Friday, July 06, 2007

Winning at Employee Retention

An interesting, albeit somewhat rambling, post from Marc Andreessen with his thoughts on employee turnover and retention. Andreesen is the software entrepreneur best known for co-founding Netscape shortly after his graduation from college. In this post, he asserts that employee retention is directly tied to being a "winning" company and conversely that employee turnover is due to a "not winning problem." He then goes on to explain how he believes you can minimize turnover in ways that will also help your company win again.

His 9 rules for employee retention are:

1) Don't give up.
2) Focus
3) Clean house
4) Promote your best people
5) Simplify and clarify your organizational structure
6) Put your recruiters to work aggressively but don't rely on them for everything (Here he talks about handling the important recruiting yourself -- presumably the CEO -- and re-bounding top performers who previously left the company. He suggests offering them "fat packages" to get them back.)
7) Ramp up college recruiting
8) Communicate within
9) Shake things up

If he is truly talking about the company that is "not winning," I think the most important item on his list is number eight - communicating within.

He says,
tell everyone in your company clearly and unambiguously, we are here to win and here's how we're going to do it. It won't be easy, but we can do it and we will do it, and we will have amazing stories to tell our grandchildren.

You don't need to be certain of all the answers! Colin Powell says, "You know you’re a good leader when people follow you, if only out of curiosity." So project boldness, and have that glint in your eye where people know you're up to something big.

The glint in the eye is really the key. When times are tough, it's important to have a visionary leader who can paint a picture of the future that is right around the corner if everyone pulls together to make it happen. When times are tough, employees don't often see the light at the end of the tunnel. The visionary leader needs to show them that light. If your CEO is not charismatic, then another top leader can be given the job to inspire the troops with colorful stories of where the company is headed.

Andreesen's post goes in a lot of different directions (including how to talk high performers out of leaving for start-up opportunities) but it's worth a read to see things from a non-HR technology start-up executive's perspective.

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