Employee Retention begins long before Hiring

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 638 , Published on 14 October 2015

Retention is most talked and least focused HR practice or I should say a mistimed practice, usually managers will think about it when they will see a 3 months’ notice of separation from an employee lying on their desks. So, ideally when should employee retention begin?

Before recruitment? Certainly

Before training? Yes

Before On boarding? A big Yes

Actually, retention should start when an organization starts thinking about the kind of people they are looking forward to hire, their compensation mix and their sourcing strategy. But, sadly it happens when it becomes too late to handle that, and all the options targeted at retaining employees are perceived as just another ‘HR gimmick’. Basics of retention strategy takes inspiration from ‘Vroom’s Expectancy Theory’ as deep within those ‘white collars’ and ‘blue collars’ lies a social animal with needs and biases of its own, and failure to understand & tap those needs and expectations may result in ‘exodus’ of company’s ‘High Pots’; sometimes after putting in years of hard work when an employee fails to receive outcomes as per his/her expectations he/she will simply move out of such organization and retention at such a point will fail to give any output. In a survey conducted by SHRM in 2014 revealed that there are some intangible aspects of a job which actually are crucial as far as employee retention is concerned. 72% employees rated that ‘Need for respectful treatment’ is of utmost importance for them, while 64% reported that ‘Trust b/w employees and management’ is a vital factor they look for in a job. Benefits and compensation took 3rd and 4th positions respectively as most sought after things in a job by employees.


This survey may come as a shock to some of the managers who focussed on and heartily believed that ‘money’ is the sole factor which can motivate and retain employees in an organization. To their surprise it is simple and hard to attain factors like ‘respect’ and ‘trust’ which will foster a retentive environment in an organization.

Many a time good organizations with robust HR practices will succumb because of their lesser focus on ‘communication and implementation’ of those robust HR practices; actually as per a statics 80% of the time people will leave their ‘bosses’ not the ‘company’, this happens probably because line managers are too much involved in achieving their targets that they ignore the ‘human’ aspect of their sub-ordinate employees and ‘retention’ never crosses their minds till the time some of their subordinates files his/her resignation papers. In this manner employees will keep on leaving and organization is the one who will lose in the end. So, our next pressure point should be how to handle such bosses? There can be numerous ways to handle that but let us see to some of the ways to do that -

1. 360 Degree Feedback: Encouraging 360 degree feedback can be helpful in gathering ‘general’ idea about the type of managers that are there on organization floor and it will also make managers compulsorily focus on resolving employee issues and focussing on their needs which will be a big step as far as retention is concerned. Biases arising out of such 360 degree feedback can be neutralized through another feedback regarding the same manager collected from some other team working on the same floor.

2. Anonymous feedback: Collecting anonymous feedback from employees and drawing conclusions from the general trend cane be very helpful in identifying managers and their style of management. There may be 2-3 employees taking revenge through anonymous feedbacks from some line manager because of their personal reasons, but going by ‘wisdom of crowds’ can be really helpful in understanding any line manager and his style of managing employees.

3. Modifying Manager KPI: KPIs of line managers can be updated with positive factors like ‘employee satisfaction score’ and negative factors like ‘number of employees resigned from team’ to start with. But this method will be ranked last amongst all the measures listed in this article due to implementation complexities and attribution issues involved.

Apart from these factors ‘Job Fit’ plays an important part in ‘employee retention’, if organizational strategy regarding the ‘type of talent’ they require is clear and is earnestly implemented then there will be very less chances of employees leaving that organization. To get better clarity of the above discussion let us consider example of Infosys, poster boy of Indian IT companies Infosys started tough with loose HR practices and they only realized this during their journey. As Infosys kept evolving its employees too were evolving with it but somehow Infy failed to realize that. Employees continuously compared themselves with their friends in other organizations and kept raising their concerns about ‘need for development’, ‘pay’, ‘dress code’ etc. on company discussion boards and in open house sessions, but they were always replied back with organizational justifications rather than any reformative actions as a result of which attrition rates kept on rising and finally hovered in early twenties. Things only started to change when newly appointed CEO Vishal Sikka observed the gloomy environment on work floor and decided to take some concrete steps as he discontinued the dress code policy, gave increments and even stopped force fitting ratings of employees. Effect became apparent just after few months of those changes when Infosys finally reported attrition rate of around 14% which was even less than that of TCS.

This example illustrates that how working in line with employees’ expectations can save a manager from throwing ‘a world’ at them in the name of retention when resignation notice is served by an employee. So, to conclude it must always be kept in mind that ‘retention’ is not a onetime activity and is actually an ongoing process of balancing employee’s needs and organizational objectives and executing it with earnest communication with employees can help an organization build its ‘Human capital’ for its long term competitive advantage.

The article has been authored by Raj Kiran Saraswat, XLRI Jamshedpur


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