During my Corporate years in Asia, I often witnessed and participated to many discussions around the executive table discussing human capital issues and how to anticipate some of the challenges that overwhelmed us and our competitors in the region. Back in 2013 we suffered an average turnover rate of 21% across the whole region and we were running out of ideas and steam to manage this constant traffic of employees going in and out of the organizations. The CEO would often turn around and ask us questions like: How are we going to ensure we have enough human resources to sustain the business and our customers? What is it going to cost to attract and retain our people?

We tried everything from looking at our Employee Value Proposition to the creation of a strong retention strategy creating a fast development track for hipos and clear succession plans in place. We reviewed our remuneration and reward incentives, as well as our people development plans in line with their aspirations. We looked at the organization’s culture and how our leaders are emulating it and shared our strengths and areas for development with key actions for each. We worked day and night looking at data that could give us an answer. Our own team was reaching burn out point. In the process of 2 years we lost half of our own HR team. Many complained that we worked long hours to implement our HR strategic plan for the region but employees kept on leaving. Other HR professionals in the region complained of the same syndrome, and now the question became: what are we doing wrong?

Something completely different had to be done. A shift of mindset in a complete different direction. Looking at my own team of 15 employees, I realized that I had a turnover rate of almost 50%. Staggering figure. However the paradox was, that this turnover was not affecting our performance. Actually year on year, our performance grew stronger. As I was looking at this phenomenon, I quickly picked up the phone and spoke to the CEO telling him that instead of focusing constantly on “reducing turnover”, we needed to start “managing turnover”. What does that mean? Simply put, HR must continue to do the Hygiene work such as providing a strong Talent Framework, Support in the enhancement of organizational culture and develop their leadership pipeline. These must remain a given as Dave Ulrich professes in his latest book, HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of HR (a must read for any HR professional).

So we embarked on a different route and started looking at different ways of managing turnover and to some extent accepting the fact that turnover was a norm. In a region where opportunities are many and where everyone is luring employees with stratospheric salaries and benefits, this is was no brainer. We had to make a mindset shift that hopping from one job to another for employees today is seen as part of their own development and curiosity to work with different companies and gain different experiences. Today’s workforce have an agile learning appetite and a strong drive to grow professionally. So how is HR to manage this?

To be able to manage this new emerging trend in, the HR function across the globe there must be several factors in place:

  1. Capturing return on human capital investment This means being able to know your revenue per FTE, this data comes from your workforce planning process. If a company doesn’t know have the capability to conduct this, then it is difficult to know the ROI of your employees.

  2. Implementing a strong HIPO / Talent Framework This involves a strong process in place to identify, develop and retain this group of employees that is driven by top management and not HR alone.

  3. Creating a seamless On-Boarding Process This involves some basic traditional integration programs, but moreover create a “wow” factor amongst new employees and living up to their expectations. Easier said than done.

  4. Put in place a good “exit process” Invest some resources in providing a great experience even for those employees who decide to leave. Because guess what, another phenomenon we witnessed was that many employees who leave, often came back.

  5. Increasing the capability of our HR Teams HR has often been put aside and is still somewhat seen as an administrator in the organization. We need to step up and gain our rightful seat “on the table” and not “at the table”. Our teams must be able to articulate and understand the business strategy and contribute to the growth of the business by suggestion and working hand in hand with the CEO.

Without the above in place, managing turnover would be quite a daunting challenge. HR people need to ensure that they have strong processes and policies in place so that they can focus on the strategic part of the business contributing to the growth of its employees and the organization. They need to help managers to learn how to maximize performance of their employees by adopting good leadership skills. Giving space for their employees to reach their highest level of fulfillment whether they stay with the company 1 year or 10 years.

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About the Author

Caroline Buhagiar Head of Analytics at Salariesinmalta.com

Caroline is an avid and passionate HR professional who has worked in large multinational companies both in manufacturing and the finance sector. She served as Global Learning Director in Europe, US and the last six years in Asia. She has led Corporate Universities with the aim to build the next generation of leaders for her previous organizations. She is fluent in manufacturing excellence, business excellence, building HR capability and driving company performance through leadership development.Her experience working in different countries, leading diverse teams both locally and remotely have given her a clear understanding of what it takes to inspire, lead, grow and manage people.

She holds a Diploma in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Psychology, with a specialization in psychometric testing. She is a certified business coach by CaochU, she can administer the EQ 2.1 test (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), and other 360 degree tools. She can speak fluent Maltese, English, Italian and French.