True Engagement Leads to Meaningful Retention

Workforce Solutions is evolving to new levels. While the primary job of a talent provider is to source, attract and hire the right talent, today’s leading RPO companies offer more comprehensive solutions that travel beyond the realm of mainstream recruiting. These providers understand that helping clients optimize their recruiting investments requires more than bringing the best candidates through the door.

By co-owning clients’ talent challenges, providers of total workforce solutions help ensure that the new hires they recruit stay engaged and increase their productivity over time, reducing turnover-related costs and delivering a lasting return on recruiting expenditures.

Such RPO companies approach recruitment in a way that leverages workforce engagement over the employee’s life cycle. Numerous studies show that it costs far less to retain than to replace productive employees and that hiring the right people from the start is the best way to reduce voluntary turnover. Yet how employees are treated in their initial months on a new job has just as much impact on attrition rates.

For example, whether new hires believe that they and their contributions are being valued, are being communicated with frequently by their managers or have received the right training to succeed in their new roles can mean the difference between retaining or losing them in those crucial early months.

“Leading organizations realize that managing the ‘back door’ is as important as the front door when it comes to strategic talent management,” says Karen Browne, President and Chief Operating Officer of EG Workforce Solutions, in highlighting the importance of using employee engagement strategies as part of the recruiting continuum.

Browne says RPO providers that offer more than traditional services look across the entire employee life cycle to help clients reduce controllable attrition and offer solutions to address today’s increasingly-complex talent challenges.

“Think about every purchase we make today. We are constantly being surveyed on how satisfied we are with our purchase, the delivery, the quality, the price, every aspect of the sale. Exceptional providers of talent will transform their organizations similarly to ensure they are taking the temperature of new hires often and acting on what the thermometer says to keep those employees highly satisfied.”

Workforce solutions providers with such an approach might survey a client’s new hires to identify workplace issues with the potential for causing early-stage turnover — problems that can fly under the radar of busy leaders. Red flags in these areas give leaders an opportunity to address problems and make changes before they lead to unwanted attrition.

These survey results might show that new employees are unsure of what managers expect of them, perceive the lack of a positive work environment or haven’t received the training necessary to master shifting job responsibilities. Such feedback allows organizations to make preemptive changes before these issues mushroom into bigger, turnover-causing problems. In almost every case, when employers consistently utilize these engagement programs, Browne says that they can make meaningful and measurable changes to increase employee retention and engagement.

For businesses experiencing rising levels of turnover in pivotal talent pools, the hard and soft costs of unmanaged controllable attrition create a significant competitive disadvantage and have direct fallout on the bottom line.

Employee retention initiatives are increasingly important in light of the high costs of employee turnover. One comprehensive study on workforce attrition found that the cost of losing employees runs from 20 percent of annual salary for those earning less than $50,000 to more than 200 percent of the annual salary for highly-trained positions.


In leading companies, efforts to retain employees begin even before they are formally hired. These organizations understand that how job candidates are treated in the recruiting process make lasting impressions that carry over into the employment stage and beyond.

A good candidate experience features job application forms that are user- and mobile-friendly, communication processes that keep applicants apprised of their status throughout the hiring process and a highly-visible and accessible social media presence for a hiring organization. Cutting-edge recruit- ing technologies are also leveraged to optimize candidate workflow.

In short, employees should feel good about the organization they are joining and continue to be engaged and communicated with from the verbal job offer to their first day on the job and regularly throughout the employment life cycle.

When employees chose to leave an organization in their initial months of a new job, it often suggests a recruiting issue. But research shows voluntary turnover beyond the first two or three months of employment is usually a result of work environment issues, challenges in a manager-employee relationship or the product of the organization’s engagement practices.

That knowledge is causing industry leaders to take a more proactive approach to employee retention rather than simply accepting that certain workers will “cycle through” their business. While these organizations believe making jobs easy to learn is important in terms of assimilating new hires, they also consider employees “appreciating assets.” The longer they stay with an organization the more productive they become because they learn the products, the systems, the people and the traditions of a company.

“More organizations are beginning to rely on their workforce solutions partners for help with employee retention,” says Browne. “Making calls to new hires early in their tenure to check on engagement factors, calibrate responses and benchmark against top industry practices creates actionable data for leaders to help reduce voluntary attrition. New hires are also more open to providing unvarnished information when speaking to a third party than when speaking to an internal company resource. They believe the data will be reported verbatim.”

