6 Reasons HR Can’t Fix Your Employee Retention Problem

Articles Videos Books, Business - Employees & Teams     by Dan Muhlenkamp

1. The HR Director/Dept. Is Too Busy

Unless your business is pharmaceuticals or aerospace, your HR department is probably the most regulated and compliance driven department in your company. The last time I hired someone I tracked how many forms I had to sign to get them ready to actually do their job…it was 55 signatures!  Granted, it was a professional job which required a license etc., but the number is still outrageous. HR is tracking benefits, attendance, taking people on and off plans, training and complying with FMLA, ACA, ADA, ERISA, COBRA…!  They live in a whirlwind of paper and activity.

Oh, and if you have a retention issue, the HR department is even busier because every hire and termination starts the cycle over again.

2.  The HR Dept. Doesn’t “Touch” Your Teammates Much

One of my teammates commented that she had a lot of different jobs in her life, and only knew who the HR Director was at 3 employers. Let’s face it, your teammates contact HR when there is a problem, like when their benefits are giving them problems, or they are getting reprimanded, or have been absent. The point is that the HR department simply doesn’t have a lot of influence over people as a “human being” instead of a “human resource”.

3.  Wages and Benefits Are NOT The Primary Reason People Change Jobs

Gallop did extensive research into 19,000 people who changed jobs. They asked their supervisors why the teammate left and 89% of the time the reason sited was “wages and/or benefits”. They then tracked down the people who quit and asked them why they changed jobs. Only 12% said it was because of “wages and/or benefits”! So here’s the real points:

  • The primary focus of the HR Department is managing wages, benefits and compliance  (see #1)
  • That primary only effects 12% of the job changers!

4.  74% Of People Who Change Jobs Leave Because Of Their “Boss or Supervisor”

The HR Dept can’t fix a problem that isn’t within their “circle of influence”.  They don’t have a lot of influence over supervisors. They aren’t trained to teach people to be good leaders, they are trained to fulfill regulations etc. Supervisors fall under the Leadership arm of a company, not compliance, regulation and benefits. It’s simply not a HR problem, it’s a leadership problem.

Does that mean we have a lot of terrible supervisor?  NO!  Our supervisors are usually busy putting out fires and managing processes. They usually don’t have the time or the training to truly lead, but that is a subject for an entirely different article.

5.  Almost No Idea What to Track or Change

Must companies have great intentions and are good at tracking things…but if you don’t know what to track that doesn’t help.  We don’t have a bunch of terrible bosses, but do we have the numbers to find those that need to improve? And we’ve found those supervisors usually have no idea what is important to their team, how to track it, or what to do about it?

6.  HR Can Support Leadership, But They Can’t Replace It

HR people tend to truly care about the teammates and want to help, but as we’ve already said, it’s difficult to help people you seldom “touch” in good circumstances.  Give leaders the time, motivation and ability to Think Plan and Lead (TPL) and they’ll keep more of their teammates. Give them indicators of problems and they’ll take action. Give your HR Dept some time because they have better tools, and some suggestions from good supervisors on what they can do to make a difference for their teammates, and they’ll do it!  But you can’t hand them a slingshot, spin them in circles with regulations and paperwork, and then ask them to kill an elephant.


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