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ATD Blog

Retention Coaching


Tue Sep 04 2012


According to the Conference Board, an incredible 55 percent of employed Americans in 2012 are dissatisfied with their jobs.  In a poor job market, this statistic may not matter as much, but things are about to change.

The labor shortage predicted to hit in 2010 was just delayed, not prevented by the recession.  With the Baby Boomers exiting the traditional workforce in droves, organizations need to shift focus rapidly to retain top talent.  


In my consulting work with Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve seen millions of dollars poured into initiatives dedicated to improving employees’ personal and professional lives.  But despite the number of innovative and truly beneficial offerings, employees are human beings.  And human beings believe the grass is always greener on the other side.

Top Yahoo! employees want to go to Microsoft, top Microsoft employees want to go to Google, and so on – because they believe that switching companies will instantly solve all of their career and office-related problems.  Sometimes, for instance, they leave because of an issue with a manager that could be easily resolved and could also occur anywhere.

Young professionals in particular have not been working long enough to realize that the business world is the same no matter where you go, and that if you simply escape from a negative situation rather than confronting it or looking for ways around it, you will be forced to revisit it in a subsequent job.

A retention coaching program is simple to implement.  At its most basic, it involves identifying your top 5 percent performers and providing them with up to three hours of one-on-one coaching.  The purpose of this coaching is to educate high potential employees about available resources and smart strategies for reinvigorating their enthusiasm for their current position or exploring other options within the company. 

Most importantly, such coaching typically encourages employee to stay. A single one-hour session has been shown to significantly reduce an individual’s risk of resigning in the first or second year.


It is best if your coach is external to the company.  A highly respected third-party coach will possess greater credibility as someone who can be objective, and someone who has worked with other organizations but now sees the most value in working with yours.

Every time an entry-hire quits, your company pays up to 50 percent of that person’s annual salary (the more senior the employee, the greater that percentage).  And this doesn’t even take into account all of the money you spent onboarding and training them.  In this era of pervasive dissatisfaction and frenetic job jumping, you can’t afford to lose your high potential employees.


Alexandra Levit has worked as a career and workplace consultant for global organizations including Microsoft, Deloitte, McDonalds, Campbell Soup, and Whirlpool.  She recently served as an adviser to the Obama administration on workforce issues facing modern employees, and is also a bestselling author and nationally syndicated careers columnist.

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