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(November 16, 2005) The pendulum swings again bringing us back to the time of caring about "Retention". In the long economic cycle, concern about "Retention" precedes hyper-competitive Recruiting practices (hinted at by John Sullivan). It follows an uptick of emphasis on employee referral programs.

Things are happening faster this cycle than they did the last.

Retention is the notion that keeping your workforce is a good idea. Attrition, the opposite of Retention, is the rate at which people leave your organization. Retention is the rate at which they stay. Any talk about retention is really just another way of talking about managing Attrition. Most executives don't really want to retain their workforce, they want to avoid the costs associated with Attrition. In general, Attrition is more expensive than Retention because Attrition involves the on-boarding leaning curve.

Retaining people who don't want to stay (or who aren't wanted) is a bad idea. It's just cheaper than recruiting and training their replacements. When supply shortages are severe enough, it's far less expensive than no workers at all.

Since the subject involves so much "doublespeak", it should be no surprise that management and employees see the subject with different lenses. Readers of the Bugler will have seen Spherion's Emerging Workforce Study in yesterday's edition. The study found, among other things, that:

  • 60% of workers rate time and flexibility as a very important factor in retention, but only 35% of employers feel the same.
  • Only 49% of employers rate financial compensation as a very important driver of retention, but 69% of workers believe it is.
  • On average, employers only expect 14% of their workforce to leave in the next year, but Spherion data shows that nearly 40% of U.S. workers intend to find a new job in the next 12 months.
  • Less than half (44%) of U.S. workers believe their companies are taking steps to retain them and nearly a third (31%) believe there is a turnover problem at their company already.
  • Only 34% of HR managers mention turnover/retention as a key HR concern.

This chart clearly shows the disconnect between the thinking of the two camps:

Drivers of Retention

Employer View  

 Worker View

1. Management climate (80%)

1. Financial compensation (69%)

2. Supervisor relationship (80%)

2. Benefits (68%)

3. Culture & work environment (65%)  

3. Growth & earning potential (64%)

4. Benefits (61%)

4. Time & flexibility (60%)

5. Growth & earning potential (58%)  

5. Management climate (60%)

6. Training & development (54%)  

6. Supervisor relationship (57%)

7. Financial compensation (49%)  

7. Culture & work environment (54%)

8. Time & flexibility (35%)  

8. Training & development (49%)

While the emerging truth is that job dissatisfaction is highly correlated with keeping a job. (Yes, that's right, those who complain about the job are the most likely to stay.) Spherion's industrial view of the workplace, as shown in the survey, suggests that the reasons that people keep their jobs are at odds with the reasons that their bosses think they do. (We're suggesting that both views are at odds with the real reasons that people keep their jobs. Self-reporting surveys only address the facade, the real motives are harder to know.)

The survey also addresses a range of employment issues in an astonishing demonstration of "bootlicking by a staffing vendor". Like magic, the results of the study are ideally suited to showcase Spherion's strengths as a supplier. In a feat of near magic, Spherion is ideally poised to solve all of the problems identified by the study. For a great demonstration of "drinking your own bathwater", see the rest of the study's results.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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