Focus on Talent; Zoom In: Transferring Part of the Responsibility for Talent Retention from HR to Operations, to Leaders, Is a Cultural Shift. It's Likely That HR Will Gladly Share Ownership. Here's How Sprint Did It

By Taylor, Craig R. | Talent Development, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Focus on Talent; Zoom In: Transferring Part of the Responsibility for Talent Retention from HR to Operations, to Leaders, Is a Cultural Shift. It's Likely That HR Will Gladly Share Ownership. Here's How Sprint Did It


Taylor, Craig R., Talent Development


Deeanne King, director of performance development, customer solutions, for Sprint's PCS division, was amazed by what she saw on a visit to one of Sprint's large customer contact centers. The center, typical of many scattered throughout the United States, is a sprawling, sophisticated operation abuzz with activity.

"It's like a city," King thought. And she was concerned. Employee turnover at the center was moving past triple digits. "Employees were turning over faster than we were getting new ones," she says. Efforts to manage the problem up to that point hadn't worked. King knew that she had to get a handle on retention, and she has plenty of company in that regard.

Unwanted employee turnover, despite the economic slowdown, is one of the biggest and most costly business problems companies face, and it remains pervasive and persistent. Recognize that the issue isn't the almost numbing frequency of corporate layoffs reported in the news. No, the much bigger problem is the undesirable, unwanted, and voluntary attrition that companies experience when people they'd prefer to stay instead quit to take another job elsewhere.

In July 2002, Towers Perrin released a study of HR professionals, in which 75 percent of respondents said retention of high performers is their number 1 people-related issue. TalentKeepers talentkeepers.com an employee retention company based in Maitland, Florida, recently surveyed 39 companies in a variety of industries and found that 92 percent of respondents report that employee retention is increasing in importance; 74 percent report that turnover has risen or remained the same during the two-year economic slump.

Demographics are largely to blame. Birthrates in the United States declined 40 percent from 1955 to 1973 and continued to decline until 2000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by the year 2006, two employees will leave the workforce for every one added. And those who are entering the workforce move often. U.S. workers typically hold 5.6 different full-time jobs from age 18 to 24.

News You Can Use, page 16.

Compounding the problem is the continued erosion of employee loyalty. It's well understood that Generation X, the estimated 46 million Americans born from 1961 to 1981, entered or are entering the labor market with different beliefs and values than previous generations "The Young and the Rest of Us" and "Get Ready for the Net Generation" (February 2000 T+D). Many Gen Xers saw their parents laid off from long-held jobs and feel that security is tied more to a career than to a company. For them, jobs are often viewed as stepping stones to the next opportunity. And hot upon their heels is the upcoming group, Generation Y "Generation Why" (November 2001 T+D).

The problem spans both hourly and professional positions. According to the Employment Policy Foundation and Bureau of Economic Analysis, "American jobs requiring college degrees (two-year, four-year, or advanced) will increase by 20 million [over] the next 10 years. Of that number, 12.5 million will be new jobs requiring baccalaureate or advanced degrees; 7.5 million will be new jobs for graduates of two-year degree programs."

Here's the kicker: "At current U.S. college and university graduation rates--1.15 million baccalaureate degrees annually--the available new college degree holders will fall 6 million short."

The Saratoga Institute, well known for its research on retention, puts it succinctly: "Should we really worry about retention when the economy is down and employees are staying put? The answer is still a resounding yes. The economy may have slowed, but this is merely the eye of the storm."

Make no mistake: The competition for talent is high, and it's only going to get worse.

The missing puzzle piece

Learning strategists traditionally have taken a back seat to their human resource colleagues in the battle against turnover. …

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Focus on Talent; Zoom In: Transferring Part of the Responsibility for Talent Retention from HR to Operations, to Leaders, Is a Cultural Shift. It's Likely That HR Will Gladly Share Ownership. Here's How Sprint Did It
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