human capital

Retain Your Talent: Avoid These Three HR Management Fallacies

Retain Your Talent: Avoid These Three HR Management Fallacies
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Guest Writer
Minister of Tourism (2012-2016), Government of Morocco
7 min read
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It is quite common to hear some top managers saying, "if anyone wants to leave, then they should leave. There is no good in trying to keep them." Others would say, "If they leave, it's because they can't cope with the work or with the change taking place in the business." A third category of managers would argue that if they try to retain people by meeting their demands then it would set a bad example for other employees. These are management fallacies- pitfalls that savvy managers should avoid. Here are three you should be wary of: 

1. The Dispensability Illusion

The dispensability fallacy has it that nobody is indispensable. The enterprise is supposed to be a system of its own, a great wheel that turns and turns and where employees are mere riders that come and go. It is like a train that runs on and on and never stops, except to allow some to leave and others to get on. Even if a great number gets off, the train never stops. The problem with this Kafkaesque illusion is that an enterprise CAN exist without its people, meaning that employees become irrelevant and managers don't measure performance against employee satisfaction. They never relate productivity to the skills, behaviors, attitudes and expectations of their workforce. What matters to them is production, not productivity, sales not customer satisfaction, buys not repeat buys, yearly yield not long-term revenue and growth.  

2. The Coping Illusion

A newly-hired president of a renowned college in the US once initiated drastic changes in the organization with little consultation or communication with the deans, heads of departments and faculty. His methods were top-down, impulsive and headstrong. A few months later, people started leaving. He could have seen this as a sign of an abnormal turnover tendency, caused by lack of communication and the muscular approach used to create buy-in among staff members. Instead, he saw in it as a sign that people are overwhelmed by the nature of change he injected in the organization to achieve the goals agreed upon with the board of trustees. 

Managers that see huge turnover rates as signs that the initiated change is shaking up old habits never stop to study the how of change. Well-managed change should create mobilization and excitement among staff members. Change should happen with positive input from staff members, not in spite of them. Employees are the agents of change and should therefore perceive it as an opportunity to thrive, to succeed and to be more productive. Change does not happen in a vacuum but in a context full of people. In fact, successful change is a change in methods, processes, ways and attitudes. For change to succeed, it should be cultural as well, i.e. how employees see their roles and define themselves in relation to daily work and organization objectives. 

3. The Contagion Illusion 

"Trying to retain talent would set a bad example,” or "The system does not allow for what you are asking,” or "What would the others think?" are the excuses managers resort to when faced with situations where talent is hired by competition but would stay if the company matches the offer. While it may raise expectations, demand for change in salary or benefits or work conditions can only be contagious when the situation is dire and unbearable across the board. In these situations, managers should expect staff to unionize and impose collective bargaining. But in normal situations, perception of what one is worth differs from one individual to another. While individuals may have different life conditions that affect their work and what they expect from it, their perception of their skills and what they can do for the organization differs from one individual to another. 

Well-managed organizations set performance-based rules and procedures for promotion and offer career planning options for ambitious staff members. Those who think they have the rights skills to move up, would not feel stuck in the same rank, same salary, same deal forever. 

Related: 4 Ways to Make Middle Managers Better Leaders

What should you do to avoid these fallacies? 

Managers should start by adopting a positive attitude towards staff's desire to get promoted, have better salaries, and feel they are valued. It's a normal human aspiration, but it is also a good sign that staff members are not afraid of change, and are ready to take on new challenges. 

An opportunity to grow and be more productive The desire on the part of staff to move up is an opportunity for managers to set new milestones for performance and productivity. It is a win-win situation. Management will win by setting new indicators for success and staff will win by feeling that they are valued and are given what they think is their real worth, work-wise and skills-wise. In the long run, the cost of responding to a staff member demand is money worth investing- make your staff feel happy, respond positively to their reasonable demands and you will see them go the extra mile to achieve and be up to the expectations they have of their own worth and their own capacity to perform. 

Everybody is indispensable Successful managers make every staff feel that he/she is unique. And, in reality, they are unique- everyone brings to the table a wealth of life, education and work experience, ideas, feelings, family history, linguistic and cultural differences...A "learning organization" should tap into this treasure rather than pretend that it does not exist. That all staff members are equal and the same is a concept that has already been subverted by the theorists of diversity in the workforce. People are different and unique and should be treated equitably according to their individual skills, needs, backgrounds, etc. They are therefore indispensable to the organization in asmuch as they have contributed to its growth, they are part of its "learned" capital, and a memory source of its practices and internal culture. They are part of the puzzle because they have spent company time trying to find their place, to fit in. They are indispensable.

It is costlier to hire new staff than to retain departing talent To hire a new person is time and resource-consuming. Not only do managers need to go through announcement of vacancy and sift through applications and sit through an interview process that could drag on for weeks, but they also need to train the new hire and give them time to understand the nature of the job and get to know their new colleagues and the new work conditions. Productivity suffers, and customers may get unhappy. Colleagues doing part of the work while waiting for the new person to be in full gear feel overworked, stressed, and less productive too. Letting staff go easily, and hiring new staff will have a dear price that managers should consider before taking their decision. 

Savvy managers do what it takes to retain talent. In fact, they feel they have invested time, effort, and valuable company resources in a staff member's work growth to let them go easily. High turnover is a bad sign for an organization, and managers should take pride in the number of departing talent they have succeeded in retaining.  

Related: Harnessing Human Capital In The Middle East

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