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The Secret to Retaining Your Best People

Emily Frieze-Kemeny | CEO and Founder of AROSE Group | a leadership consulting firm that bridges humanity and profitability. Access the original Forbes article published via the Forbes Business Council.

AROSE Group Logo. The Secret to Retaining Your Best People: Build Your Retention Strategy Using the AROSE 4 P's to Retention Framework. Image of a grass field with three open doors.

"We all fear our best people leaving, and we should. Top performers, especially strong leaders, drive an outsized degree of performance success within organizations.

CNBC reported that over 60% of employees are considering leaving their jobs at any given time, and the percentage is significantly higher for Gen Z and millennials.

But that’s not all. With the continued downsizings and restructuring in the news, fears around job stability are heightened. So, our best people are taking that call at an even higher rate.

Before we declare defeat, complain about the newer generations in the workforce, and start throwing around retention money to lock people in, let’s take a pause for some introspection.

At AROSE Group, we have developed the “Four Ps to Retention” framework, which can help guide you in creating a retention plan that works. Here are the four lenses through which to look at retention: probative, prerogative, purposeful and proactive.

Probative: Intentionally unearth the real reasons people are leaving.

Exit surveys aren't enough. It’s too late to gather information when your people are already heading out the door. Additionally, people rarely tell you the full story. They may say they are leaving for a career promotion, a new opportunity, or for family flexibility. These responses sound logical and might be easier for us to hear, but they're likely not the whole truth.

There’s often a reason behind the reason that really pushes them out the door:

  • Work overload

  • Inability to get resources or sufficient funding

  • Inability to collaborate cross-functionally

  • Manager issues

  • Wrong culture fit

  • Not feeling rewarded for their value

Turnover and retention are easy to measure—and the numbers don’t lie. If you know retention is a problem in your organization, some strategies to unearth the why include conducting one-to-one stay and post-exit interviews or focus groups between managers and those you know may be ready for a change.

During one-to-one check-ins, have managers probe to understand how people are doing, what conditions around the work are working, and what conditions would make it even easier for them to perform to their potential.

Sometimes, though, the manager can be the issue. To mitigate this risk, every so often in an informal way, so people don’t get nervous, have the up-line leader conduct skip-level one-to-ones with team members.

Prerogative: Know who your organization is best served by.

It is not always the right decision to retain people. Sometimes it’s time for people to move on.

The reasons can be:

  • The business conditions no longer align to the type of work employees want to do. Sometimes there aren’t other places in the organization we can plug people in. Treat them in a way that makes them an external advocate for your organization.

  • The person's attitude has become toxic. When people feel like there is a lack of progress or change, it can lead to them having a negative attitude that can spread through the team. Holding onto toxic colleagues or tolerating poor performance can put you at risk of losing your best people. Take action on behalf of the rest of the team.

  • The culture-employee fit or leader-employee fit is not right. Was the person the wrong fit to begin with? Did their leadership change and they don’t work well together? We see that getting the fit wrong has been one of the largest drivers of attrition. It is important to do the work to assess whether the fit is right.

Purposeful: Know how to win back the hearts and minds of those on the fence who you want to keep.

The people who work well with others and contribute to incredible results are the “must keep” types. However, they can be hard to retain because their passion for high performance and results can make them less tolerant of a lack of change, lower-performing colleagues, and they will be sought out for external opportunities. You need to stay hyper vigilant about knowing how they are doing and taking action to keep them motivated.

How do you stay vigilant? You have to know these high performers really well, what motivates them and what makes them tick. Ensure that managers and mentors dig in and deeply listen to what high performers care about, what moves them, and what frustrates them. Proactively tell them how much they are valued with specificity and tell them what their career growth options can be. You cannot do this enough.

Proactive: Strategically get ahead of retention risks.

A successful retention strategy not only equips managers with the tools they need, but it is also backed by a strong organizational design, a continuous improvement way of leading, and personalized incentives.

  • While there might be an ideal organizational design, if you want to keep your best people, you may need to shape a role for them. We call this “role crafting." For your best people, do it.

  • You can also “team craft" by building amazing teams of colleagues. For your top people, working alongside talented and collaborative colleagues is energizing and incredibly retentive.

  • Enable employees to craft their rewards too! Individual rewards could be selected from a menu of options, recorded as similar dollar values: cash bonuses (of course), child-care support, professional development reimbursement, coaching and wellbeing services, time off, flexible work schedules, etc.

  • Give people opportunities to work on new projects, strategic learning experiences, gain exposure to senior leaders, big clients, and attend industry-related conferences.

  • Provide transparency and support for how to move across departments and earn more money.

  • Promote and pay people before they ask you.

You have the power to create the conditions that attract and retain. When you ask, listen, learn, and then align people to the right role, team, rewards, and work challenges, everyone wins. And your results will show for it."

Want more on the "4 Ps to Retention Framework"?


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