Is Employee Retention Really a Thing of the Past?

Target Goals on dart board

You read the title of this article correctly. Employee retention is, the experts say, no longer a priority goal for HR Managers. While no one wants to lose a recently-hired employee to another company after mere months, ensuring the long-term retention of employees isn’t necessarily an imperative anymore.

Why?

It has to do with the still-recent recession and the restructuring of companies. The advancements being made in artificial intelligence (AI) even play a role. It has to do with Gen Y (the Millennials), Gen Z (the Centennials), and their outlook on life. Lastly, to ensure the growth and success of the company, a strategic move for a good employee with potential is sometimes simply necessary.

Allow me to address these four points individually . . . 

What Downsizing Means to the Job Market

competition for jobs - 2 figures pushing each other

Companies are decreasing in size and looking to accomplish their goals with a much smaller staff. When the need arises for a specific skill-set, the company hires the person for a job on a “permanent” or contractual basis. And the competition for these jobs is fierce. However, many of the positions are not truly permanent. They are short-term permanent jobs intended to fulfill an exact set of goals ushered forth by management. Once the goals are met, the position is terminated.

More and more companies are embracing the gig economy in which employees are hired as needed to fulfill the needs of the business. Therefore, hiring managers are seeing and will continue to see resumes that reveal many short-term jobs, rather than simply a few long-held positions. The reasons for all the jobs may vary, but know this without a doubt -- seasonal layoffs, downsizing and outright termination of positions are all part of the employee experience (and resume) now.

The Future of the Workforce Alongside the Advances in Artificial Intelligence

As we move towards 2020 and the AI possibilities rapidly increase, even more jobs will be eliminated as robots perform jobs which humans once performed. Employees may be hired or kept on the payroll for a transitional period, but after that, the individual will need to find a new job, perhaps even a new occupation in a different industry.

multitasking business man

That’s where the younger generations come in. Millennials and Centennials have been working with technology since they were youngsters. They multi-task better than any generation before them. Because of technology, their world is smaller. They think globally, travel internationally and are passionate about work being done (or not) all over this world. They dream of doing the work and plan for it, with or without a so-called permanent job. Side jobs, volunteer work and the entrepreneurial spirit are alive and well in Generations Y and Z.

What Today’s Workers Want

steps up ladder of success - ambition - skills - knowledge

According to Dave Clark, who is a staff writer for TTI Success Insights, today’s employees are seeking job satisfaction and opportunities to utilize their strengths and capabilities. They want to experience the thrill of success more quickly than our parents and grandparents ever anticipated experiencing it in the workplace. Yes, money matters, but for our newest generations of employees, it is not the primary motivation.

Even if it means working one to three years with a company and moving on, then so be it. Millennials and Z-ers want to seize every good opportunity which will keep them engaged, and they’ve got the skills, energy and passion to make it happen.

Here’s a prime example:

be the change - 3 figures in high five move

We have a young couple with two children living in our small, growing Mississippi town. They moved there driving an old station wagon with plans to renovate a needy downtown store front piece of property. They did it a little at a time. The store they eventually opened was a success. So was the café that was added shortly thereafter. When they hired a top-notch chef, it did even better. They invested in the space next door and expanded the size of the store and café. A few years ago, the wife and chef wrote a wonderful cookbook together which continues to sell well around town and beyond.

In the meantime, more renovations were completed down the street where the husband established a school. He teaches high-school students valuable technical skills and then sees that they find good jobs / internships upon completion of the program.

Our little town was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal - thanks, in part, to the hard work and success of these two millennials. And I believe the old station wagon is still running its course.

Strategic Moves by Your Employees (and YOU)

What does a hiring manager do when an employee wants to grow and develop their skills, but there simply isn't a good opportunity to do that - for whatever reason? Do you make promises to the employee that you know you probably won't be able to follow up on - just to keep them on the payroll? Provide insufficient, small opportunities to grow? Offer an increase in salary?

Do you ever dare to tell them it may be time to leave the company - knowing that you will have to refill the position and retrain someone else? What if leaving is what would benefit the employee and the company the most? Dissatisfied employees, especially those voicing their disappointments to other employees, can affect company culture in negative ways. And how "engaged" do you think a disgruntled employee really is? Their mind may be more "engaged" in finding a better opportunity rather than on the daily tasks presenting themselves.

