The Problem With Staff Retention

The Problem With Staff Retention

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the non-profit, education or “helping services” sectors, you’ve probably had a conversation about how important staff “retention” is.

When I first assumed a leadership role with an addiction treatment program, our average retention for a direct-service provider was 18 months. Which was a huge problem, because it took us about a year to bring them up to speed and working independently and effectively. Which gave us about 6-months of high productivity before losing them to another job or industry altogether.

Naturally, we focused on “retention efforts”, only to quickly realize that our focus was misplaced. 

We learned that retention for retention’s sake is a terrible strategy.

There are a lot of frustrated, burnt-out and ineffective teachers, social workers, youth-workers and other helping professionals who have been retained in their positions for far too long, not experiencing growth, learning and forward movement in their careers. (I can say this because I talk to them, and their leaders, every day).

Watch the video below, where I break down how you should think about “retention” on your teams, and then scroll down for some tips on how to improve your on-boarding and orientation process.

How to Improve On-boarding & Orientation

Step 1: Spend some time with your team developing a robust program framework, everything from your vision, mission and values down to your specific practices, tools and interventions. Identify the core attributes (skills, behaviour and mindset) that the “perfect staff” would embody.

Step 2: Develop a road-map of these important attributes that a new staff needs to develop in order to be most effective in their role. Think about both the performance expectations of the role, and also the behavioural expectations of being a member of the team.

Step 3: Pull that roadmap together into a competency framework that will serve as both a self-reflection and performance evaluation tool. Drop me a note if you want to chat about what that might look like for your team.

Step 4: Implement the competency framework across the team, using it to guide supervision conversations, staff training and development and individual growth plans.

Jeff Couillard


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Pablo RomeroBrandNu Concepts
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Colleen HendersonPresident, Perfect Pitch Consulting
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Lisa AlmondHuman Resources, Town of Cochrane
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