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How serious is your organisation about staff retention?

Just a few years ago staff retention was all about providing challenging work opportunities and regular feedback to employees. While these are vital in a post-GFC era they are givens, employees are looking for more. Employers need to understand the drivers of staff retention and the things that motivate if they are to weather what lies ahead. Mark McCrindle, a leading Australian demographer, recently described the contradiction we find ourselves in: a booming population growth of 2.1% per annum and a staffing shortage. We face major succession planning issues with a third of our leaders currently in their 50s, a low unemployment rate and a forecast that suggests that in 2011 more people will exit our economy than will enter it. Staff retention will remain high on the agenda of most organisations.

What are leading organisations doing about staff retention?

They value their people, in the good times and bad. They seek to connect more closely and honesty with their people, to understand their career and life aspirations. Retention is at the core of leading organisations’ strategies, policies and behaviours. Proactive staff development and careers discussions with staff are priorities.

Career discussions and succession planning are key

Because today’s organisations are leaner and flatter than in the past, they have fewer ‘traditional’ opportunities or obvious career paths. As a result, managers often avoid career conversations out of fear that they cannot describe the next promotion or step in an employee’s career.

Staff who have not given career planning much thought often hang onto the outdated notion of a career ladder as opposed to seeing today’s career as a series of challenging and fulfilling assignments. Without career conversations staff find it easier to pursue concrete opportunities outside the organisation than investigate and understand the opportunities inside.

Action plan

An organisation committed to staff retention needs to define and implement a career development framework. This framework should consider:

  1. How career development is defined in the organisation i.e. the messages your organisation sends staff regarding career development. Is career success defined in promotional terms only? What fulfilling projects can you make available for staff? How can your organisation emphasise new experiences, skills development and interesting work as career opportunities?
  2. How the organisation defines staff development. The most effective development opportunities happen on the job, working with a supervisor or manager. Best practice organisations use a 70:20:10 formula for staff development where 70% of development is on the job, 20% is through ‘one on one’ coaching/mentoring and 10% is instructional/formal learning.
  3. Equipping managers to have career discussions to help staff get to where they want to go and where the organisation needs them to be.
  4. Providing systems and policies which support career development. Many individual goals revolve around flexibility i.e. child care arrangements, sport, study, working from home and nine day fortnights. It is important for your organisation to acknowledge and investigate these options as part of the new career landscape.

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