Archive for July, 2016

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How Healthy is Your Retention Process?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

How Healthy is Your Retention Process?

Alignment solution: A healthy retention process enables an organization to retain good performers long-term and to release poor performers in a timely manner.

I define “healthy retention” as an organization’s ability to retain good performers long-term and to release poor performers as soon as the lack of fit becomes evident and cannot be remedied effectively. A healthy retention process begins before the preparation of job- and organization- based recruitment materials, and it continues throughout each person’s career.

While leaders often do a very good job of addressing some – or perhaps many – elements of the retention process, their misalignment with the goal of healthy retention is an obstacle to a successful process. In the images below, the big arrows represent the direction of a healthy retention process; the small arrows represent very good programs, practices, processes, and systems that comprise a healthy retention process. As you can see, even really good elements of a process cannot succeed when they are at odds with each other. A healthy retention process requires the alignment of all its elements.

Retention Process Graphic

There are three major controllable reasons for unhealthy retention processes. Leaders:

  1. fail to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy retention.
  2. take a very narrow view of what elements comprise a healthy retention process.
  3. view and treat retention as a task instead of as a systematic, on-going process.

Below are suggested remedies for increasing the health of your retention process.

Problem #1: failure to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy retention
Some organizations equate low turnover with good management. Too often, however, it represents unhealthy retention – i.e., poor or mediocre performers remain on the job because managers don’t hold them accountable.

Remedy: clearly define what “healthy retention” means for your organization. Assess your current status. Identify the gaps between where you are and where you’d like to be. Take action to address those gaps. 

Problem #2: take a very narrow view of what elements comprise a healthy retention process
An old story tells how six blind men decided to learn what an elephant looks like by touching one. However, because each man felt a different part of the animal, they all came away with very different experiences. The man who touched its side concluded an elephant is like a wall; the one who felt the trunk likened it to a snake; the one who felt his knee argued it was like a tree; the one who patted the ear compared the elephant to a fan; the one who touched the tail believed an elephant is like a rope; and the man who felt its tusk was convinced an elephant is like a spear. Though all of them reported their experiences accurately, their failure to view the elephant as a whole prevented them from obtaining the result they wanted: an accurate picture of the animal. Similarly, omitting important elements of a healthy retention process will doom your process to failure – or at least to waste and ineffectiveness.

Remedy: take an expansive view of retention. Recognize that healthy retention begins with purposeful preparation, includes recruitment, selection, orientation, and probationary period, and continues with employees’ workplace experiences throughout their careers. Develop your healthy retention process accordingly.

Problem #3: view and treat retention as a task instead of as a systematic, on-going process
Just as the blind men’s focus on separate “pieces” of the elephant prevented them from seeing the entire creature, so treating retention as a task (or series of tasks) is dysfunctional because people cannot put them in the proper context. Misalignment among the elements hinders the organization’s ability to achieve its strategic goals because it doesn’t have the right people in the right jobs.

Remedy: identify all the elements of a healthy retention process. Connect the dots among them so they complement each other and accelerate progress toward achieving organizational goals instead of obstructing or duplicating one another.

Turnover is extremely expensive for organizations, requiring extensive direct and indirect costs as well as disrupting operations and reducing productivity. Would you rather cut corners in your retention process and pay the resultant high price, or would you prefer to invest in developing and retaining a high performance workforce that gets better over time as its positive reputation attracts the best candidates?


Are you curious about the extent to which your organization’s retention process is healthy? Take a look at our Healthy Retention Self-assessment. To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at and my blog at

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