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Retaining your Better Employees

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In implementing a Positive Employee Relations program, there are key measures that ensure you can hire and retain employees that will be best suited to perform the work needed by your organisation. What follows is a brief discussion of the important fundamentals. 

Selection, placement, orientation, training and assessment processes must be of the highest possible calibre. 

Anything less, and you employ the wrong people, beginning a process that will not lead to excellence. If your most valuable resource is people, it is almost impossible to invest too much time in a good selection process. 

Employees overqualified for their jobs are rarely satisfied with their positions. Therefore, employees hired to perform jobs below their aspirations, education, experience or competency levels will likely become disenchanted. If there are no realistic opportunities for progression or advancement, the likelihood of boredom will increase exponentially. These circumstances can lead to productivity, quality and morale problems and almost certainly to a turnover statistic. 

Suitability is a critical factor. And, it applies right here. For example, positive accommodations for high-potential employees can include: accelerated learning opportunities, being partnered with peers who can positively challenge their skills, or being provided with mentoring opportunities. 

Attitude, performance and related problems associated with overqualified employees will, in all likelihood, show up during the probation period. The presence of an overqualified employee places the Front Line leader at a critical juncture when the probation decision must be made. If the role, responsibilities or Performance Standards cannot be made more challenging, the over-qualified employee becomes dissatisfied and eventually chooses to be disruptive in some manner -- or another turnover statistic. However, this does not occur inn a vacuum. Other employees are watching and wondering if they will be treated in the same manner. 

The reverse occurs when employees whose skills, competencies and/or potential are below that required for the position – under-qualified. An effective interview would identify such an imbalance (between competency levels and/or behaviours and the position’s Performance Standards) and rule out the candidate. However, if the candidate slips through the interview screen, the employee’s performance and behaviour should be noticed by an alert Front Line leader long before the end of the probation period.  

Under-qualified employees pose a variety of problems. First, they will be frustrated by their inability to achieve the Performance Standards of their position. They will eventually become demoralized and feel alienated from the organization – an all too common profile of an employee who would be ripe to sign a union membership card. Finally, if the demoralization is not addressed, this negativity will infect other employees. Issues related to an employees performance, discipline and termination are understandably private matters. However, as mention above, none of this occurs in a vacuum. Other employees - even external observers - are watching to see if you are living your Values. 

The two key factors in play when addressing over- and under-qualified employees are: 

  • A poor match between skills and job. When job responsibilities are poorly matched with the candidate’s aspirations, competencies, behavioural requirements and potential, there is a high risk of turnover. To confirm the employment interview results, we recommend the use of an Assessment tool. This Assessment allows for the measurement of the job’s requirements and characteristics as well as those of the candidate; and, a subsequent determination of the behavioural fit with the culture of the organization. 
  • Lack of clarity around decision-making roles. Examine the job and determine if the decision-making ingredients are correctly assigned. As a Front Line leader or next-level manager, you likely have a strong propensity to want to see your career move forward. This leads many Front Line leaders, and their next-level managers to retain too many decision-making opportunities – such as approval levels and sign-off authority. This results in narrowing the decision-making potential of positions by the amount of decision-making that has been retained. 
This passive action can be a detriment in several ways. For example, if the position’s title is Front Line leader but the next-level manager retains all the decision-making authority, the role quickly becomes an ‘assistant-to.’ Front Line leaders in this position, who do have relevant experience and potential, will likely become turnover risks because someone didn’t appropriately analyze the job responsibilities and associated human dynamics. This can be a costly oversight as the financial investment in a Front Line leader’s training and development is usually significant

  • Performance feedback is tied into Values. Provide clear, objective feedback consistent with the Values of respect, dignity and transparency. Employees may have valuable insights into the realities of their job and the circumstances under which they perform their work. Such knowledge should be included in the conversation. 
  • All leaders are held accountable for Performance Standards and behaviours that exemplify the organization’s Values and Guiding Behaviours. It is in the spirit of the Values that we find more humanity and ` hence, integrity and transparency. Without a sincere commitment by Front Line leaders, employees have little reason to let down their guard and risk exposing personal views and perspectives. If this were the case, Front Line leaders would be unable to get close enough, quickly enough, to understand each employee’s individual motivations and ways of behaving. 
  • The maximum amount of responsibility, authority and accountability is retained within each job. Do not move responsibility, authority and accountability up the organization to the next level; keep pushing these factors and their consequences — problem-solving and decision-making — down the organization. Jobs that are routine and repetitive lead to idle minds and this, in turn, leads to thinking that may not support the organization’s Values or its wish to remain union-free. 
  • Payroll costs are recognized as an investment, not an expense. By compensating good performers there is always the value-added factor that commitment will increase and turnover will decrease. Linking holistic jobs (built on problem-solving and/or decision-making) with self- responsibility, good selection practices, and inspirational leaders will inevitably lead to the logic of maintaining wage/salary ranges above the 50th percentile. Below is a generally accepted formula for ‘measuring turnover’ and ‘measuring retention.’ 

Measuring Employee Turnover 

Most organizations track their turnover rates on a monthly or annual basis. In addition, rates can be calculated for individual departments or locations. 

Total number of terminations over (selected) period X 100 = % 
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Average total number employed over (selected) period 

The total figure includes all terminations, even employees who left involuntarily (due to termination), layoff or retirement. There is no distinction between beneficial turnover and that which is dysfunctional. 

Measuring Employee Retention 

A stability index indicates the retention rate of experienced employees. Like turnover rates, this can be used across the organization or for a particular department or location.

Number of employees with service of 1 year or more X 100 = % 
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 Total number of employees one year ago

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