It is true that many factors creating turnover are not controlled by the organization or the Director. Such factors include macroeconomic conditions, labor market fluctuations, etc. However, on the positive side, there are many factors that the organization can indeed control. Here we will describe such evidence-based strategies that work. It is important to note that Directors’ “gut-feeling” when scientifically analyzed is more often wrong than not. Thus, it is vital that, during the selection process, the Director or selection personnel, be as neutral and objective as possible.
Research reveals that the following practices lead directly to increased retention and decreased turnover:
- Provide a clear and realistic picture of the job and organizational environment
- Hire individuals who have a good person-job, person organization, and person-environment fit.
- Create an on-boarding protocol that fosters relationship building, provides relevant, honest, and positive feedback, and establishes a clear communication channel
- Provide training and development opportunities when available and relevant.
- Develop processes that lead to clear perceptions of procedural justice (where employees feel confident that everybody is treated in a fair manner and with consistent rules).
- Create a reward system that fits with the strategy and mission of the organization.
- Hold Directors accountable for high turnover if they are responsible for it.
- Foster employee engagement (e.g. through job design, recognition of contributions that enhance the organization’s mission, etc.).
Whereas it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the above in detail, we will briefly explain most of them. The process of retention begins before new employees join an organization and during the selection process. Job turnover is usually highest in the first year of employment, and prevention of turnover, stemming from “shock” of what the job really is like, can be decreased by providing a very clear picture of what the job entails. One way is to provide realistic information about some of the more challenging or unpleasant aspects of the job or the work environment. This enables prospective employees to make an informed decision about whether the job is a good fit for them. Directors can also improve retention by checking for organizational and environmental fit, and not just for qualifications and experience. If a candidate is a great organizational and environmental fit, and can learn the job requirements rather quickly, such a person is usually a better choice than one who is fully qualified and who would hit the ground running. Chances are the latter will leave sooner. Lastly, there are ways to statistically analyze, through biographical information, whether any given candidate is more likely to quit.
Once an employee has been selected, a robust on-boarding process is critical to a high rate of retention. Even though a new employee may have been given a realistic job preview and may be a good fit, he/she will find the first few weeks stressful. There are new rules, a new culture, new politics. Moreover, there are new benefits, a new pay structure, a new environment, and a new boss to impress. Thus, to reduce such stress, socialization of the new employee is important. Successful socialization practices - which are methods the organization should use to help newcomers adapt to their new environment, reduce anxiety, and acquire the desired culture – are important to increase retention rates. Research shows that providing connections to others in the organization is correlated with decreased turnover. For example, Directors can provide experienced organizational members as trainers or mentors. Directors can also provide this socialization process with other new employees. Research also shows that providing clear expectations about the socialization process and positive learning experiences during socialization correlate with lower turnover. Additionally, positive feedback to new employees during and after the on-boarding and socialization process contributes significantly to a newcomer’s successful entry into an organization. There are, of course, more ways to increase the retention of new employees, and further details of these on-boarding and socialization practices can be found in Allen, DG, Bryant, P. Managing Employee Turnover – Dispelling Myths and Fostering Evidence-based Retention Strategies. 2012. Business Expert Press, LLC).
Encouraging current employees to refer other candidates they know is a great way to improve turnover. In fact, if the referred candidate is hired, the person referring that candidate also tends to stay longer – thus a double benefit.
Training and development opportunities not only help employees grow, it also helps the organization. Clearly, a more educated and experienced employee will be an asset for the organization. Moreover, if employees are confident they can grow, they will be more engaged and interested in performing well. Such employees go above and beyond their job descriptions to contribute to the organization’s mission.
In summary, whereas many turnover drivers are not in the owner’s/director’s control, there are many well-researched, evidence-based practices the organization can follow to decrease turnover. We have discussed several such practices, and if implemented and executed well, can be very helpful.
- Allen, DG, Bryant, P. Managing Employee Turnover – Dispelling Myths and Fostering Evidence-based Retention Strategies. 2012. Business Expert Press, LLC.
- Dessler, G. Human Resource Management. 2017. Fifteenth Edition – Pearson
- Groysberg, B., Lee, J., Price, J., Cheng,J.Y. The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture. Harvard Business Review. Jan-Feb 2018.