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Lessons from the 2011 SHRM conference

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Each summer, the annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference brings together the largest gathering of HR professionals under one roof. Here are a few bits of wisdom picked up at this year’s event in Las Vegas:

Eliminate ‘jerk bosses’ and 4 more retention tactics

“When you’re talking about high turnover, you’re talking about departments that have jerk bosses that employees don’t trust,” said Richard Finnegan, author of Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad. “Trust is about be­haviors, not character.”

Finnegan’s top retention tactics: (1) create monthly turnover reports that include supervisors’ names; (2) put retention goals in managers’ performance reviews; (3) create realistic job previews so candidates can “see, hear, smell and taste” what the job will be like; and (4) implement flexible schedules, which studies show help increase retention. 

Branson: Don’t put employees in job boxes

Keynote speaker Sir Richard Branson, founder of the ­Virgin Group of more than 300 companies, encouraged HR pros to hire from within and look beyond the person’s current role. “Don’t always think of the switchboard operator as the switchboard operator and the cleaning lady as the cleaning lady,” said Branson, noting that a former cleaning lady at one of his companies now runs his record label. 

Encourage survey responses, the Google way

Because Google makes key management decisions based on its annual “Googlegeist” employee survey, it wants maximum participation. Emails and posters won’t do.

So the company created an online real-time leader board showing participation rates by department and manager. It hired break dancers to perform wearing Googlegeist T-shirts. “Figure out what gets people talking, said ­Michelle Donovan, of Google’s Talent Team.

She said the company doesn’t give employees incentives to take the survey because, “we have a track record of taking action on the ­results.” Response rate to this year’s survey: 88%. 

Interview question: How lucky are you?

When Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, interviews people, he likes to ask candidates one seemingly unusual question: “On a scale of one to 10, how lucky are you in life?” A higher number gives insight into the candidate’s motivation and outlook on life. “Luck is really about being open to opportunities,” said Hsieh.

The question was inspired by research that showed people who label themselves as “lucky” are more likely to solve a task they’re given. This disposition helped them outperform the research subjects who perceived themselves to be naturally “unlucky.” 

Stay interviews: Build a retention stoplight

Exit interviews only tell you why someone left. By then, you can’t do anything to retain them. That’s why Richard Finnegan, author of Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad, recommends periodic “stay interviews” that ask why the employee stays and what you can you do to make them stay longer.

One Peoria, Ill., company used results of stay interviews to create color-coded scorecards that predict each employee’s retention level: Green means the person is likely to stay, yellow equals a retention risk and red means a definite flight risk. The company creates ­action plans for workers in the red and yellow categories.

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