Category Archives: retention

Most Read HREOnline™ Stories Last Week

See what our readers found most interesting last week:

Enough with the Generation Studies!

Peter Cappelli’s new column on the entire industry that has grown around the concept that differences exhibited by the younger generations are long-lasting and important for employers to understand and accommodate. But what if the younger generation today is similar in most respects to the younger generations of past years? 

Despite Recession, Labor Shortage Looms

Career interest from high-schoolers graduating this year is much lower than the projected job openings in the five fastest-growing industries for 2018. But how can companies even address a potential labor shortage when unemployment is currently so high?

Reassessing Work/Life Balance

As a result of the recession, employees are re-evaluating what work really means to them, according to new academic research, and the results aren’t pretty. But therein lies an opportunity for HR to step up and make a difference, experts say.

Defining the Employee Relationship Chain

This article by Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson addresses the three stages of a successful employee relationship — which converts to strong retention. The relationship begins with onboarding and evolves into alignment with the organization and recognition for his or her contributions. The final stage, which often is not achieved, is when the employee views the organization and its leaders as trusted advisers.

Lattice vs. Ladder

Some companies are finding retention and engagement benefits in encouraging employees to consider lateral career moves as new paths to success.

A 10 Percent Solution

Is Google serious about retaining talent?

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal reports that the Mountain View, Calif., company will be raising its 23,000 employees’ salaries by 10 percent, effective in January. CEO Eric Schmidt delivered the news in an e-mail to employees, the WSJ said. “We want to make sure that you feel rewarded for your hard work,” Schmidt wrote. “We want to continue to attract the best people to Google.”

To be sure, it’s interesting timing. The decision comes on the heels of a settlement between the Department of Justice and Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar, in which the six companies agreed to eliminate their no-poaching agreement.

The WSJ article suggested that the move comes as Google “ramps up its battle with competitors, especially neighboring Facebook Inc., in a fight to secure talented staff.”  About 10 percent of Facebook’s employees are Google veterans, the story said.

Earlier this morning, I spoke to Kerry Chou, senior practice leader at WorldatWork in Scottsdale, Ariz., about the announcement. Chou confirmed an across-the-board 10 percent hike is extremely unusual, especially in today’s low inflationary environment. “It does indicate they’re trying to solve some kind of problem, though it’s not clear what that problem is,” Chou says.

(How rare is it? When I googled “10 percent pay increase,” the only other story that came close concerned the Encinitas City Council—near San Diego—which considered a 10 percent pay hike earlier this year.  I doubt I would have fared any better were I to google 20 percent.)

Don Delves, president of The Delves Group in Chicago, told me this is “one of those things Google does because it can.” Others will look at it and be envious, he adds.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the move, Delves says, but most companies would be “more strategic and calculating” in how they go about doing this. He then pauses a moment and adds: “I suppose the beauty here is it’s a simple, bold move that you can summarize in a paragraph. But it’s also very expensive.”

If the problem is indeed retention, as the WSJ article suggests, Chou says Google might want to manage its expectations. “Pay has more bite for potential employees, but once you have someone onboard and want to retain them, things like culture and technology increase in importance,” he points out.

Perhaps.  But I suspect it won’t hurt.

The Eternal Vacation

Better get ready for an end-of-Labor-Day-vacation “purging” of your workforce. According to a survey published in the Memphis Business Journal, 40 percent of U.S. professionals are thinking about quitting their jobs after their summer vacations.

The survey, provided by workplace supplier Regus, finds workers are tired of not being promoted, bosses that don’t share company goals and being overworked. “As workers pack up their swimsuits this summer, they are more likely to dwell on the pros and cons of the job that is waiting for them at home,” Sande Golgart, Regus’ regional vice president, is quoted as saying in the Business Journal story.

The piece also includes another recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing productivity dropped at an annual rate of 0.9 percent during the second quarter of 2010.

Drs. Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan Nielson, co-founders of The Work Itself Group based in Salt Lake City, say these stats point to the immense drain on the economy due to large numbers of employees doing 50 percent “fake work,” defined as having no alignment with business strategy.

In a study they did in conjunction with Franklin/Covey, they cite a recent Gallup poll showing the cost of disengaged workers is estimated at $300 billion per year. They also list findings that 70 percent of employees are unable to name a single department/company goal or strategy and 50 percent of work done at the workplace does not align with a company’s vision or goals.

Not the greatest fodder for a Labor Day pep rally.

Training, the New Engagement/Retention Tool

Interesting and kind of surprising release here from Office Team citing a much larger number of HR professionals concerned about training and developing employees than those concerned about losing the top-performing ones.

