Three things are usually off-limits when it comes to workplace conversations:
The first two are obvious: We don’t discuss hot topics in the workplace. But we don’t talk about the third one, turnover, because we believe we don’t have any control over it. It’s just one of those things that happens in organizational dynamics:
We’ve had turnover, and we’ll always have turnover. Now, let’s get back to talking about fun things like employment branding and candidate experience.”
Stop it! You’re better than that!
When I worked in human resources at Applebee’s, those were difficult times. The restaurant industry had massive turnover. Most companies had well over 100 percent turnover, which is a mathematical nightmare.
Applebee’s made it its mission to be the best in the industry at retaining talent. My region led the company in employee retention. We tried to have a vision and use metrics to our advantage. For every employee we could retain, it meant we had one less employee to hire and train. Turns out retention is significantly easier to do than hiring and training — and it costs less!
SO, HOW DID WE DO THAT — AND HOW CAN YOU REPLICATE IT?
1. USE DATA TO SEE IF YOU EMPLOY SOMEONE WHO IS IN A ROLE IN HIGH DEMAND.
Focus on what you need to do to retain them. Check out tools like CareerBuilder’s Supply and Demand to see how easy or hard it is to recruit for a specific role in your city.
2. UNDERSTAND WHY RETENTION IS SO IMPORTANT.
Retention is a strategic imperative for talent acquisition teams. It was the most important thing we talked about. It became a foundational and operational priority. Retention of employees became everyone’s job — from the recruiters who sourced and screened talent to the front-line supervisors in our restaurants.
3. MAKE TURNOVER AND RETENTION METRICS PUBLIC AND VISIBLE.
I firmly believe data is essential to tackling turnover issues, and that this information should be accessible to everyone in the company. From the CEO to the line cook, we had detailed metrics visible in every Applebee’s location. We used dashboards that were updated on a daily basis. No one could hide from the truth. Retention was a measure of the health of the business.
4. CREATE A “SAVE STRATEGY.”
We developed a plan to address talented employees at risk of leaving. We also aggressively courted those amazing workers who gave notice. Our strategy had a lot of moving parts, but the biggest part was an immediate reaction to finding out why they were leaving and learning what we could do to keep them. We gave authority to first-level leaders to take the action they needed to retain employees.
REMEMBER — RETENTION ISN’T SEXY.
We don’t talk about employee turnover in our organizations because we feel we have no real control over the outcome. We think that people are just going to leave, and that it’s the natural order of organizations. We also think that this falls outside of our responsibilities as talent acquisition professionals.
RETENTION MATTERS TO TALENT ACQUISITION LEADERS.
For those talent acquisition functions that are under water, retention should be your very first priority. Plug the holes in the dam first, and then worry about talent communities and candidate experience once you get the basics right. The last thing you want to do is bring more talent into an environment where they’re more likely to turnover as well.
An organization cannot move forward if you’re always replacing significant talent across all functions. Create and develop an environment where people want to stay and work and thrive, and your job as a talent acquisition professional gets easier.
Build it and they will stay. I promise you.