NZIM : Keeping in Sync – The battle for talent

Staff turnover, in times of war, can be fatal. It can bleed an organisation to death when transfusion of easy to find new talent is either too expensive or non-existent. And make no mistake, employers everywhere are at war as they search an increasingly tight labour market looking for people best equipped to deliver organisational success.
Some of the best talent is, of course, already recruited. But what keeps it loyal to the cause and primed to fight?
According to recent Australian Insync Surveys Retention Review (see, almost 90 percent of employee turnover is avoidable. And that’s half the battle. Keep the best of what you’ve got.
To keep people, managers must first understand the reasons they abscond; which ones are most likely to desert and what, exactly, is the real cost of troop attrition? Estimates of the cost of staff turnover vary between 50 and 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary.
As the Insync Surveys team points out, an understanding of staff turnover issues is vital to create an ‘effective retention strategy’ and ensure your organisation has the resources to grow and meet performance targets. It also points out there is wide range of organisational, interpersonal and personal factors that affect an employee’s decision to leave.
There are, it seems, five big reasons for leaving an organisation. And while we might bang on about work/life balance, that is not top of the list. It is, however, number five on the Insync Surveys list.
Job satisfaction, or rather the lack of it, counts most. Employees still fundamentally desire to be happy at work, be well remunerated and be able to see or have available adequate advancement opportunities.
Drilling down on specifics the survey found three powerful predictors of an employee leaving due to lack of job satisfaction. • Skills not used to the full potential.
• Efforts at work not recognised.
• Not having the resources to do job well.
Reasons for leaving an organisation can be grouped into four general categories: enrichment, which applies in 40 percent of cases; home life (23 percent); structural (20 percent) and interpersonal (17 percent). Personal reasons account for only 11 percent.
Women identify the absence of enrichment – factors including work potential, skill development, achievement and recognition – as primary motivator for leaving, little more often than men do. They also give higher importance to interpersonal factors, relationships within the organisation, with direct supervisors and other employees, than men do.
There is no difference between men and women when it comes to factors incorporating work/life balance.
According to Insync, women are more likely to leave because of their relationship with their direct manager. manager will strongly factor in woman’s decision to leave when their direct report does not actively listen to employees or value their opinion or, when they don’t recognise an employee’s contribution and efforts at work.
“Women leave jobs not because they have different motivations than men, but because their opportunities are blocked and they are not well led,” according to the survey authors. “Building strong relationships and coaching women to develop and succeed go hand in hand. Providing opportunities for growth, demonstrating an interest in women’s career development and recognising their efforts will increase retention.”
The researchers also surveyed generational issues such as retaining the mature workforce. As they pointed out, the current focus on attracting Generation Y talent means the values of the mature workforce can be “overlooked”. The next two decades will see an exodus of Baby Boomers which will drain entire industries of institutional knowledge and skills.
Their conclusion: “Smart organisations are acting now with early intervention to cope with the flow of older workers out of the workforce.”
So what compels Baby Boomers and Generation X employees to leave, as opposed to Generation Y?
Baby Boomers, at 37 percent, are less driven by enrichment factors than Generation X at 42 percent and Generation Y at 48 percent. Interpersonal factors are more important to Baby Boomers (17 percent) and Generation X (15 percent) or Generation Y (10 percent).
The specific drivers of attrition are unquestionably different across the generational divide. Baby Boomers rated their direct manager as primary reason for leaving at 71 percent important. (Generation X rated only 54 percent, Generation Y 41 percent.)
And Baby Boomers rated work stress as significant reason for going at 56 percent compared with 48 and 43 percent respectively for X and Y.
So, concludes Insync, organisations need differentiated strategy aimed at retaining mature employees for their skills and knowledge. So, recruit proactive human resource leader who identifies the benefits that mature workers bring to the workplace.
Work/life balance is more important to older employees, both Baby Boomers and Generation X employees, according to the survey. They indicated stronger propensity to leave their employer in search of greater work/life balance at 61 and 63 percent respectively. Generation Y employees rated it at only 53 percent important.
The conclusion the survey company comes to is that Baby Boomers and Generation X employees may require employment flexibility to keep them committed. “Employers will need to incorporate the ageing workforce into their talent management and retention efforts to engage older employees over longer periods.
They also suggest that job sharing, phased retirement, part-time work, mentoring, consultancy and project work may delay or redefine retirement for Baby Boomers and Generation X employees.
However, they warn, “Living out flexible workforce approach is harder than just writing policy. Organisations must move beyond work/life balance policy and toward culture that supports these policies.”
The Insync Surveys Retention Review findings confirm what most HR professionals already know: Generation Y employees have an appetite for career progression and growth and opportunities in these areas will increase their retention.
Satisfying Generation Y employees revolves around positive work environment, flexibility and the opportunity to develop. Employers should invest in strategies to promote culture that encourages self development and improvement with continuous stimulation and challenge. Initiatives to pursue are: working with other bright and creative individuals and coaching and mentoring.

Insync strategies for retaining multi-generational workforce
1.Build culture that values respect, inclusiveness and open communication.
2.Refine work flexibility policies and practices.
3.Develop dual-mentoring programmes.
4.Rebalance employee skills to meet organisational needs.

Reg Birchfield FNZIM is director of the National Board of NZIM.

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