insight magazine

Retention Revolution or Evolution?

Worrying about what’s fashionable in recruiting and retention has caused us to lose sight of the simple ways to save our best and brightest. By Tim Jipping, CPA, CGMA | Digital Exclusive - 2017


“It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.” - Tim Ferris

Back in the 1950s, the style for most young people revolved around fitted fashions, or tight clothing. Take “Grease” front man Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta) and his T-Birds greaser gang in their skinny jeans cuffed at the ankles and the Pink Ladies with their tight black pants and blouses.

Then jump ahead to the 70s—oh how fashion had changed! Picture 19-year-old Tony Manero (also played by John Travolta) out on the dance floor in his iconic flared and bell-bottomed white disco suit in “Saturday Night Fever.”

Now, fast forward to today; take a look at those around you when you’re walking down the street—or even take a good look in your own closet. Certain fashion elements have come full circle, our trendy skinny jeans and form-fitting leggings are staples of our styles once again. Nevertheless, while the styles continue to change and follow each generation’s desire for self-expression, one thing will never change—the need for clothing.

All kidding aside, we’ve heard about all of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to treat Millennials in the workplace. We all know the mantra about Millennials by now: they’re needy, entitled and disloyal, want to be CEO (who doesn’t?) and get paid a lot of money (again, who doesn’t?), only work nine-to-five (in remote work environments, of course), and on and on it goes. We’ve learned there’s some truth and untruth to all this, but it all depends on context.

Soon, though, these how-to’s will begin to die off about Millennials and ramp up regarding Gen Z, or whatever moniker society will ultimately give this younger and entirely digital generation.

Time and time again we focus on trying to offer the most fashionable employee perks and benefits to recruit, retain, and motivate top talent. But while the workforce will continue to change, and each generation will have its similarities and differences, there are a few things that will never go out of style when it comes to recruiting and retention.

All current and future high performers, meaning the people from every generation you employ or want to employ, need to receive these three things if they’re going to stick around:

1. Opportunities to Fail.

Having the opportunity to fail doesn’t mean that they want to fail. No one wants to fail, but the true leaders in the bunch know they’re going to, and they figure if it’s going to happen, they better quickly get it out of the way. Having the opportunity to fail demonstrates that they’ve been given some trust and responsibility, which inspires and drives them to higher performance. Author Tim Ferris articulates this point beautifully:
“It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.” The trick here is that you actually have to give them this rope, and you actually have to trust them—you can’t fake it; they sniff that out in an instant.

2. Ability to Advance.

Having the ability to advance doesn’t mean simply advancing in rank within your organization. This speaks to everyone’s ability to grow, develop, and progress in their careers—whether it’s with your organization or somewhere else. The most successful organizations take this investment seriously. When people are treated like labor, they’ll act like labor. But when people are cared for and invested in, they’ll run through walls for you. Your top performers don’t just want you to give them promotions, they want to earn them. Help them do it.

3. Fair Compensation.

Has there been anyone ever in the history of the world who hasn’t wanted fair pay? There might be disagreements about what’s considered fair, but no one can criticize someone for trying to monetize their value. At the same time, most organizations today strive to pay a fair wage and provide competitive benefits in order to help attract the talent they need. My point here is that when someone leaves, you might think it’s simply for a money grab; please refer back to items one and two above. Money is important, but it’s rarely a top reason someone leaves an organization, and when it is communicated as a top reason, it’s usually because the person leaving doesn’t want to burn any bridges on their way out.

If you’re thinking these points are basic and boring, you’re right. Though we often try to get overly analytical and cute with our recruiting and retention efforts, focusing on the fundamentals is timeless.

Like jeans and T-shirts, though people’s tastes in fashion may change over the years, when you break it down, they just want to wear clothes.

Illinois CPA Society member Tim Jipping, CPA, CGMA, is a speaker and senior manager at Plante Moran in Chicago. He can be reached at 312-980-2989 or via email.

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