Employee Retention - 16 January 2014
There is an understandable focus in many organisations these days on the need to retain employees. But what’s often missing from the conversation is the need to retain them for the right reasons. Failure to do so means you have people physically there even though they’ve mentally resigned. Generally, employees who don’t resign fall into three main categories.
The Need-to-stayers: These employees hang around because they have no other choice. Perhaps they can’t find another job or maybe they’re waiting for some kind of financial windfall (such as long service leave). They don’t want to stay, but they do so regardless.
The Ought-to-stayers: These are the ones who stay because they feel as though they have a moral obligation to do so. For example, they might assume things will fall apart if they depart. Whatever the reason, they hold back from resigning because they feel guilty.
The Want-to-stayers: These are the staff members who are emotionally attached to the organisation. They remain loyal to their boss and to their colleagues because they truly enjoy coming to work, love their job, and can’t imagine working anywhere else.
When designing your employee retention strategy it’s important, then, to consider how you can retain employees not because they feel they need to or because they ought to but because they genuinely want to. A study published a few months ago in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies shed some light on how this can be done.
The analysis carried out by the researchers singled out the essential role that ethical leadership plays in achieving this objective. Whilst there are many elements that constitute ethical leadership, three in particular were identified: fairness, honesty, and concern.
- Fairness: Employees are more likely to stay when they perceive their supervisor as someone who doesn’t play favourites and is unprejudiced when making decisions.
- Honesty: Employees are more inclined to stay if they trust their boss as someone who’s truthful and transparent.
It’s basic stuff, really. And that’s what’s increasingly emerging in the empirical literature. The science of retaining employees has less to do with the specific actions you take, and much more to do with your character.
- Concern: They’re similarly more loyal if their leaders make an effort to know them as people, understand their issues, and be of service.
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