Talent Retention School: Get individual oriented – or face the consequences.

Good day fellow recruiter, employer brand expert and people manager. All of us who work in the wonderful industry of attracting, developing, retaining and recruiting the best people – for us – to our employers most often face the challenge of how to make an impression with new people and how to continue impress throughout an employment enough to not make someone want to leave.

The words to listen to for the last decade have been about cultural fit. Everyone know about it. If a person fit a culture, the chance they’ll feel well and become a performer raises significantly. True that.

But who really fit a culture? And how would you know beforehand? There are multiple of theories and tools out there who have their own conceptual solution for how to find out. All good in their own respect.

Problem is only: People don’t really know where they belong beforehand. It is very hard to qualify someone from a culture-fit perspective.

Some functional perspectives are easier to look into. For example if a person privately needs to be more flexible because of family concerns, this candidate is going to ask for flexible working hours, ability to work from home etc. This is a natural phenomenon.

But will you like your office, your employer and colleagues more just because you are able to work more from home? Perhaps you’ll stay employed there longer because of your life “working out” as intended for the time being. But would this create more loyalty with the employee? Whenever the private conditions change, so will the cultural preference with the employee.

And if those functional benefits was a part of the culture-fit plan then how sustainable are they really? Answer is they are valuable drivers of retention in terms of adapting a work culture after an employees needs. But they are not necessarily going to impact their loyalty. In most cases it is enough with investing in functional benefit value drivers in line with your recruitment target groups needs. Everything doesn’t have to be long-term loyalty committing.

Important to know: However, it is when the employee becomes truly committed to the culture and their loyalty goes beyond these functional value drivers into a sign-on of the corporate values, this person grows into a true ambassador for the company who will refer new employees and gain an even deeper care for their results.

Summary: Retaining good employees for practical reasons has its purpose and can secure their impact on the business for some timer longer – but improving your average retention doesn’t equal a growth of loyal employees, committed to your culture. Don’t fool yourself. These differences are important to understand and acknowledge.

Spotting the culture-fits

As said it is hard to identify these people. It isn’t as easy as some online tools try to make it sound. You can’t just let people grade you in some very “tough-defined” areas and then expect people to interpret that the same way. In fact, some of such things could even make it harder for the right person to know whether this is the right place for them or not.

For example the factor: “Nice atmosphere”. What is that really? I am sure that if you challenge yourself, you’ll recognise that this is different for each and everyone. It doesn’t help so much either that current employees rated their current employer with a 4 out of 5 on such a factor either. Purely because it is of debatable character. Everyone will believe that nice atmosphere is something different – except the culture-fits. They will surely have a similar viewpoint as the current, happy, employees. But they will be equally clueless when reading into the factor at given online tool in what it really means.

Everything starts with the people. “What is nice according to you?”, “What do you -really- need in a workplace in order to be satisfied and happy?” Things like these are more important to ask. It will also provide the raw materials for employers to frame themselves better and understand why their people are happy and what of it they should tell more of in order to allow the culture-fits find their way to them. Fooling oneself and saying: “People love our culture. Look how happy they are.”, then again ask yourself why you think they are happy and if so, for what reasons? It might be because of something completely different than you think.

Magic Trick: Individual orientation

No matter where I’ve been working or in which position: LinkedIn, Universum, Blocket, Manager, Management-team member, Consultant – it doesn’t matter. It is always some things which stand out: People enjoy some things and some not.

People will -always- look into HOW they can do MORE of what they love and LESS of what they dislike.

You’re not amazed are you? My guess is you agreed on what I just wrote and that your first thought was: “How is this new?”

Well, it isn’t new. In fact, if you were amazed and surprised then we have a completely different problem. It is a long spoken fact that people try to get away from disturbance. No matter if it is a sales person who detests to book his own flights or enter details into the complicated CRM-tool or a consultant who sighs out loud in the office from using the complicated time management tool or the administrative staff who clenches their fists because of the employers new regulations on how to handle Login rights for the internal tools – these things are disturbances that said employees will want to do less of.

And what most doesn’t seem to know is that these disturbances are what most often make people look for other jobs. It is a pure retention killer from a talent perspective. All employers need to challenge yourselves: “How much of what we demand of our employees are really needed?”

It is a very important question to ask. And the second question is: “Out of the things we MUST do, who should be doing what?”

Most of the time routines and processes are determined at a higher level, people who have no clue of what is going on. Rarely if ever the people determining the processes are aware of their immense impact on peoples work situations and as a result their happiness and long term commitment to the employer.

Ironically, these are the same people who goes to HR later and point fingers if the retention is poor or if they are unable to recruit people fast enough for making the organization able to reach the desired goals for the year.

Stop making processes for people. Look at the people first. Learn what’s needed in order to make each and everyone come to their best and raise their performance – and increase their long term commitment to the employer.

You’ll notice that 80% of the processes you so eagerly defended were nothing more than a barrier of performance to begin with. Why? Because what lowers motivation and happiness is nothing but an efficiency killer – and a cost – not an investment.

Now this is what all people in upper management must read, comprehend and learn.

Become individual oriented. Do the complicated puzzle of how to reach results and how to transform the world by letting the organization shape itself around and for your people – by identifying what works better for them – instead of making processes out of principle and your own biased ideas of what works best and then expect people to love it, become loyal and stay forever. Because they won’t. This is when they start looking for new jobs.

People want to be able to work from a coffee shop? Go ahead let them.

People want to be able to head home for 3 hours in the middle of the day for some reason? What’s the problem? Nothing, except your own biased idea of what is needed for reaching results.

People hate some tasks you’ve assigned to them? Challenge yourself and remove some of them. Just do it.

People hate entering data into some systems of yours? Challenge yourself, how important is this data? Can you hire someone less qualified on hourly rate to assist in this?

There are no problems. Only solutions. The only possible problem is the subjective and biased idea of what works and not.

Be people oriented or face the consequences – your people won’t become long term loyal. And will look for other jobs.

Thanks for reading,

Daniel Sonesson