Grave situation as the only way up is out

Until the other day, I’d been rather proud of our declining attrition rates. For quite a few years, staff turnover had been rising and was a real concern at management meetings. Of course, I argued that we faced increasingly competitive labour markets and made a convincing case for a retention programme along with more investment in learning.

In fact, everything was swimming along just fine until ‘Rebecca’ – our Bright Young Thing – came to see me with an analysis of joiners and leavers. “On the top line, Hartley, it looks pretty good,” she said brandishing a PowerPoint presentation. “Our headline rate of turnover is down by over half and average length of service is on the increase.” I offered a true Leslie Phillips-style response: “Jolly good…”.

“However,” she scolded, “if we dig deeper, most of the people who leave are the ones we want to keep and most of those who stay are the ones we want to lose.”

It was all there in black and white. Put simply, we had closed our final salary pension to new joiners over three years ago, and turnover among people on that scheme was now practically zero. However, we were investing heavily in the recent joiners with our enhanced learning and development programmes, but they only stayed a short while before skipping off.

She added menacingly: “Progression around here is a case of dead man’s shoes, because no-one will move on and sacrifice their pension.”

Funnily enough, something I’d said to a headhunter just the other day.

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