate them to become ‘attached’. If this fails, then the management would do well to get rid of them. The age-old maxim ‘one rotten apple spoils the entire basket’ is perfectly applicable here. The next step should be to focus on the ‘not attached’ employees and try and increase their attachment levels. Only after these conversions have been carried out successfully should the management shift its focus on ‘attached’ employees and think of ways of retaining them.

Selection of candidates: It is best to nip the evil in the bud. Hiring managers should take pains to hire candidates who have a positive outlook on life and work. A proper background check should be carried out prior to selection. This could be a tedious affair and even expensive, but it’s definitely worthwhile in the long run. During the interview, a Hiring manager should be open and frank with a prospective employee when discussing scope of work, compensation, growth prospects, and other information which could be of interest to the candidate. Driven by targets themselves, a lot of Hiring managers withhold important information from the candidate. This could easily escalate into something serious later on, where an employee feels cheated and either quits the company or turns detached.

Adequate Compensation: Money is one of the biggest motivating factors. Therefore, employees should be well-compensated to keep them from looking for better alternatives. An organisation should adopt a policy of bi-annual appraisals, though ideally it should be every four months or so. Apart from regular salaries, an organisation should device a formula whereby the performers are rewarded monetarily.

Training: There is a strong misconception in the industry that employee turnout is greater immediately after the initial training/orientation phase. Contrary to this, as is evident from a number of independent surveys, training helps reduce attrition levels. The lesson here is that organisations need to organise regular training programs to provide employees with the necessary motivation.

The role played by the supervisor: Does a supervisor play any role in influencing his subordinates, either to remain with or leave an organisation? As per one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind undertaken by the Gallup organisation, which analysed responses from a million employees and 80,000 managers, it was revealed that: if you're losing good people, look to their immediate supervisor. He is one of the biggest reasons why people remain with an organisation. He's also the main reason why they quit, taking with them their much-valued knowledge and experience - straight to the competition!

A public reprimand by a supervisor is one of the main reasons why people leave an organisation. At the first instance, an employee may not leave. Nevertheless, a thought has taken shape in his mind. The second time around, this thought gathers roots. After that, the employee starts browsing job sites and getting in touch with placement consultants.

An individual who leaves an organisation becomes its spokesman - either to enhance or tarnish its reputation in the market. To counter this, organisations should adopt a 360º appraisal system whereby employees are not only appraised by seniors, but also by their peers and subordinates.
A number of employees are afraid of giving honest feedback about their superiors as they’re afraid of the repercussions. To avoid this, a system that protects the identity of the person giving feedback should be enforced.

Negative feedback should not be taken on face value. It should be properly investigated with an unbiased mind. If found guilty, the erring supervisor should be summoned and advised to change his management style. If the management receives repeated complaints against a supervisor, and there’s also no discernible change in his working style, disciplinary action should be considered. After all, a manager with excellent leadership qualities but moderate skills set is far better than a manager with excellent skills but who is not a team player.

These are some fundamental but hugely effective methods that an organisation could profit from. Once set into motion, they will result in greater employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover. More importantly, it will result in happier and more productive employees. Growth and profitability will automatically follow.

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