Now’s Not the Time to Start Thinking About Retention

franmelmed Employee Communications, Engagement and Satisfaction, Fran Melmed, Retention

You can’t have failed to notice that everyone’s leaving their jobs now that
it’s January
, or at least once the economy improves. If they’re not
leaving, they’re staying and hating
their work, hating their coworkers, hating their company
.

What’s a company to
do?

Advice abounds. Every time I refresh on Twitter, I slam into
a new link volunteering counsel on how to keep employees from flying the coop.

If a company’s just now
thinking of employee retention, guess what? Tweet, tweet—and not in the Twitter parlance. They’re
flying. OK, maybe not all. Certainly some. As with marriage, stressful times
test the strength of an employer-employee relationship. The pressure wears,
true colors shine, and the effect on the relationship’s irrevocable.

That doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t put into play what many
a guru espouses here,
here,
and here,
and see whom they catch in their net. While they’re polishing HR programs and wrassling
A-talent flight risks, companies can also take a hard look at their handling of
the bad times.

Did employees ‘get’ what the company was up against?
Often, employees don’t even know what
their company’s struggling with or what choices their company weighed and cast
off because nobody told them. For instance, The Conference
Board report on worker satisfaction
found that the dip to 45% worker
satisfaction is largely due to employees dealing with the double-whammy of microscopic
merit increases and ever-rising health care costs. As a consultant on health
and wellness communication strategies, I can tell you most companies never connected
the dots for their employees on the relationship between the two, fearing their
employees would be even more disgruntled. Or they ate cost increases, while
they could and never shared this good news message. If employees know more
about the potential options and how decisions are reached, they’ll get on board.  At the very least, they’ll have a better
appreciation for the depth of the challenge and the quality of the
decision-making process.

Did employees have a
say in the matter?

Of course, employees can’t have a say in every
decision. But there are some issues where including them makes all the
difference and presents no downside—like before taking away the company
pretzels
or company turkey (true story, ask me). It’s no joke. Some perks, and never
the ones you’d expect, are the drip-feed lifeline of motivation. The cost savings
of eliminating them can’t outstrip the cost benefit of having them, and
companies won’t know this unless they trust employees to make the decision.
Eggs

Did employees feel everyone was treated
with dignity?
This should be common sense, but it appears not judging from the horror stories out there. So, here’s my
public service announcement: respect, decency, and showing employees the
company shares their pain
goes yards in building support for hard
decisions, including the hardest—companywide
layoffs
.

Tap into employees formally or informally. Walk around, hold
“brown bag” sessions, conduct virtual town halls. Or go bold—throw up a blog
and invite commentary and constructive exchange about where the company went
awry and where it deserves applause. Just make sure that no matter the format,
it’s an employee-determined agenda. Afraid to hear it? Consider it process
improvement and quality control and go for it.

Turning a frank eye on what was done well and what wasn’t
will serve companies now and during the next inevitable downward spiral. After
all, not every employee will bail as soon as feasible. [image: sarah marafi]

Fran Melmed likes to write everything in lower case letters over on her other blog, free-range communication, because she finds it more aesthetically pleasing… but we took away that freedom from her on FOT because the consistency of capitilization on this blog is more aesthetically pleasing to the editor. Her blog is an offshoot of context communication consulting llc, which Fran founded to help organizations communicate better on workforce issues… imagine that. Organizations not doing a good job communicating around workforce issues…