Retention Efforts

Andrew Palmer

Dear Reader

Like you, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to retain great people. As a learning geek, I can’t help applying training and development to the problem, so I thought I’d share what I’ve found effective.

Reconsider how you triage: Common amongst both instructors and leaders, always focusing on the immediate problems can be to the determinant of your top performers—don’t let it be! If you’re busy trying to stop the bleeding (i.e., employees leaving), don’t let it distract you from helping those quietly doing great work.  Treat your best people as your top priority.

Supersize it: In her terrific leadership book Multipliers, Liz Wiseman makes the argument that leaders should “try supersizing someone’s job . . . assess their current capabilities and then give them a challenge that is a size too big.” And there’s never been a better time to embrace the a-size-too-big philosophy than right now. For team members that aren’t quite ready for leadership, give them a leadership role anyway or develop a new mentor or trainer role for them. People will rise to the occasion.

Action map your onboarding: If you reconsidered what your onboarding process looks like, where would you start? Too often, we think about things in terms of blocks of content or what new team members “need to know” or “just be aware of.” But what we really care about is what they can do.  Before making one more change to your onboarding, go through the process of action mapping it (a process developed by Cathy Moore). Instead of thinking in terms of knowledge, start with the behaviors (or actions) team members need to do on the job. Then design practice experiences that will get them doing it immediately, in a no-pressure environment, where they can make mistakes and get immediate feedback. Only then should you consider what they need to know. And what they need to know is only what’s needed to complete the practice experiences—that’s it. Everything else should go into your knowledge base, which brings me to my last point . . .

Invest in your knowledge base: There may be no better return on investment (ROI) than a high-functioning internal knowledge base. You could spend your whole life teaching a new team member all the details, processes, and nuances, only to find yourself weeping as that team member walks out the door. Instead, invest time and money in better tools for storing and sharing that knowledge. Get everything out of your head and into written SOPs. If you have a bunch of old documents sitting in a dark corner, revise and update them. And find ways to make them easier to access in the flow of work. Work to make your knowledge base as valuable, accurate, and easy-to-use as possible.