The hard costs of controllable attrition are quantifiable and include recruiting expenses to fill open jobs — job advertising, screening, interviewing and hiring costs — as well as the considerable costs of training new employees for their roles. But it’s often the “soft” or hidden costs of turnover that are underestimated and can do even more to undermine organizational performance.

Hidden costs include reduced productivity as new hires take time to get up to speed, customer service errors as new people initially struggle to learn systems or solve problems, additional work required of remaining staff in the wake of departures and the impact on staff morale from the loss of valued co-workers.

Soliciting feedback from newly-hired employees at milestones in the early stages of employment can help identify unspoken issues and allow leaders to make course corrections to keep valued employees on board. In labor markets where competition for talent is fierce, more human resource and talent acquisition leaders recognize that reducing voluntary attrition is as essential to organizational success as is improving time-to-hire or quality-of-hire metrics.

These executives know the latter two recruiting measures are rendered moot if new employees leave too early in their expected tenures, driving up turnover-related costs and impairing organizational productivity, performance and/or bottom-line results in the process.

RPO providers offering total workforce solutions also can collect data and use analytics to help clients improve quality of hire and employee longevity. For example, post-hire or exit surveys of employees might show that those in customer service roles have been asked to do more cross-selling of products as part of their job duties. That information could be used to modify candidate sourcing and interviewing processes to begin hiring for sales as well as service apti- tude in those roles. Such changes ensure improved job fits and more productive workers who stay longer because modified job descriptions better fit their innate dispositions and interests.

Similarly, new employees might report a troubling gap between the day-to-day realities of their jobs and how their positions were portrayed in recruitment advertising. Collecting post-hire feed- back from employees can help recruiters develop job previews and employee value propositions that are more realistic, yet still draw high numbers of desirable applicants.

RPO partners who co-own their clients’ talent challenges also consult on “buy versus build” decisions to fill talent gaps in organizations. In one such scenario, for example, companies with large technical or semi-skilled workforces might find it difficult to fill open positions externally in certain geographies or where required talent is scarce. Consultative RPO companies help clients evaluate the external landscape to determine if such labor shortages exist and if so, they offer alternatives. One option in this case might be creating an in-house training academy to rapidly develop needed skills in an existing workforce.

Leading workforce solutions providers also use analytics to create more efficient recruiting processes, optimize candidate selection and improve the candidate experience. These analytics can track metrics including time-to-fill, response-to-hire ratios, interview-to-hire ratios, cost-per-hire and more. Data generated from competitive mapping and benchmarking also allows talent acquisition leaders to see how they compare in these areas to industry norms and best practices. Successful organizations know that measurably better metrics drive measurably better recruiting and employee retention results.


Employees act in accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when making decisions whether to stay with an organization or seek greener pastures. Once they feel they have a comfortable level of pay and benefits, people begin looking for other differentiators in determining their career moves. These factors include good relationships with direct managers and peers, meaningful work, opportunities to grow in their careers, enhanced work-life balance, greater autonomy or simply receiving recognition for work well done.

Organizations that hope not only to recruit but retain high-performing Millennials and following generations in competitive labor markets must be acutely aware of the “retention factors” that cause these workers to stay committed to organizations. Millennials in particular often seek high levels of collaboration, purposeful work and clear advancement opportunities when making career decisions.

A recent survey of 1,200 employees across industries showed a majority of respondents would rather get a promotion than a raise, and a high number of survey participants said they’re driven by a belief that their work has meaning and purpose.iii It’s clear that more employees value recognition as much as other motivating factors and want to feel their work is making a difference.

“Understanding what drives workers requires more than conducting annual employee engagement surveys. It demands more high-touch, one-on-one approaches or frequent touch points to determine the unique factors that keep top employees performing at high levels and committed to their jobs. Being a successful workforce solutions provider is no longer just about effective recruiting,” says Browne. “The best providers are being asked to partner with their clients and to bring meaningful data back with actionable recommendations that will foster better retention of employees.”

Browne adds, “Every time we present factual data to our clients of what needs to change to positively impact turnover, we see HR professionals positioned to work with their business leaders more effectively and gaining recognition as ‘real business partners’.”

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