Goes against much of what we’ve been hearing, that HR leaders’ top worries heading out of the recession and into the recovery are centered around keeping disgruntled employees engaged and retaining the top talent that’s already poised to leave.

But the release also includes a link to a recent Robert Half study confirming what the Office Team respondents seem to be “getting” — that post-recession employees are looking to employers more for their help in making them more marketable than as havens of job security. Makes sense that a shaky economy would have instilled in them this new sentiment.

In a survey we just conducted at HRE, which is at the heart of our upcoming Sept. 2 cover story on what’s keeping HR executives up at night, 45 percent of the 802 HR executives who responded said their most significant challenge today is the need to keep employees engaged and productive, followed by retaining key talent as the economy recovers (34 percent) and the importance of developing leaders (33 percent). In that survey, and in our story, development initiatives were cited as key tools for boosting engagement.

I think what these findings all underscore is that training and development — often relegated to the bottom rung of corporate expenditures during weak economies — now appear to be employers’ top engagement tools, topping any other morale-booster, or employee survey, or communication initiative.

Indeed, training and developing recession-weary workers — not just for your sake, but for theirs — appears to speak volumes.

A Glass Half Empty

Not much good news in the Business Barometer survey released today by The Corporate Executive Board. It reflects a drop in the optimism of HR executives — and other senior corporate leaders as well.

According to the survey, HR executives have dropped their expectations — from Q2 — of employee engagement (32 percent think employees will be less engaged) and anticipate higher turnover (54 percent compared to 39 percent in Q2). 

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of  HR leaders expect a moderate increase of one-to-four percent in average labor costs this year, while four in 10 (42 percent) expect average health benefits to increase by one-to-nine percent, with 18 percent expecting a higher than 10 percent increase.

The survey polls more than 440 senior executives in six functional business roles in North America and Europe across 33 industries.

It found that the executives expect higher revenues for their companies this year (68 percent), but fewer are optimistic about their respective industries’ growth prospects (only 50 percent say they expect their industries to grow). A majority are anxious about rising cost pressures (68 percent).

Escape from the Job

You have to know most employees are retention risks when the antics of Jet Blue’s (former?) air flight attendant Steven Slater receive such acclaim.

While your employees probably won’t have Facebook fans numbering in the millions or see supporters creating a legal defense fund — hopefully, that won’t be necessary! — HR leaders would be foolish not to think that at least some of their workers are dreaming of leaving their jobs in similarly brazen fashion.

According to a recent HREOnline™ story, Top Performers Begin Their Flight, employers “need to know what their workers are thinking and what they want from their careers — and then align these with the direction of the business.”

So says Bram Lowsky of Right Management. That’s hardly rocket science, but airline companies, and probably most companies, seem to be unaware — or uncaring — that employees are fed up with work conditions.

With survey after survey showing that workers are fed up and just waiting for a chance to move on, the time is shrinking for HR executives to take the steps necessary to re-engage desired workers.

Raising comp is a common method, but  pay alone won’t be sufficient. In this HREOnline™ story, Tom McMullen of Hay Group advises HR leaders to focus on “their ‘total’ reward programs by offering clearer career paths, more meaningful work experiences, improved work climates, global mobility and targeted development in addition to increased monetary awards.”

Or watch employees jump ship — albeit not as dramatically as Slater!

Vacations are Good for You

OK, a bit of soft news, but worth sharing: This recent release from the University of the Rockies suggests week-long vacations aren’t long enough for optimal benefits to occur — for both employee and employer.

The study — conducted at the Colorado Springs, Colo., graduate school that specializes in master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology — maintains the benefits of vacation length peak at about 10 days, which supports previous research findings that 10 to 14 days of vacation may be the optimal length.

What are the benefits to taking, or granting, a vacation of optimal length, you ask? According to this release, an increase in job satisfaction, a reduction of and protection against job stress and burnout, and an increase in professional well-being (which, of course, boosts employee engagement and morale and, in turn, boosts customer service, your employer brand, the list goes on).

I’ll be interested to see if anyone cares to comment on this, but it’ll have to wait awhile. I leave Thursday for vacation. I’ll be gone 10 days.

Risks of the Recovery

Better times are coming. More people are looking for work. Wages are thawing out. Defined-contribution employer matches are returning.

But before your workforce rebuilding goes full bore, consider the landmines of the recovery, Matthew S. Effland, employment lawyer with Olgetree Deakins, told attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2010 conference.

