January 4, 2021

Retention? I Drive a 2006 Honda Civic. How’s That for Retention!

In this day of cars with myriad flashy options, I drive one with a stock radio, no Bluetooth, and no back-up camera. But it gets the job done and gets me where I want to go. I keep it well maintained with regular oil changes, and it has never let me down in my 15 years of driving it.

There are flashier, more sophisticated cars I could purchase, cars with all the bells and whistles, but why would I spend money on something I don’t need — and more importantly, already have?

Some companies forget the value of dependable cars when it comes to their recruitment programs, and that’s part of why so many employers are struggling to retain staff at all levels, from senior leaders down to the worker bees. Susana Rinderle — founder of Words, Wisdom, and Wellness — said it best at the ERE Digital 2020 Conference: “If you aren’t recruiting your own internal talent, there is some other firm, headhunter, or recruiter that is shopping your talent.”  

According to a study from the Work Institute, 42 million US employees left their jobs voluntarily in 2019, an increase of over 2 million from 2018. Since 2010, the number of voluntary departures has increased by 88 percent! (The COVID-19 pandemic may have shaken up voluntary departures a bit, but it’s unlikely to totally reverse the trend.)

How does such high turnover affect a company’s bottom line? It’s simple:

  1. Cost: The cost of replacing an employee is high, reaching as much as 6-9 months’ worth of the departing employee’s salary on average.
  2. Time: Recruitment times vary by industry and role, but the overall average is more than a month. Expect it to be longer for senior-level and highly specialized hires — not to mention the COVID factor.
  3. Morale: This, I think, is one of the bigger issues. As employees watch their peers leave for other opportunities — and as they find themselves being passed over for internal opportunities — their motivation to move on only increases. It becomes a matter of time before the organization is backfilling their position. 

If companies don’t invest in their current employees or help them grow in their careers — poof! — their talent pool is gone. However, when leaders and managers really get to know their people and help them advance in their career paths, retention becomes that much easier.

Best Practices for Keeping Retention High

Companies should be leveraging all employee skills and optimizing their internal talent before turning to external recruiting efforts. And with the recent shifts to remote work, doing so is more feasible than ever. Now, there’s no reason why the colleague living in Miami can’t be considered for a role that used to operate out of the Chicago office.

There are a few key steps leaders and managers can take to make retention even easier:

  1. Survey employees throughout the year to check on their career progress, engagement levels, and professional goals.
  2. Give employees the resources they need to upgrade their skills, and allow them to participate in projects of importance to the company. 
  3. Be transparent about talent needs with all employees in the organization.
  4. Recognize and reward staff who go above and beyond the call of duty.
  5. Provide real work/life balance — no, really. You have to mean it.

Why has retention been such a struggle? Why has turnover increased steadily over the past decade? Is it that managers don’t see their employees as dependable? Is it that employees don’t really have the skills for the job?

Or do managers see their employees as disposable, thinking, “Well, there are more candidates out there just like them, and we can find someone — maybe even someone cheaper — in no time”?

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the employees who have already proven themselves to be team players, are motivated to do the work, and have the right attitude over the cheaper replacements any day. You can always teach the aptitude.

Think back to the car scenario above. If the talent you have in front of you is taken care of, and their performance is proven, then what’s the risk of looking internally first? You are saving time and money and boosting your overall employee morale by doing so!

I’ll keep my Honda Civic until the day it quits on me — which might be a while, since it only has 90,000 miles. I trust it, and it has proven to be reliable. I take care of it, recognize any problems it may be having, and reward it by filling it with gas and getting it washed. The big advantage of doing all of this: I don’t have to waste money on a new car or even spend time looking for one.

You could do the same if you took care of your employees.

Jeremy Bonewitz is talent acquisition manager at Stantec for its North American Infrastructure Division.

Read more in Retention

Jeremy Bonewitz has been recruiting for more than 12 years on both the third-party side and the corporate side. For the last nine years, he has been a corporate recruiter in the engineering, environmental, and construction fields. He is currently the talent acquisition manager of the North American Infrastructure Division at Stantec.