A proactive employee retention strategy

John Ha

I'm willing to bet that the great majority of you can tell me where I can find the "plaque on the wall."

You know what I'm talking about. It's the plaque that states all or some combination of your organization's vision, mission and core values. I'm also willing to bet that a great majority of you see it as just that - "a plaque on the wall," a product of work from your leaders that was intended to inspire and motivate you. Instead, you either ignore it or consider it a joke.

This is the reality of today's workplace at most companies. Your leaders got together at some point in your company's history and decided it was important to have a vision, mission and set of core values that drive the way you are supposed to do business and create a unique corporate identity. They certainly had great intentions as they probably realized how important it was to develop and foster a culture within the organization and give employees a sense of something greater than a job and paycheck.

Unfortunately, most leaders lost their focus and didn't take the necessary steps to make the vision, mission and core values a living identity. And as a result, all that great work became just a plaque on the wall. There is no employee retention strategy.

Now, if you are lucky enough to work for a company that didn't stop with the plaque and actually used it to build the foundation for running the business, I'm sure you can attest to the value. You may not think it's perfect, but you are very likely to be capable of telling the world who you are as a company, what you are trying to accomplish, and how you are going to do it. In fact, you probably have career development and performance plans that are somehow tied into this identity. If you are involved with recruitment and hiring, you probably have seen how your selection process is tied to your core values. And whether you realize it or not, you are probably more committed to the organization because of this clarity, even believing that your company is the "employer of choice."

The benefits of having a clear set of values tied to a corporate vision and mission can be immense for the business, and superior performance is at the heart of the benefits. No matter how many times it's said, whether it's lip service or not, a company is only as good as its people. Companies with employee buy-in just have better products and processes.

Why is it especially important today to have employees who have this line of sight with the overall goals and objectives of the company? It's simple: retention. Employees who have bought into the organization are more likely to stay and ignore suitors waving bigger paychecks. And, you can't achieve peak performance if you're constantly turning your employee base.

As the labor shortage starts to rear its ugly head and the market continues to favor the employees, companies who don't have a clear foundation for what they want to be and how they want to conduct business may lose even more ground to their competition. Ask any of your employees, and I'm sure you will find that they have received numerous calls about other job opportunities from recruiters, regardless of whether they are actively seeking new opportunities or not.

Every recruiter I know is absolutely buried with orders. They can't find enough people to meet the needs of their clients. In fact, they steal recruiters from each other so they can help their clients do the same. It's a pretty brutal cycle that creates plenty of short-term inefficiencies. Unfortunately, it's a necessary process for our capitalist economy. Eventually, those inefficiencies will be corrected through competition. The law of supply and demand seems to always prevail. It's just a matter of time.

So, how do you ensure that you survive, let alone prosper, through this period of job market stabilization? You must be proactive with your retention strategy. Don't over-complicate it. Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • 1) Do my employees understand the company objectives?

  • 2) Do my employees understand how their job helps the company meet those objectives?

  • 3) Do my employees and the company share the same values in how we conduct business with our clients, our shareholders, our community and ourselves?

If you can't answer "yes" to all three of those questions, it may be time for you to revisit that plaque on the wall.

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