Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I saw a statement being shared around social media recently that said, “Retention isn’t on employees, it’s on the employer.” I totally understand why it was a popular statement to share. Organizations should care about employee retention and put strategies in place to retain employees.
But this doesn’t mean that employees don’t have any responsibility in retention.
Organizations are unable to put retention strategies in place if they don’t understand what employees want (i.e. what makes them stay with the company). Some of you might be saying that this means the obligation is on the employer. True – but the employee has to give them the information. That’s where the employee plays a part in retention.
Employees need to provide honest feedback to the organization. Emphasis on the word honest. I’m not suggesting that employees are lying to their employer about what they want. But I’ve run into many situations where the employee doesn’t know what they want. For example, I’ve heard several people say, “I’ve always thought it would be cool to work from home. Then I started doing it. It’s not as easy as it looks. I can’t wait to go back to the office.”
Retention occurs when organizations create a strategy to engage and retain employees based on feedback from employees. What type of feedback? Well, many years ago psychologist David McClelland developed a model on needs theory. The premise of his work is that individuals have needs that evolve over time based on their experiences.
According to McClelland, we have three basic needs: power, affiliation, and achievement.
Power needs are the ability to influence. I’ve written in the past about different types of workplace power. Everyone has power and they want to know that they can use their power. Think of it in terms of feedback. Employees want to know that they have the power to suggest changes or improvements to their manager and that they will be taken seriously.
Affiliation needs are related to being a part of the team. I don’t really think of affiliation as getting asked to join the gang for drinks after work, although it could be interpreted that way. To me, affiliation is about employees knowing that they are welcome and able to be themselves at work. Think about that related to retention. Employees are able to collaborate successfully, and teams are able to work together pleasantly.
Achievement needs are focused on the ability to get things done. Whether it’s a big project or a small task, there’s something very satisfying about crossing something off your to-do list. Employees want to be able to accomplish things without major obstacles and delays. They also want to be recognized appropriately for successfully completing a goal.
If we follow McClelland’s model, then organizations should find out how employees like to work, how they want to be recognized for a job well done, the strengths they bring to teams, and their communication style. That all factors into retention. On the same note, employees need to be prepared to answer these questions honestly and with specifics.
One last thing. If organizations are reading this and saying, “I ask employees all the time for feedback. They don’t give any.”, ask yourself a couple of questions. 1) Do employees feel safe giving feedback? 2) Does the company ever implement employee feedback? Organizations need to figure out if culture is keeping employees from providing the feedback you’re looking for.
Instead of guessing about what employees want, I think organizations need to ask employees for some direction. And employees should be prepared to provide some guidance. Just imagine how great a workplace could be if employers and employees worked together to improve retention. Kinda sounds like real engagement!
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