Bringing a Strategic Focus to Retention




HR retention

Shared Services Organizations that hope to retain high-performing employees have an uphill battle.

A recent Work Institute retention report estimates that in 2018, one in four workers voluntarily quit their jobs. That number is expected to jump to one in every three workers by 2020.

It’s a tough challenge. Offering more money and better benefits may work over the short term. But that approach is unlikely to keep someone over the long haul – unless they are really engaged and want to be there. So, what do you do?

The Gallagher organization’s extensive database on employee engagement shows those organizations most successful at getting high performers to stick approach retention as a business strategy.

They care about and value employees as human beings, provide quality leadership, develop a supportive environment, focus on consistency and transparency, and communicate a clear “why” and purpose for every job. And they outperform organizations that don’t.


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If you want your top performers to stay, you need to check those boxes. And to do that, you need a deliberate, well-thought-out approach. Here are five simple and sensible steps that shared services leaders can take to promote retention and improve business performance:

1. Focus on fit.

You may have found someone with a great resume and all the skills your team needs. But will they feel at home and thrive in your Shared Services culture? If not, retention will be tough, regardless of your pay scale. So be intentional and disciplined in your hiring. Look beyond experience and skills to define the personality characteristics and working styles that will make someone a good fit for a given role. You don’t want to hire a loner for a job that requires continual collaboration – or hire someone who thrives on personal interaction for a position an individual performer. Speak clearly about the job and your organizational culture. Ask probing questions that help you look beneath the surface and determine whether the candidate is a good match.

2. Have a six-month plan.

The first six months of employment are critical to retention and to job success. But unfortunately, many leaders step away after the paperwork is signed and the employee is hired. Expand your onboarding process to include multiple opportunities to check in and offer support during those first six months. Inspire your new team members by helping them understand how their job contributes to the broader organizational purpose. And remember: The need to belong is a huge performance driver. Consider assigning a mentor to your new hires on day one – someone who can show them the ropes, make introductions and help them settle in.

3. Keep it real.

Focus on building an honest, authentic relationship with each employee that is characterized by mutual respect and by an easy give and take. And don’t forget to provide feedback.

In a 2020 Workplace report, employees said receiving straight feedback from their managers is a top priority. Fulfill that expectation with frequent one-on-one meetings to encourage and reinforce what’s working and suggest any course corrections needed to help the employee succeed. Have forward-focused conversations about growth and development opportunities. Your candor and authenticity can help to promote retention, while also doing wonders for the performance of your team.

4. Set the right tone.

Building a psychologically safe work environment means setting a tone that supports professional achievement and team camaraderie. Effective Shared Services leaders embrace and respect diversity of thought, experience and culture – seeing it as the key to growth and innovation. They exhibit a “you before me” mentality and make it clear that divisiveness and infighting won’t be tolerated. So lead from the top down. Encourage team members to see differences as a strength.

5. Recognize wins.

A recent study shows that two-thirds of employees would quit if they didn’t feel appreciated and recognized by their employer. And the number jumps to three out of four among Millennials, the largest demographic in today’s workforce.

Make recognition a priority. Be consistent, involve your team and make it fun. Recognize and celebrate both personal as well as professional achievements – whether it’s a record-breaking time in a 5K charity run, a boost in client satisfaction, a successful project launch, or other impactful accomplishment.

The Bottom Line

When executed effectively, the right retention strategies can have an immediate, positive impact on the stability of your shared services workforce, performance and growth. You can improve productivity, boost overall engagement and enhance job satisfaction. And you can develop “ambassadors” who are quick to do what it takes to please your clients.

Remember that numbers are motivating. Track results to see whether your strategies are working or need to be fine-tuned. Have you seen a boost in employee engagement and satisfaction scores? Is unwanted turnover down? Compile feedback from both “stay” and “exit” Interviews to identify trends that impact retention.

The bottom line: Think broadly and strategically about retention. Focus on doing the right thing for your employees and your business. If members of your shared services team trust and respect their leader, if they receive coaching and recognition, feel cared about as a person, and understand how their job contributes to the greater good – why would they look for another job?


About the Author
Lori Engebritson is senior vice president of human resources at APEX Analytix. Under Lori’s leadership, the company has strengthened its recruitment and retention strategies, as well as its reward and recognition programs, compensation and benefits, internal communications programs, and important compliance policies and procedures. Lori also led the launch of APEX University, a comprehensive training and development program designed to promote a culture of continuous learning.

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