If the employee is exceptional but your hands are tied, why not encourage a healthy and strategic move wherein they might gain more "managerial" or "technical" expertise? Then let them know that they are more than welcome to reapply at a later time if they would like to do so. Give them your blessing. Don't boot them out the door. Don't burn your bridges. Assure them of your support and future recommendation - if they honestly have it. You are simply widening the company's talent acquisition pipeline. They might even be able to refer strong candidates your way. Ask!

When an employee leaves on good terms and with a good attitude, it may be possible for them to train the person taking their place. Communication is key, but it can save a manager much time and stress - especially if the departing employee sees it as an opportunity to improve their reference from the company and add a new skill to his or her resume - that of training coach or mentor.

How do we as hiring managers process this information? Moreover, how should HR managers, as employees, process and adapt to these new facts of life in 2018 and beyond?

Micro-Careers

resume sample for micro-careers

These relatively short-term “permanent” positions are being termed micro-careers. Rather than working fewer than five jobs during your entire career, you may find yourself working double or triple that. Job hunters who have held multiple short-term positions may begin promoting themselves as experts with a vast array of experience across diverse industries, and it will be both true and impressive.

Preferred Experience & Skills

customer service cartoon lady

Which customer service agent do you want to hire? The one who has 20 years of experience with a distribution company or the one with 10 years of experience with a distribution company, a service provider and a retail store?  The 20-year employee received training a few times over the course of her career; she perfected her customer service skills over time, and her performance was excellent. The employee with the micro-career types of positions has received training in modern day customer service techniques, has experience adapting those techniques as needed, excelled at all 3 jobs, and has both the certificates and the references to prove it. The latter was never dismissed from a job, simply laid off as the company saw fit.

Job Hopper or Better Candidate?

quality thumbs up

Both of the workers mentioned above would probably make great candidates. But today, in your current way of thinking about candidates, would you ever actually call the 2nd candidate whose resume is a little “messy” and can leave a hiring manager wondering, “Why does she do so much job-hopping?” Based on the micro-career insight, the better response may be, “I bet there’s a good reason why companies keep hiring her!” Then do the footwork to discover why.

Furthermore, let me pose this question, “How many HR managers do you know who have been replaced or terminated – not because of wrongdoing – but because the company downsized? I know a few HR professionals who prefer to work more as HR consultants than as HR managers. Perhaps that has something to do with companies needing HR advice but not wanting to invest in long-term/20-year salary commitments for that advice. Wrap your mind around it. One day, you may be the so-called “job-hopper”.

So, who’s left to retain exactly? Is employee retention really a non-consideration?

Ignore Retention Strategies?

I don’t believe retention can be dismissed entirely, but candidates today are (or should be) interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. They don’t want a dead-end job. They want to embrace their newly acquired skills, utilize the latest technology, seek out opportunities to learn, grow and succeed, and then move on when they’ve topped out or met the company’s goals and objectives regarding their position. They want to be appreciated and respected for their achievements, regardless of age.

words denoting strategy

The Work of a Hiring Manager

Many of your long-term employees may be content, but some are bound to get caught up in the dreams and aspirations of Generations Y and Z. So know your employees and the level of satisfaction they experience with their jobs. Seek out their input regarding job, salary, benefit and growth priorities. Interview them again. Reevaluate the status quo as you may need to adapt to these new generations of employees. According to the Governance Studies at Brookings report, “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America,” Millennials will represent 75% of the workforce by 2025. 

3 millennial employees

As a hiring manager, you should be seeking the feedback of both your current staff as well as that of the candidates you are interviewing. You need to know and understand their new priorities and adjust your hiring (and retention) strategies accordingly. You want to be creating opportunities for your employees to explore new skills, excel in leadership roles, and feel excited about contributing to and achieving company goals. Every company and individual will vary in needs, but I believe a new pattern is being established in our workplaces – one that we would be wise to pay attention to.

For additional hiring and management assistance, contact a Brannon Professionals’ recruiter or business consultant today.