Rethinking Retention - A discussion at the Reward Directors' Circle

Frazer Jones hosted its quarterly Reward Directors’ Circle in September 2012. We were proud to host over 30 Heads of Reward from business such as BAT, BBC, BP, DHL, Dixons, EADS Group, Expedia, John Lewis,, Lego, Lloyds, NBC, Nokia, O2 and Thomas Cook.

Our guest speaker Donna Martin, Head of European Reward at TJX (most widely known by its brand TK Maxx) shared some provocative thoughts around retention strategies and moderated a very engaging discussion. We no longer live in world where a ‘job for life’ is widely prevalent yet retention plans still follow this mindset. The question was asked, if the majority don’t believe employees (or certain employee groups) will spend their entire careers with the business, why have their retention plans not shifted to getting the best out of employees during their tenure, as opposed to investing in ineffective retention methods?

Brad Law, who focuses on international assignments in the Frazer Jones’ Reward division, said: “The cultural dimension in terms of approaches in various geographies but also in terms of the different generations in a business adds significant complexity to this challenge.”

There is clearly not a one size fits all approach. Donna highlighted some interesting research and case studies as well as drawing from her personal experience to highlight how important factors like recognition, work life balance, career progression and flexibility are to employees. Throwing money at the problem is not the solution and there is a lot of work to be done with the talent function and line managers to ensure reward professionals are not just bought in to advise at the eleventh hour.

Liz Lane, Associate Director for the Frazer Jones Reward division said: “It was great to see so many top level reward professionals from a variety of backgrounds sharing their experiences and engaging in a very fruitful discussion. This was hopefully great input for all our contacts attending but also for my colleagues in the Reward division. These events always help us in understanding what reward strategies and tools are being used and selecting candidates with this knowledge for our clients, globally."

Some interesting comments from the table included;

  • Historically, organisations retained employees a lot longer and letting someone go was always the absolute last resort. In today’s economy headcount reductions are common place and as such employee loyalty is lower, they take the same approach and ruthlessness in moving organisations for their own career advancement. If organisations expect employees to stay then employees have the right expect to be kept.
  • Interestingly some around the table had worked in organisations where they did not make counter offers to those leaving the business. This decision meant certain values had been ingrained in the business culture. This put a positive pressure on the business to make sure its employees were paid what they were worth, rewarded for top performance and moved globally for their career development.

Michael Illert, Group Manager for the European & Reward teams at Frazer Jones added: “The great advantage of the Reward Directors’ Circle is having key decision makers from a variety of industries all around one board room table. We are all fighting the same battle in the war for talent and hearing the various challenges and approaches highlights how there is so much we can learn from each other.”