The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

, , , , ,

Engagement Insights From a Dumb Little Man

systematicHR Avatar

Hey… Dumb Little Man is the name of his website, ok?  Coming from a non HR practitioner he has some great insights about retaining engaging employees.  In fact, I’d be impressed if some of these ideas came from HR practitioners too.

Here are some nuggets, but then go read the whole thing for yourself:

I work in a large company and this is a problem that we have with our IT and Sales groups in particular. I reached out a to a few peers with other companies (one is an IT exec and one is actually a Group President) and as an exercise, we took a bunch of historical data and started identifying the factors that led to the annual exodus. We focused only the top 20% of the employees from a performance standpoint. It’s not that the remaining 80% is unimportant, however, from a productivity, growth, and brainpower perspective, the top 20% of any group is critical. Moreover, these are the employees that are very difficult to replace.

To do this, we reviewed notes from exit interviews, cross referenced annual reviews and ultimately came up with 178 voluntary terminations from people that would have been considered in the top 20%.

To try and keep focused on macro issues, we consolidated the responses and placed them into categories:   ((Jay.  September 19, 2006.  “Why Top Employees Quit.”  Retrieved from http:// on December 29, 2006.))

  • Money.  Roughly 46% of the employees that left did so because of money concerns. To be honest, I thought this would be a much higher percentage. I think the most alarming stat to me here is that only 8 out of 83 (9%) people had maxed out their pay potential. Keep in mind that these are top employees that would have received above-average pay increases. My assumption is that they viewed changing companies as the faster path to higher earnings despite the fact that there may have been additional promotions available (which was the case several times).  ((Ibid))

I’m surprised money (or some factor of total compensation) was actually this large.  I think the writer hits the nail on the head later in the paragraph when he states that people were leaving the company as a faster path to growth.  Goes to your talent management strategy and understanding how you ensure career progression, career pathing and career ladders.  These employees were lost because the company didn’t fulfill it’s promise to grow them, not due to compensation.

The author makes another more tactical point about the compensation group.  Today’s comensation workd is not about the internal compensation analysis.  If your comp group isn’t doing some sort of external benchmark, you’re in trouble from your competitors.

  • Unchallenged.  # At what point does workplace monotony kill someone’s drive? The Stats: 42 records (23%) showed this was their #1 reason for leaving.  ((Ibid))

This goes straight to the work.  Why does everyone want to go work at Google?  In the 90’s it was Microsoft.  It’s because these companies are seen as the innovators where the exciting work is happening.

  • Too Challenged.  Remember we are only talking about the 20% tier so the people that listed this reason, are not the lazy people of the bunch. They are the ones fed up with bureaucracy, hiring freezes, lack of cooperation, undefined goals, and poor technology. You cannot ask someone to complete 20 tasks and then give them inferior tools and personnel.  ((Ibid))

My first thought was that you don’t want these people anyway.  But the author does a great job explaining what’ going on and again, it’s another management failure.  This one not so much with HR, but with operations.  It seems that this organization has some serious issues and HR needs to be closer with operations to diagnose and cure the problems.

  • Dead Company.  $30K a year with a company full of stiffs is worse to me than $28,500 with a fun energetic company.  ((Ibid))

I love this one.  Culture really is that important, and it’s probably worth more than $1500.  Last job I had I probably could have easily gotten a $10K raise to move to another company.  I didn’t because I loved where I worked.

Tagged in :

systematicHR Avatar

5 responses to “Engagement Insights From a Dumb Little Man”

  1. Howard Gerver Avatar

    Per the points addressed by DumbLittleMan and SystematicHR, a related technologically-provocative question is “How can predictive modeling technology be used to identify “at risk” top performers?” and to that end “What interventions can HR or the line manager do to retain key talent?” Assuming the pending event is not a “lost cause” it seems like the ROI is fairly compelling! Are any of the readers aware of best practice organizations (employers or vendors) that are using predictive modeling to get in front of the resignation curve?

  2. Lavinia Weissman Avatar

    This is no news! I did more than 10 of these kind of surveys through the years formal and informal. The last one I did, since I don’t do them anymore was even more interesting. I got a budget to take 10 of the last people to resign out of a $100 style lunch and do the interviews, because their resignations were so close to each other, it created a serious problem in one company that spilled over into a another partner. So I had to look at the culture of the partner company. I wrote up my report and not a single C level manager wanted to read it and told the person who hired me to “fix it.”

    Enough with negative stories. This is however a way to do an systems thinking analysis that I do with my colleagues to look at delays and traffic jams in performance and to bring a group together as a social network rather than as a hierachy and have them work through it at an off-site.

    In my course of the Shape and Substance of Social Networks, I show how these traffic jams and delays can be responded to with architectural design and work effectiveness initiatives.

    We are looking for 2-3 beta sites to bring the course materials and curriculum in to intranet web space.

  3. […] Engagement Insights From a Dumb Little Man systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Human Resources…  […]

  4. systematicHR Avatar

    Lavinia: You’re right – there is no new news here. Great work, great culture, fair compensation, (and a few others) should be a good mix to keep people engaged. How to achieve all three at the same time is not as easy as we make it sound through.

    Howard: I’ve run across many organizations using types of predictive modeling that get to people who are underpaid, over worked, under worked, etc. All of these drive towards retaining high performers at some level, but it’s not a direct correlation. As you are, I’m also interested to see if there’s a analytics model that could directly identify at risk high performers.

  5. Lavinia Weissman Avatar

    Go to to see an analytic model.

    However, there is no analytic model that will do that without some qualitative assessment as far as I know.

    In a system that where decision making is primarily at the core group level and does not draw from the innovative think and expert no of a cross fertilized social network, you won’t see culture, change and innovation.

    Its the nests where innovators and experts hang out to adopt use of self-generative learning that you will find the high risk high performers.

    In the context of what people often describe as MVP’s (most valuable players) it relies on a political analysis where many high performers do not get noticed because they work transparently.