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Rules for Retention: The Big Six Motivators

Rules for Retention: The Big Six Motivators

It's relatively easy and cheap to solve most retention problems. Research shows that most workers really don't leave for money. The truth is that managers like to hear it's the money, because that shifts the blame for losing employees away from themselves and onto other parts of the organization. Employees too often say they left for financial reasons in exit interviews to preserve their positive references and because they see little chance that telling the truth will result in any changes.

If you look at the real causes of turnover, through delayed exit interviews and comparing the difference between an exiting employee’s current and offered salaries, you'll find people usually don't leave because of money. Actually, managers control more than 75 percent of the reasons people leave their jobs. These manager-controlled workplace incentives — a lack of which is behind most employees’ decision to leave — are what I call the “Big Six.”

The Big Six Motivators

  1. Honest, frequent two-way communication between workers and managers, including constructive discussion of workplace issues.
  2. Challenging and exciting work. Ensure every employee has a challenge plan and is periodically asked to rate the degree of job excitement.
  3. Give continual opportunities for growth and learning. Ensure managers are rewarded for developing their employees and that employees are held accountable for following through on their individual learning plans.
  4. Recognition and reward for performance.
  5. Some degree of control over the job.
  6. Provide employees with periodic reports on the impact their projects have on the business so they know their work makes a difference.  

A Seventh Factor

An excellent argument can be made that managers can significantly influence employee compensation at many firms. It is certainly true that compensation is so interrelated with the Big Six issues, that taking compensation out of managers’ hands weakens their ability to retain talent. By telling employees up-front that managers have control over compensation, you force mangers to discuss pay on a one-on-one basis with their workers. After managers overcome the "my hands are tied" compensation hurdle –- or excuse — other individual communication on the Big Six issues is much easier.

Getting Your Managers to Own Retention

Even when new salary offers are significantly higher, you'll often find that bad management practices caused employees to look for other jobs, and that only after looking did they realize they could get more money and better treatment if they left. One solution to this type of turnover is relatively simple. Start by telling employees what they should expect from their managers, and help managers improve their delivery of the Big Six motivators.

If you find employees are leaving for better jobs, HR needs to give managers the tools necessary to make their employees’ current jobs the better jobs.
Start a manager driven retention effort by following these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Tell your managers it's their responsibility to ensure their employees are satisfied and receiving the Big Six. Hold your managers accountable to the Big Six and publicize their retention successes and failures by distributing retention metrics throughout your organization.
  • Step 2: Have HR develop a periodic measurement system to see if managers are delivering on the Big Six. Then tie a portion of managers’ compensation to successful delivery of the Big Six and a low turnover rate among top performers
  • Step 3: Ask HR to develop tools that allow managers to easily assess their employee satisfaction and delivery of the Big Six.
  • Step 4: Educate your workers to expect the Big Six — no exceptions, no excuses.