Retaining Staff is Critical – What is Being Done to Counter Attrition?
Eva Jenkins warns companies not to loose their grip on the old while reaching for the new

“There’s a hole in the bucket,” warns Eva Jenkins. “And that’s no way to be prepared for the coming flood. Jenkins, principal at Washington-based firm VIP Innovations, is a respected leader in the field of staffing and human resources issues, is waving a red flag at the majority of businesses who are likely to find themselves on the short end of the employee stick in 2006.

Jenkins reports that 2006 staffing forecasts predict growth and an increase in hiring. “In fact, VIP has just created a new training program titled ‘Hiring Winning Talent’ in anticipation of the demand for new employees.” Yet too many companies are focused exclusively on the hiring process, and Jenkins asks, “What is being done to counter attrition?”

She notes that HR professionals, hiring managers, and executives alike agree on the importance of retention, “yet companies continue to focus their attention on filling the bucket, ignoring the fact that it’s sprung a leak.”

Don’t Squander Resources
Jenkins says the solution lies in “retention strategies that address the ebb and flow of workers at all levels of organizations.” The approach, she says, is “proactive rather than reactive…a preventative measure.”

Jenkins acknowledges that there are, “plenty of good high-profit-earning companies out there treating their employees with respect and able to attract and hire employees who actually match a well- designed and well-written job description.” However, she believes that there are twice as many companies whose “only ambition is to have Wall Street rate them favorably according to a perversely tangled mess of a system.”

Jenkins believes that Wall Street analysts have a shortsighted view of staffing: the more jobs are being cut, the better the company’s management must be. “Wall Street-ers only clap and give positive ratings when a company cuts staff, and cuts deep…without any real business sense and frequently without much business integrity,” she says.

Jenkins expresses surprise that Wall Street “endorses squandering capital…human capital…one of the most valuable assets a company has.” She says its good business sense to focus on people. “A company doesn’t exist in a vacuum where the goal is simply doing business, Jenkins explains. “When you’re ‘doing business’ you’re doing business with customers…clients…patients… Simply put, the business of business is people.”

Plugging the Holes
Jenkins says that there is statistical evidence to show that most employees “jump ship” for one of six reasons. A large number of ex-employees cite the challenge of the work itself as a motivator or de-motivator. “The extent to which a job will make effective use of an employee’s intelligence, abilities and skills begins with well thought out hiring processes, ongoing retention strategies, and personal motivation programs,” says Jenkins.

She emphasizes the personal, in ‘personal motivation.’ She notes that “not everyone is motivated by the same ‘carrot’…and not everyone stays on the job for the same reason.” Jenkins encourages HR professionals and company managers to “ask questions, get answers, and adapt policy to reflect the reality of employees’ needs and goals.”

When it comes to acquiring new skills, Jenkins challenges companies to provide a program of continuing education to keep employees current. A lack of training, directions, resources, authority, information and cooperation creates an environment in which employees feel they are unable to perform. “It’s important that companies provide a landscape that is conducive to success,” says Jenkins.

An environment that is conducive to self-worth is equally critical. “Employers will do well to make team members aware of their importance…not just to the company, but to the real-life needs of the customer they serve, and to society, in general.” Jenkins says that this can be achieved with “good job descriptions and ongoing feedback.”

Employees also frequently give “thumbs down” to lack of recognition received for performance and lack of pride in the company.

Jenkins stresses that managers must be made aware of the reasons that employees are moving on. “Because what’s truly eye-opening is how easy it is to trace the source of the dissatisfaction to something systemic…not only ineffective HR polices, but bad management practices, as well.” Despite the gold mine of insights they may yield, Jenkins wonders how many companies are using exit interviews to gather information on employee satisfaction and “whether the results of those interviews are ever shared with company managers.”

Returning to her bucket metaphor, Jenkins says, “What’s leaking out the bottom of the bucket is not the bottom of the barrel. It’s seasoned employees whose value to the company cannot easily be replicated or replaced.” The danger, she says, is that employers will “realize too late how difficult it is to hire replacements in a market that favors the employee more than the employer.”