A while back the following question was asked by one of my team members who had resigned and I was trying to retain him:
“Are you serving wine in the office?”
He was a great performer with the never-say-die attitude that used to inspire the entire team. His question certainly did make me think, but at that time I didn’t consider it to be an important one from the perspective of employee retention.
A Change of Perspective
Now I realize that he was simply asking some important questions:
- Do you know what I need?
- Whether an organization can meet my needs?
- What recommendations my manager is authorized to make?
- What can be done by senior management & HR for a person without making exceptions?
- What exceptions can be made for a performer like me?
My suggestion to the managers in my team has been to understand these questions and be prepared with the answers before discussing anything with the employee. Direct the employee to senior managers or HR guys to get answers for the questions you can’t answer or don’t have answers for.
Many of us make common mistakes while negotiating with the people in order to retain them and we repeat the same mistakes again and again! Here are some of the common mistakes:
Common Mistakes in Trying to Retain Employees
Here are some of the common mistakes that leaders make when trying to retain employees:
Not ready with answers to above mentioned questions
Many managers (myself included!) have this instinct for contributing in a crisis situation without preparation. My recommendation is to understand the cause of the resignation first and then prepare well before trying to retain the employee.
Comparing the skill & performance with peers at the same (or even higher) level
Managers do this to boost the ego of the person and to highlight his/her importance. This might work sometimes that too with average performers but smarter guys always know about their real performance level and standing in a team.
At the end of it, the manager loses respect in front of the team – I can tell you that such conversations travel at a higher speed than light and you can’t hide it!
Over-committing the role/designation/compensation
At times we become too passionate to retain the employee and tend to over commit. Sometimes managers are not even authorized to commit change of designation/compensation but still commit. It is dangerous because quite often organizations don’t agree to make exceptions unless the person is too critical or strategic for the larger organization.
It is a good practice to recommend a change of role. If there is one already which suits this person, go ahead and recommend.
If you don’t have a role for a true performer, try to create one. You’ll not only have a successful retention case but will also have a motivated employee.
Avoid assuring or recommending anything like designation/compensation change without having prior approval. Otherwise, the employee would expect a change because you discussed it with him/her. I have faced situations where a person took the resignation back and mentioned the reason as ‘promotion or salary change commitment made by my manager’ and senior management was in red as they had no clue about the promise made by the manager.
This is a very difficult situation to be in; and
- If HR/management disagrees, the manager loses credibility. The organization may lose two guys (employee & manager) in place of one
- If HR/management agrees, this becomes a bigger problem for the organization as employees may quote in the public about ‘resignation as a successful tool’ to negotiate on promotion/compensation. Even the managers (including the successful one whose team member got promoted!) will quote this as an example in future
- In any case, people will question the ‘fairness’ in the organization
Changing the reporting manager quickly
A lot of resignations happen due to ‘my manager does not understand/like me’ phenomenon. Changing the assignment (hence the manager) works well for retaining good guys, but if you make the change quickly you will face a bigger problem. Change in assignment is typically done by higher level of managers along with HR.
They shouldn’t commit a quick change and it should be done by taking the reporting manager in confidence about the proposed change. Well, thought the transition plan should come from the manager. Employees will be able to get the objective & importance of transition.
Offering the wrong role
Sometimes managers offer roles to employees that are not meant for them. I might have an important & vacant role and a performer who has just resigned. I play the role of a mathematician and a manager who likes the employee and hence I offer this position to him/her.
Mathematically, the position is filled and I feel proud to have managed a problem. And three months later, I crib about retaining a person who was not worth it!
By the way, I was able to retain my guy at that time!
So what are some of the mistakes that you might have made in trying to retain a valuable employee? What are some of the successes you have had? I would love to hear your thoughts on best practices!
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