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Retention Strategies July 7, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
Tags: , , , ,

A few years ago the corporation I was working for decided to significantly reduce the growth of base salaries, I believe responding to an industry-wide benchmarking study looking at compensation for similar jobs. Engineers who were used to receiving a 6-10% annual increase suddenly found their base salary essentially capped, or at best they were eligible for a maximum 2-3% increase. This was before the current recession, and there was a very real risk of losing experienced and talented people.

I spent a lot of time in those days thinking about what I could do as a middle-manager to retain people, working within the constraints of a corporate compensation system. It seems that all the employee surveys and studies say the same thing: the majority of folks are not motivated by money and they won’t change jobs just to chase a higher salary. OK, but what does motivate people to stay? What retention strategies are available to a middle-manager?

The answer to the first question is somewhat unique to each individual, although I think there are some common themes. I ultimately focused on two strategies that were within my limited authority: (1) providing interesting and challenging work, and (2) building a sense of community. Everybody’s different, but I believe some people leave because they’re looking for professional growth, and some people leave because they have no emotional connection to their co-workers (which lowers the “cost” of leaving). I think the management team has the ability to influence both of these factors, through work assignments customized to each person’s interests and ambitions, and through small-scale team building activities that give people a chance to create social bonds.

Of course you can’t stop people from leaving, and sometimes it’s actually a good thing, although it’s always disruptive in the short-term. I used to tell my managers that we had to “get good at turnover,” meaning we had to learn how to not become derailed when a key contributor left the group. My intention was to minimize the impact to the organization, and use retention strategies to make sure turnover was limited and manageable.



1. Getting Good At Turnover « Managing in the 2000s - October 28, 2011

[…] during an extended salary-and-bonus freeze at my employer in the middle of the last decade. See: Retention Strategies. Back then I was trying to figure out what a mid-level manager could do to create a work […]

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