Should your Head of Engagement be your Head of Talent Retention?

It’s quite common now for organisations to have roles focused on ‘Talent Acquisition’. What was once the lowly recruitment function has now been rebranded to focus on acquiring the best people into the organisation. LinkedIn is awash with the appropriate titles – Head of Talent Acquisition, Talent Acquisition Lead, Talent Acquisition Manager etc. and there is a whole industry devoted to servicing this function – from technology to content in the form of Psychometrics to sift the right people; to Talent Acquisition agencies; to the work done on Employee Value Propositions to attract the right type of person.

And all this is great. In theory, it ensures that highly skilled and highly motivated people, who are aligned with your values and culture are joining your company, and in a reasonable time-frame should be high performers, taking your organisation to even greater heights.

But what happens after they join, after any on-boarding programme is finished? Who focusses on ensuring that the significant investment in acquiring and training these people is not wasted? Where is the dedicated focus on talent retention?

In my mind this is where the focus on employee engagement comes in. A forward thinking organisation will recognise both the impact and the cost of losing the wrong people. Not only do they have to cope with the sunk costs of the original recruitment and ongoing training, they also have to potentially re-incur them to replace the people who have left. Added to this is also the opportunity cost of the lower productivity of a unit when someone leaves and then someone new comes in.

Part of the issue comes with getting the Employee Value Proposition accurate. In the minds of new employees, the ‘promise made’ should measure up to the ‘promise kept’. Too often we see engagement scores being high for new joiners, but plummeting by up to 20% for those who have recently completed their first year of service, mainly due to the fact that they have not experienced the organisation they were expecting to. How can we rectify this? A suggestion here would be to sit down with your Talent Acquisition colleagues to look at your employee survey results – cut them by tenure and see how quickly and to what extent scores deteriorate from time period to period e.g. 0-6months v. 6-12 months, then overlay these results with attrition rates by tenure. It is a sad truism that the most engaged any employee ever is with their company is probably the day before they start!!

The other part of the conundrum is addressing the needs of tenured staff. All things change over time, from technology, to culture, to customers, to markets, to skills, even to people’s values! A well-constructed employee survey will ask questions that gets to the intrinsic needs of your critical talent, whether that be the culture they are looking for, the investment they feel they are getting in their skills, or how well the vision of the organisation resonates with them. Some of this will be in the influence of the line manager, so management selection and development is a critical component of retention; but also, and arguably more, in the way senior leaders articulate and convince their employees that they are stewarding the organisation towards success.

With this in mind should your Head of Engagement (and by this I don’t mean the person who runs your Engagement Survey — that is simply a project designed to provide insight — but the person who has ultimate responsibility for ensuring the organisation does its utmost to get the best out of its people) also be called “Head of Talent Retention”? Their remit should be to ensure the organisation has the right programmes, tools, culture etc. that gives the organisation the best chance to ensure people in the most critical roles in the organisation are not chalked down as “regretted loss” in the system.

Source: Sean Mills, Executive Director of Ipsos LEAD