retaining talent

Retaining Talent

“You’re amazing… Now please don’t leave me!”

It’s happened to all of us. You hire a really great person, you invest in them, you train them up, you give them the tools they need to be successful and give them what you think is a great work environment. Then something happens and they give you the dreaded two weeks’ notice.

As a business owner, employee turnover is a costly concern that demands attention. Forbes has stated that for entry-level employees, mid-level employees and highly skilled-level employees, the associated cost comes out to 30 – 50 percent, 150 percent and 400 percent of their annual salary. Ouch!

At JP, we’ve had our fair share of turnover. I could blame our small size, I could blame our small market and I can blame the “millennial mentality.” Or, as President of the company, I could look inside and see if there’s more I could do to positively impact talent retention. That’s what I’ve done and here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Establish An Acceptable Level of Turnover

Are there positions in your organization that are naturally going to turnover more frequently? In order for me to do this, I had to actually build an org chart (no, I didn’t already have one!).

From there I determined what I believed were the positions that would be most likely to turn over on a more frequent basis — based on skill level, job description, marketplace opportunities or pay scale.

I started to wrap my head around the idea that managed turnover was okay. I also concluded that what I didn’t like was when I was caught off guard and it felt like the turnover was out of my control.

Now I am working to enhance the org chart with this in mind so that as we fill positions, we have an understanding of our expectations for that role, which may be limited in the time that person is in that square on the org chart.

Build a Plan for Retaining Key Employees

Do you have vital team members that you really can’t afford to have leave you? This is likely the case and creating incentives for long term engagement with these employees is critical to sustainable success of the organization.

For me, that meant hiring a consultant to help put together incentive plans for management that would be well suited for our organization. I had no idea how many options were out there — all with long lists of pros and cons!

I am deep in this process now, building a program that will ensure longevity with key employees that I simply can’t afford to lose (and frankly I think they will look really good in golden handcuffs).

Survey Current Employees for Feedback

How do we know what motivates employees to stay if we don’t ask them? If you Google employee satisfaction surveys, you’ll get plenty of results.

Craft something that works for your organization with no more than 20 questions and issue it to your team. Be sure that the survey is absolutely anonymous to ensure your employees feel comfortable being honest and allow space for them to explain their responses.

Once the survey is complete, present the findings to the team and make a serious commitment to address the things that the employees are saying are lacking in your organization. At JP, our aggregate score across all metrics was a 3.23 out of 5. I really want to be in the 4’s, because let’s face it, you can’t make everyone happy all the time.

So I looked at the things we scored the lowest on and went to work. You’d be surprised how simple some of the fixes can be.

Read a Book and Deploy the Strategy

When was the last time you were inspired by a book and then took real action? Well, I did that three years ago when I first started to address the turnover issue. The book was called Work Sucks and How To Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution.

I sent two team members to training and educated the entire team over a six-month period before deploying ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. You can read more about it here. It essentially turned our organization on its ear with it’s “100% Accountability – 100% Autonomy” philosophy, but it’s a valued employee benefit. Now there’s no going back.

So the big question is, does all this extra effort really make a difference? In my experience, yes. Three years ago our turnover rate was at 14 percent with 22 employees and today it’s 3 percent with 32 employees. Certainly reducing turnover has saved JP time and money, but more importantly its shifted our focus to employee retention helping us meet our goal of having all the best agency talent under one roof: ours!

Jane Olvera Quebe, President