HR Retention Strategy: Treat Good Employees Like Your Best Customers

BY Tim Londergan
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It seems that the pandemic broke the dam on conventional work arrangements. In addition, the large number of employees who have resigned, switched jobs or left the workforce altogether puts greater pressure on human resources to keep good workers. Increasingly, employees are seeking workplace accommodations that are more in line with their interests and goals. For example, remote work, flextime, reduced travel, and allowances for child and elder care are common requests today. Therefore, does it make sense for your company to consider an HR retention strategy that personalizes arrangements for one employee and not others?

Negotiating an “I‑Deal” can be an effective HR retention strategy

The one-​size-​fits-​all workplace may become a thing of the past. Justifiably, it’s easier to offer uniform schedules, identical benefits and duplicate allowances to all employees. However, Professors, Denise M. Rousseau and Laurie R. Weingart authored an article for The Wall Street Journal [paywall] that urges managers to consider these “I‑Deals” willingly but cautiously.

Personalized deals can retain valued employees

Offering your best workers, the opportunities they need or the arrangements they cannot find elsewhere is a convincing retention tool. What’s more, the beneficiaries of "I‑Deals" tend to thrive in these conditions and be happier and more productive. According to the authors, surprising benefits can arise from new perspectives on previously untested methods, systems and work structures.

Begin with a pilot program: subject to re-assessment

As an experiment, define this HR retention strategy as probationary. According to the authors, “It lets the company and employee revisit deals over time to see how well they are working—and redesigning or sunsetting them accordingly.” Essentially, one-​off arrangements allow you to capitalize on the uniqueness of a worker’s personality traits or an individual’s skillset. However, like negotiating with a VIP customer, the total cost of any deal cannot be completely anticipated. This is especially true when you consider these personal deals may lead to resentment or tension from other employees.

Clarify the basic requirements for granting “I‑Deals”

The authors know managers are reluctant to embrace an exclusive deal for an employee. Regardless, they are convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks if the deal is transparent and will withstand scrutiny. Conversely, secrecy or a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will undermine trust and fairness. Indeed, you need a clear policy based on principles and the conviction to stick to it. Therefore, the circumstances that merit an “I‑Deal” and the requirements necessary to generate this HR retention strategy should be communicated to all. Similarly, when you must decline a request, be clear in offering the reason and be prepared to lay out the work behavior necessary to grant a special deal.

Using “I‑Deals” as an incentive

Special dispensation for employees can be offered as a reward for improved work performance when used correctly. Further, the privilege of having special requests met can be an incentive during the employee performance review process. In this way, as managers grant more flexibility, reduced workloads or educational opportunities, they may simultaneously require greater attention toward work related duties.

I‑Deals” versus workplace favoritism

It’s easy to imagine how this HR retention strategy could backfire if not handled correctly. If unaddressed or not communicated properly, special deals for individual employees can cause loss of respect for company leadership, feelings of resentment and decreased motivation and productivity. Therefore, human resource professionals and managers must be particularly sensitive to favoritism in the workplace and privacy concerns. Importantly, workplace favoritism is not a good practice, but it is not illegal in all cases. Retaliation, discrimination, and sexual harassment are a few examples of illegal favoritism. If you move ahead with "I‑Deals" in your workplace, do so cautiously.

Photo by Husna Miskandar on Unsplash