Despite the name of his session, “And the Tide Rolls Back In — Legal Issues in Rebuilding Your Workforce Post-Recession,” Effland’s warnings were not confined to the law. He spoke a lot about “survivor anger” spreading through corporate America right now — among people who’ve been working on frozen wages, doing the jobs of laid-off former co-workers as well as their own, and feeling minimized by their companies’ efforts to infuse new blood into the organization by recruiting outsiders and paying them higher salaries than their own.

“Think about what you can do to make sure you’re taking care of the survivors,” said Effland. “Their disgruntlement can lead to litigation if you’re recruiting from outside to replace a position equal to theirs at a higher wage.”

Also be careful not to “give into the pressure” to selectively re-hire laid-off employees, those problem workers you were able to let go of in the name of hard times. Those who are not re-hired when others are, or who are told to reapply for the same position, “will feel some sense of entitlement, and may sue, and may have a case” if they fall under a protected class, he said.

“Avoid the shortcuts and the push for speed-hiring,” Effland said. “And make sure you fully document your hiring process. When you decide not to hire someone back, you better be able to justify it and explain it in a court of law.”

The Meaning Behind the Work

Dave and Wendy Ulrich made a nice coupling on stage Monday at their session, “The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Deliver Value to Employees, Customers, Investors and Communities.”

No surprise the joint session at SHRM worked, considering the Ulrichs have been married for many years and share three children and a granddaughter. But it was their joint message and the subject of their new book, The Why of Work, that carried an especially cohesive and cogent argument — that organizations would do well to start looking at themselves as places where people find meaning and purpose. More importantly, that organizations should be looking for ways to cultivate that new realization and approach.

“We’re taking a different cut from human resources,” said Dave Ulrich, professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a prolific and well-published HR expert. Wendy is a professional psychologist and founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth in Alpine, Utah. “We’re basically combining HR and psychology,” he said.

They’re also taking their show on the road, if you will, to refute the notion that fostering the relationship between worker and work, and helping employees find meaning and purpose in their jobs is some warm and fuzzy, soft and cuddly notion. “I hear this criticism in some circles,” said Dave Ulrich. “I tell them they’re just wrong. Still, I can’t convince everyone.”

The Ulrichs’ base their premise on the early works of Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. At the time, Frankl discovered that, even in the harshest and cruelest of settings, some people remained vibrant and vital because of their stories and their strengths, and the strengths they could bring to one another. They found meaning in their identities.

So, too, should “organizational strategies be stories,” said Ulrich. ” Successful leaders should be meaning makers. We want to begin to change the conversation” about what HR’s purpose should be as well.

Calling on another famous thinker from the past, Wendy Ulrich told the story of medical researcher Jonas Salk, best known for his discovery of the polio vaccine. Salk, in one interview, recalled how his mother found lessons to be learned in all his setbacks. She created the learning environment that, in turn, created the famous scientist.

“Do we inculcate a learning environment in our organizations?” she asked. “How do we learn from our setbacks, and help our employees learn from theirs? What are we doing in HR to promote that?”

One clear path to helping people find meaning and happiness in an organization, they said, is to promote the importance of the team and relational strengths. “HR,” said Dave Ulrich, “is the force of the organization that shapes identity.

“One of my greatest fears in HR today,” he said, “is that we’re so worried about talent, we’re forgetting about the organization — its systems and the capacity to work together.” That’s where the meaning and purpose lie, he added — “building on your own strengths to strengthen others.”

Military Cross-Cultural Issues

There’s a big push during the SHRM conference this year — rightfully so — on hiring veterans. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be winding down, there may be many military personnel looking for work in the civilian world. Should the economy ever truly recover, companies may even be able to hire some of them.

Should that happen, HR leaders should consider that the civilian leadership/organizational structure just doesn’t speak to many people trained by the military — most of whom were young when they entered the service and may not have held another real job beforehand.

And that lack of understanding leads to disillusionment and turnover, says Emily King, president of mymilitarytransition.com, who works with companies to help them better onboard vets.

“It’s like going to another country,” she says. “You don’t know the language.”

Part of the problem is that in the military, the mission is simple, straightforward and understood by everyone. In private organizations, it’s often just the opposite  — with the mission becoming more diffused as it filters down the ranks.

Vets have an abundance of positive abilities to share, she notes, including leadership and loyalty, but those traits are not free and have to be earned by the organization.

By the same token, it’s really the vets that need to change — to learn how to fit within the organization.

“Trying to push back against an entire organization doesn’t work,” King says.