The Trap – Don’t offer the Cheese :)

DO you consider their performance only when they hand over their final paper, unlike trapping a mouse, retaining an employee at the last minute with a lump of cheese is not a bright idea?

Your contribution has been valuable and has determined our success. We believe you have the potential to take this organisation to the next level and spearhead our international assignments. Such words are only uttered by a desperate boss who is trying to retain a deserving employee.

Sad reality, such level of recognition and acknowledgement is provided only when the person gets an offer from another company. But then again, if timely rewards and recognition were in place, the person wouldn’t have chosen to leave, to begin with. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and doing the right thing at the right time doesn’t seem so obvious to most people! So, let’s try to understand this phenomenon a little better and build an opinion on the same.

Being offered a better profile than your current job at the point of exiting the firm just doesn’t seem right. You come to believe that if you really did deserve it then why did your employer only realize your potential after another company recognized it and offered you something worth your salt? This is because most companies today believe in being reactive rather than pro-active. How can we correct this?

The knee-jerk approach to retaining people is a reality today. So, it is a challenge for every HR manager to minimize this. To begin with, one need to understand what it is that triggers attrition in an organisation. A fair salary can be managed by equitable distribution of compensation and the engagement level can be tackled by clearly defining the deliverables: what is required to be done and what is expected from the person.

Another key driver is whether the organisation is bent towards carving out the employee’s career growth path and offers learning. The challenge for us is to therefore be in pre-emptive and not reactive mode in catering to these needs. To foresee issues and nip them in the bud is great but why is the reactive mode so unsuccessful? Trying to retain an employee after he/she has accepted another job offer is a tough task in itself. The chances of retaining him/her are pretty low because an employee who has initiated a job search has mentally ‘checked out’. The trick is to try and get to him before he begins his search.

Every manager must ensure that the lines of communication between him and his direct reports are always kept open. Each manager must be held accountable for retaining his people.

Most organisations care less about digging into what their people really want, until they are disgruntled and are about to leave. The idea of last minute machinations to retain an employee who has expressed his desire to quit is flawed at the very conceptual level. The best time for re-engaging and refreshing the commitment of your employees is not when the employee resigns, but long before that.

A good company is one that takes care of its employees right from the day they are inducted. You need to know as to what extent are your employees engaged and committed. Employees should be asked as to what they expect from the company they work for – the idea is to know their needs and to meet them, if they are feasible enough. Only then a sense of belonging will be created. Last minute retention strategies should chiefly be used to understand and subsequently better anticipate and address reasons for employee discontent rather than as tools to retain employees.

Another demerit of extending last minute hikes would be that it triggers a strong message for others in the organisation that this is the only way of getting a hike which could spell disaster. Any last minute pay hikes and promotions will always be viewed with suspicion. Also, this would set a very wrong example. It will not only give the impression that the employee needs to take drastic steps in order to get noticed but may also creates a precedent encouraging other employees to use resignations as bullying tactics to getting better remuneration.

Having debated on the futility of last minute retention strategies, we still know that it is a bitter reality and there are organisations which opt for it. So, what is their agenda in doing so? Let’s find out.

One of the reasons could be that they want to ramp up fast, and many of them are start-ups who are growing very fast. So, they are looking for a short-term solution. They will get the person with a high price but plateau hikes in the future.

While companies continue to hold on tight to their high fliers by filling their pockets and massaging their egos, as and when they get offers from competition, it is a shame that they are yet to realise the brutal mistake they are making in the process. The mistake of making others in the organisation realise that this is a great tool to make a fast buck. It is not rocket science, its common sense! Reward your people timely and make sure people get what they deserve and you won’t have to beg them to stay with you!

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