When Does Retention Start — and Who Really Should “Own” It?

The biggest thing in HR and Talent Acquisition in 2016 will be retaining your employees.

No, not just retaining top talent, but also that middle of the road, shows-up-every-day, glue of the organization-type talent.

Retention is a concept that most HR and TA pros haven’t had to worry about this for a long time, but it’s quickly the hottest issue facing most organizations.

My question is, where does retention start?

My friend (and TLNT contributor) Laurie Ruettimann and Dawn Burke talked about this on Dawn’s FOT Videocast No Scrubs earlier this month. Laurie’s opinion is that retention starts during employee orientation. That’s a solid theory for sure. You want to catch them on Day 1 and start retaining them from the start.

Focusing on retention when it’s too late

What Laurie knows is that most organizations don’t start retaining employees until it’s too late. You know — when you find out that the person is out interviewing with your competition! Or, when you find their resume on CareerBuilder, or see that they recently updated their LinkedIn profile, or when they turn in their two weeks notice!

I tend to believe that retention, at its core, starts with selection. Hire people who actually want to work for your company, and crazy as it sounds, they tend to stay around longer!

Most turnover happens because of poor organizational, or positional, fit. Hire people who have a strong desire to work for your company, specifically, and retention tends to take care of itself.

So, if retention starts so early, regardless if Laurie or I are correct, why do organizations still wait so long to address it?

I think many organizations are still under the belief that employees leave because they hate their boss. We’ve allowed this thought to percolate for a decade and it has now become fact. This is one small aspect of turnover, but I tend to believe now that most employees expect and deal with bad bosses fairly well.

Front-line leaders need to own this problem

The problem with focusing retention efforts so late in the process is that it’s, well, too little, too late!

Another piece to this retention dilemma is that HR doesn’t really believe they own retention, and I tend to agree with this theory. The reality is the direct supervisor should have a better handle on retention. It should be a measure that all first-line leaders are held accountable for.

Therein lies the real problem — we all take some responsibility for retention, but no ownership!

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It’s the classic house-on-fire analogy. One person sees a house on fire and they do all they can to help. Ten people see a house on fire, and they all watch, believing someone else will do something about it.

Your organizational retention is a house fire. To stop it, one person, one group, needs to own it, measure it, make it public, ensure everyone sees the fire burning.

I’m not sure, exactly, when retention starts, but I always know how it will end — with you posting a job and refilling a position, you already had filled.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.