HR process flow chart As the general economy shows some signs of improving, everyone is interested in what they can do to retain qualified and dedicated staff. It is not an unwarranted interest since some job markets are beginning to open up a little and even though your workforce may have been relatively stable for the last several years that does not mean that employees are now happy and immune to attractive job offers from competitors. For the last five years we have been involved with helping front line supervisors understand what their leadership responsibilities really are. We started doing this because we were convinced that poor supervision was the cause of a lot of staff turnover at the entry level. Supervisors were often promoted from the front lines and had little support from their employers in terms of the transition to supervisory responsibilities which usually put them in an uncomfortable new relationship with former colleagues. Indeed our convictions have been validated through our work, as we have seen real transformational change take place in those supervisors for whom we have served as teacher and mentor. However, we have also been impressed with a seeming disconnect between these front line supervisors and the organization's recruiting and hiring efforts. Repeatedly we have heard about staff who were hired and were quickly deemed inappropriate for their job assignment. Lazy, unmotivated, uncaring, unable to communicate were words used to describe the staff they were given. At the same time we heard from HR people that front line supervisors seemed unable to describe the characteristics of staff they were looking for and had no appreciation for the hard work that HR went through to find the admittedly sub-prime employees. All of this led us to conceptualize a process that would address some of these problems between HR and the front line staffing needs. In late 2009 we were named the sub- contractor on a grant from the NJ Developmental Disabilities Council focused on entry level turnover in residential settings. Undoubtedly the Council's interest spurred our developmental work beyond what even we anticipated and now some six months following the inception of this pilot project we are ready to start putting some of these ideas to the test in a real life, real time, workplace situation. Our project has involved working with an organization serving persons with developmental disabilities. Our goal is to reduce entry level turnover by 20% at the end of 90 days and another 20% at the end of the year. Most of these entry level staff work in group homes wherein reside most of the individuals served by this organization. Here is an overview of the project and it's highlights to date. 1. We reviewed the project's goals and objectives with a "Partnership Team" appointed by the Executive Director. Our work with the Partnership Team involved the following: a. Completing a flow chart of the current hiring process and identifying several bottlenecks. We found out that to fill an entry level vacancy takes some 53 days. b. We discussed and identified the culture of the organization so as to help us determine the "fit" of any applicant. c. We identified nine competency areas that were important to entry level, direct care workers and selected a list of questions to determine an applicant's ability to fulfill that competency. d. We trained supervisors in "behavioral interviewing" and successfully changed their approach from asking "what would you do if..." to "in the past, how have you handled..." a specified situation. We developed a uniform way to rank applicant responses. e. With the partnership team we established a turnover benchmark for the organization and most importantly identified the hard costs, soft costs and intangible costs of staff turnover. While not as high as some cost estimates, we determined that during the last year, the organization had spent, hard, out-of-pocket cash exceeding $50,000. 2. We researched various vendors who provided pre-employment assessments oriented toward identifying desirable personality and temperament features. The Partnership Team told us that applicants seemed to know what to say in the interview in order to get a job offer and that their true personalities began to come out only after they had started employment, and it was usually undesirable. Pre-employment assessment is designed to cut through to an applicant's true temperament. We have recommended a particular vendor and expect that appointment to be made soon. 3. We developed an on-boarding process which will allow the organization to support new employees, facilitate their adjustment to their new workplace situation and help their learning of required skills. What will be the end result of this project? Only time and a lot of hard work will tell. But we believe the planning process we have implemented is a positive beginning and so we wish to share it with our colleagues in human services. Essentially what we have done is to take a process which has over the years been developed in the traditional business community and adapted it to the human services industry. All of the project components we have addressed have well established ROI's in prior implementation settings. Entry level workers in human services often turnover at a rate exceeding 30% per year and in some cases reach triple digit proportions. Entry level salaries being what they are turnover will always be higher than what would be ideal. But if even a small decrease can be achieved through this and other efforts, the effort will be worthwhile and the difference in program efficiencies will be remarkable. The worst thing that we can do is to throw up our hands in dismay and see turnover as just another cost of doing business.