KEEPING YOUR CREW ON BOARD – TALENT RETENTION STRATEGIES
TALENT RETENTION AFFECTS OVERALL PERFORMANCE
MIKE ABRASHOFF was just 36 years old when he took command of the near-worst performing ship in the U.S. Navy. At the time, the USS Benfold had a talent retention rate of 8% meaning there was 92% turnover each year. More important, because the jobs could not be filled fast enough, the ship found itself trying to do 100% of the work with 80% of the crew.
One week after he took command, Mike had a sailor leave the Navy. When he asked him why he was leaving, the sailor replied, “Because nobody ever asked me to stay." This prompted Mike to make talent retention a top priority.
CULTURE MORE CRUCIAL THAN PAY FOR RETENTION RATES
The first step in solving any problem is gathering information. Mike began by surveying outgoing sailors to find out why they were leaving. At the time, all the Admirals said that they were leaving because of low pay. While Mike’s surveys confirmed that pay was important...it was only number five on the list. Here were the top four:
- Not being treated with respect in the workplace
- Not being listened to
- Not getting the training that they needed
- Not being groomed for positions of increased leadership and responsibility
Once Mike understood what sailors were feeling, Mike focused on two things: culture and employee retention interviews. Most organizations make culture too difficult. Mike says, “to me it’s simple – would I want my own son or daughter to come work for me. If I'm proud...I'm on the right track. If I'm embarrassed...I need to fix it.”
MIKE ABRASHOFF: BEST TALENT RETENTION PRACTICES
In the Navy, sailors usually enlist for four or six-year contracts. Mike began personally interviewing sailors nine months before their contract end-date. There he would ask the sailor if they were staying in or getting out. If they were getting out, he would ask them what it would take to keep them. What he heard was…if you put me in this training program, or get me this education, or put me in a different job classification, or change where I’m based…I'll stay.
Mike went to work on their professional needs and focused on each sailor one by one. The result? USS Benfold had the highest talent retention in the Navy his final year in command. And when he did lose a sailor, Mike wasn't surprised and had nine months to train a replacement.
It takes a lot of money to recruit one person into the military and get them through the first eight weeks of boot camp. At the time, it was around $85,000.00 dollars. Mike figured it was cheaper to recruit the people you already have instead of losing them and losing all that productivity.
SUPPLEMENTAL READING: CHANGE AGENDA: WHAT TO DO FIRST? A NAVY CAPTAIN'S
RECRUIT THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE
There is a crippling shortage of workers today. It is the number one issue facing organizations. The costs of losing a worker today are staggering when you consider the loss of productivity, the costs to find (if you can) a replacement, and the costs to train a replacement.
To Mike, recruiting the people you already have is a daily priority for any top organization.
About Tony D'Amelio
Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Vernice "FlyGirl" Armour, Geoff Colvin, Daryl Davis, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Beau Lotto, Nicole Malachowski, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.