Retention in 2011: from Optional Expense to Essential Investment

Sifting through the wreckage of the Great Recession to find glimmers of good news stories is enough to frustrate even the most ardent optimist.

However, for those of us who want to see the glass as half full, glimpse the light at the light of the end of the tunnel, see the silver lining, (you get the idea…) there is actually something to be grateful for: retention is now viewed as a strategic organizational objective.

2011: Retention Comes into its Own

Frankly, retention has always been a core organizational business objective – right alongside finance, risk, and the other critical functions that sit at the Grown-Ups Table.

But for years, while the economy was humming along, retention was typically viewed (and measured) as “years of service with an organization.” And that incorrect perception earned it the reputation of being optional (instead of essential); subsequent initiatives were viewed as an expense (instead of an investment).

Both perceptions were wrong then, and they are wrong now – except that now, here in the recession’s aftermath, there’s no place to hide this truth. When every function within an organization is being forced to justify its financial existence, retention is finally being seen for what it is: an essential investment.

What this means to organizations of all sizes is that retention– whether it’s led by one person, a small group, or a large department — must be given the resources, authority and responsibility to both input and be influenced by overall organizational strategy.

Retention can no longer be on some island off to the side, while the rest of the organization tackles more critical tasks such as controlling costs, delivering value, and increasing profit. That’s because in 2011, retention is about controlling costs, delivering value, and increasing profit. It’s not auxiliary, and it’s not an expense. As an essential investment, it needs to be empowered – and held accountable – on that level.

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