Friday 7 January 2011

Do you need an Employee Retention process?


   I don’t normally post about client work but I’ve been in a workshop this week that has been particularly interesting and relevant to some of the stuff I’ve recently posted on here.

So, the overall context has been on retaining employees, but one morning was devoted to developing a business process for retention.  Now, I do quite a lot of work facilitating the development of business processes and I think it’s a skills / technique many more HR professionals should have.  And I’ve also run a similar workshop once previously focused on retention (at Kennedy Information’s Retention Summit in Orlando in 2008).

Actually, it’s a workshop I’d like to run a lot more, because I think it works so well.  In particularly, it helps demonstrate that what organisations often say are important, eg retaining its people, aren’t supported by actions that well.  Where is your employee retention process for example?  And of course, no organisation (?) has one.  Retention is split across a number of sub-processes eg some activity in performance management, some in reward etc.  Or probably more honestly, there’s often no process at all – retention is just (hopefully) a by-product of these other processes looking at other things.

And it sounds crazy to suggest that we should or might have a retention process.  But I think this is only a consequence of the way we have build HR processes around supporting the business, not developing Human Capital.  If we were focused on human capital, and if things like employee retention really were important, then we’d have a process for it.  Wouldn’t we?  (That’s basically the definition of a business process that I use within my workshop – a mechanism for doing something that the organisation sees as important.)

But this was the first time I’ve run this workshop with a client.  And it was possibly because this was an internal client group that we got a lot further in the workshop than I did before.

So, some of the group’s conclusions were:

  • That the start point of the process should be recruiting people who would be likely to stay in the organisation
  • That the end point would be arranging an appropriate departure (with links to the business development, employer branding and other different business processes as well as back to the beginning of this one).


In fact, the group found it difficult to specify and end point for the process – and it basically started to become a loop in which employees would leave the organisation but would then, very naturally, be re-recruited later on.

And, and this is the key bit, to make this process really work well, the organisation would engage with the individual employee to ensure they left at the most appropriate point (which might mean encouraging them to leave earlier than they would have otherwise done).


The interesting thing for me, you as well?, is that this is what I’ve proposed as a career partnership model a couple of times here before, and which I’ve recently entered as an example of a management hack at Gary Hamel’s Management Innovation Exchange (the MIX).  But I’ve never thought of this in process terms before, which makes me feel more confident that I’m right about both ideas (that organisations should have a retention process – or at least some aspects of one – and that a useful basis for employee retention would be a career partnership approach).





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  1. I've often thought that allowing former staff to continue accessing internal forums etc is a nice, loose ties way to retain contact. These days I guess a Facebook alumni group could work.

    You made me think about how much I would or wouldn't want BBC HR to have stayed in touch with me. I guess this is you point that if you start the process early enough it has a different context.

  2. I have been encouraging clients that retention can not operate as a separate process. Unfortunately HR professionals have proven to be very good at developing various processes that do not link to the whole.

    Human capital management and development or talent management must be holistic and operate within a support corporate culture.

    Companies are not going to retain the key talent if they have not developed a supportive culture and addressed all the issues of finding, growing and holding key people as a seamless process.

    Pat Sheehan

  3. Thanks both, I've responded here:


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