Retaining Tips

Manage turnover, not retention

Making your company a pleasant and rewarding place to work is part of the puzzle. You can and should fix anything pushing people to the exits.

But you cannot counter the pull of the market or shield people from hungry recruiters. In fact, you may want to jettison old-style keep-‘em-all-happy thinking and decide who goes and when.

If you accept that long-term employee loyalty is outmoded, there’s a moment of clarity: Let’s manage turnover, not retention. That forces a company to identify:

  • Key players you want to keep, such as a product design whizkid, someone respected by customers or an inspired leader
  • People you want to retain for short but well-defined periods, such as employees with specific skills in short supply or members of a new product team, and
  • Workers for whom investing in retention doesn’t make much sense.

Forcing employees to quit after three years (or apply for a new job) may seem radical. But the real problem is not turnover per se but the erratic, unpredictable timing of it.

The right number could be five years and a lateral transfer. But the goal should stay the same: Make turnover work for you. Some companies design programs around completing schooling or training. The employee earns less, but gets a flexible schedule.

From “A Market-Driven Approach to Retaining Talent,” by Peter Cappelli.

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