A Case Study in Retention
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Retention: I cannot think of a more pressing topic right now for business leaders to be focused on. In fact, Mark Horstman, Co-founder of Manager Tools, often says that a manager must be focused on two things: results & retention. As a business leader, achieving results is an obvious objective, but achieving a healthy retention rate is oftentimes less focused on. Intuitively, we know that if we can retain talent, our onboarding and training costs will be lower, morale will likely be higher, our customers will feel like they have a true partner within our organization – all of which we presume to have a positive impact on business results. While we understand this, the thought of implementing a retention plan may seem vague and amorphous. Allow me to tell a story which may help demonstrate a different way of thinking about retention.

A Misdiagnosis

We were working with a struggling organization – morale was very low, employees were constantly looking for other jobs, and the business results were suffering. Many people had tried to diagnose the reasons why the business was failing. Some believed the organization needed new software, others thought that strict adherence to a management operating system would bring profitability, and still others asserted that the behavior of the customers was to blame. What we found to be true was quite a different diagnosis. Fundamentally, the needs of the employees were going unmet. While this may sound like an odd statement, it is rooted in human nature.

The Basics:

All people have some fundamental needs. Physically, people need air, food, water, shelter, and clothing. Humans also have a need for safety or security, and while certain people may be able to handle more risk than others, the long-term effects of an unsafe environment have lasting physical and phycological consequences. While primal, these basic human needs create motivations within each one of us which foster drives and behaviors to fulfill these needs. The company that we were working with had unfortunately become so focused on trying to turn around the financial results that they had lost sight of the basic needs of their employees. Lunch areas were cramped with dirty refrigerators and unkept lunch tables. Water dispensers were antiquated, and on-site food options were extremely limited. While this may be an extreme example in today’s work from home movement, employees have other specific needs beyond the physical which must also be met.

Phycological Needs:

One of our favorite tools to highlight a person’s specific needs is the Predictive Index (PI). The PI was first created in the 1950’s, and in under 10 minuets, helps highlight the assessment takers specific needs around influence, social interaction, stability, and structure. We have found this to be a powerful tool in allowing people within organizations to understand themselves and others, and it can be especially impactful in hierarchical relationships.

As a manager and business leader, do you know what makes your people tick, what drives them, and moves them from the space of “I have to” into “I want to”? Understanding an employee’s specific needs will allow you to tap into their unique superpower, and by leveraging their superpower, the employee will feel like they are in the right place as their needs are being met. While having Ping-Pong tables, unlimited PTO, a high salary, remote work, or Friday beer on tap may be great perks, it is a company’s ability to fulfil an employee’s needs that truly drives engagement and retention.

The Turnaround:

Understanding needs within the struggling organization, we were not only able to reverse the harm that was caused by not meeting employees’ physical needs, but we were also able to work with people to meet their specific underlying needs. Not only did this remedy the organization’s retention and engagement challenge, but it also corrected the business results. Of course, there was still a healthy level of turnover within the organization, and those openings presented opportunities to hire people who would best be able to meet the needs of the organization, and in doing so, the organization would fulfill the employee’s needs as their superpower was leveraged.

When an organization can clearly define the business strategy, creates a people strategy to meet the needs of the business strategy, and then hires and places people into positions that enables the strategy by leveraging the individual’s needs, retention stabilizes, engagement increases, and business success follow.

Let’s rise above and lead.

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