Embrace a recipe for employee retention

I received a phone call last week from a guy I would refer to as a highly talented, committed, hard-working young professional. A top 10-percenter or probably more like 5. This is the “guy” HR professionals all over the greater Milwaukee area are trying to recruit.

He said, “Aleta, I wonder if I could get your help. I need to make a change. And, before I consider organizations to talk with, can you share your insights as to which companies in this area have good cultures and which ones have bad cultures?”

I asked him to explain.

He shared, “I don’t have clear expectations set; I see no opportunities to get ahead in my role; I have a boss who doesn’t have time to meet with me, let alone lead me; and people here are treated as if they’re not valued. It’s not for me.”

In another organization, I sat down one day with the HR manager who shared with me, with great disappointment, that her most recent recruit (whom she was SO excited to have brought on board after a long search) walked off the job on her third day. The reason? The HR manager assumes that three days of this young professional listening to people backstab co-workers and senior leaders, along with observing senior leaders conducting themselves unprofessionally and in a disrespectful manner toward employees….well, it was about all she needed to decide this wasn’t for her.

There’s more. As my business partner, Nancy Lewis, and I participated in a conversation with a prospect, specifically…two contemporary-minded HR leaders, they shared that they were ready to tackle the serious turnover problem in their 5,000-employee organization. During our conversation, we cited the statistic that 23 percent of new hires leave their job within the first year (Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, April 2012). They said, “We wish. We have 50-percent turnover in many of our facilities within the first 90 days. Further, in one facility, we have 100-percent turnover each year. This is a valid number, not an exaggeration.”

Rest assured, the emerging workforce (professional, technical, skilled, unskilled) has high expectations for leadership and for organizational culture. This would be a good time to see how you and your organization are doing. Go through the checklist below and check those areas where you are doing well.

  • We provide intentional leadership. This involves clear goals and expectations, observation, positive/redirecting feedback and support.
  • We are intentional about our culture. We have values and guiding principles that we expect people to emulate. Conduct and character are as important as performance.
  • We provide a clear career track with opportunities for mini promotions along the way, rather than just the traditional promotions like supervisor, manager and senior leader.
  • We are comfortable moving away from the hierarchy of titles and levels. Our employees are welcome to talk to anyone in the company.
  • We allow employees to work in their own way … as long as they meet expectations, deadlines and do quality work. We recognize, in large part, the 40 plus-hour workweek is out of vogue. Our people want to work from home, come in late and stay late, come in early and leave early, work out during the day, work on weekends, and jet out before 5 p.m. for other life priorities. And we know many of them get back to work later in the evening.
  • We don’t lock up social media without practical business reasons. We realize this is a multi-tasking generation who blend work and life. Again, we’re concerned with the final output.
  • We recognize that each generation has high performers, middle performers and low performers. We allow each Gen Y employee to stand on his or her own merit. We don’t cast a shadow over the entire generation with the labels that are currently being thrown around.
  • We pay attention to job design. And intentionally incorporate variety, significance and clear feedback mechanisms.
  • We recognize that the younger members of our workforce see work-life as an integrated entity. They can switch back and forth between work and life instantaneously, often 24/7.
  • We offer flexibility in terms of where and when work gets done, obviously to those roles in which work can be conducted outside of the workplace.
  • We have created a fun and energizing environment, taking into consideration things like space design, paint colors, areas for recreation, snacks in the kitchen, team events, etc.
  • We have eliminated phrases like “When I was your age, I never would have expected…” and “The problem with young people today is…”
  • We have accepted responsibility to acknowledge the preferences and characteristics of a 70-million strong generation.

How are you progressing?  Can I give the guy your name…on the good list?

Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Impact Consulting Group, LLC and Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send Aleta your ‘Leading Generation Y’ question to anorris@livingasaleader.com.  Also, visit www.livingasaleader.com.

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