Is It Really about Talent Retention?


With the incessant chatter around preserving our talent, we forgot to retain their attention. A recent Gallup Poll states that in 2014 we only engaged about 3 in 10 people at work.[1] The heart of the retention conversation certainly focuses on keeping top talent, but in practice, businesses base turnover metrics on the average, not the top percentile. So is it really about just keeping the talent we have, or is it more about better engaging those resources?

Retention and engagement can feel so big and conceptual that we don’t even know where to begin. So let’s break it down into things we, as WAM-Pros, could solve.

Your Industry Affects Your Engagement

Some of the most disengaged workers come from the manufacturing, transportation, and service industries. Hardly surprising news. Although there have been some recent spikes in manufacturing job growth, overall the number of jobs remains low. Interestingly, union rates are high among these groups, as are regulatory measures. So there may be more oversight into worker issues, but not necessarily more productive or satisfied workers.

Reasons for this may vary. Manufacturing jobs are, in general, well-paid (around $20 per hour[2]), but pay is not the only incentive. In workforce management, we know an issue of great contention is scheduling, especially in the transportation and production industries where heavy constraints are placed upon the schedules and schedulers. For example, property-carrying drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours straight and that must be after 10 consecutive hours of off duty.[3] Not only does this make scheduling shifts difficult for the business, it can also make cross-country trucking more of a tangled bunch of hours than a steady paying job for the employee. Although created with the intent to improve safety, everything must be taken in context of the real workplace. Before considering the next bump in pay for your employees, take the time to understand their realities and get to the bottom of what really encourages (or impedes) their work ethic.

Your Age Group Affects Your Engagement

Millennials, perhaps one of the most dissected and diagnosed groups, falls below average when it comes to engagement. Anecdotal evidence would have you assume that’s because they are narcissistic and lazy, however, Gallup poses a more thoughtful critique. Even though millennials have jobs, perhaps they are not the ones that enticed them to come to work eager for more. Some believe millennials are unable to fulfill their craving for impact or creativity. The WAM-Pro would interpret this as a need for reorganizing and redefining the work that they do.

Jobs don’t need to be standardized. The job needs to be compliant and the work needs to be paid, but a role does not need to fit every type of person or preference. Organizations should take the time to reconsider, and ultimately restructure, their workloads (jobs). This requires a discovery process where leaders, schedulers, managers, and employees describe the work that needs to be completed and the way work is completed today. For example, if your grocery store baker wants to personally meet with the delivery person every Tuesday to ensure that her products all arrive on time, let her. She will be accountable if something is missing, not the grocery bagger from Aisle 3. For the employer, restructuring job roles could lead to improvements in engagement and efficiencies; for the employee, a new role with well-organized duties and meaningful activities could lead to work they enjoy performing and take ownership of.

Instead of simply bemoaning the problems with engagement, retention, job satisfaction, or turnover, let’s solve them. Before we toss out our workforce like last season’s fashion, let’s assemble the resources and talent we do have, and assess what truly stands the test of time.




One thought on “Is It Really about Talent Retention?”

  1. I once read a fact stating that the “afterglow” of financial raises (increased productivity, perceived value, etc.) only lasts about one month. Being more creative with retention strategies is definitely key!

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