Data + Psychology to Escape Attrition Cycle

Posted by HR Analytics on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 Under: Org Psychology

So here’s the scenario: one of  your employees puts in that unexpected two-week notice to leave the organization.  That’s probably going to be not so unexpected in the next couple of months as the employment market continues to change.  In a 2012 SHRM survey, the overall employee job satisfaction has been decreasing since 2009 and it’s now back to the pre-recession levels.  Poor job satisfaction is an indicator that turnover rates are likely to increase.   Although it is still unclear and we still are a long way from getting out of the woods, the recent years have shown signs that the economy is improving and that there are movements in the employment market in favor of job seekers.  And so when this employment movement, specifically attrition, happens to you personally as the hiring manager, it could hit you from the blind side.  And if you are like many other organizations, the recession years probably had you operating at a very lean level and that every worker that you now have on your team is critical.  You cannot afford to lose one employee and you know that this one departure can put an incredible amount of strain on your team.  


In any organization, high performing or not so high performing, attrition is inevitable.  And when it happens to your organization, it can feel surprising. And you as the manager is all of a sudden tasked with trying to maintain the flow of operations by filling that new void.  It could take more than two weeks just to line up some qualified candidates for an interview.  On average, according to a SHRM study, the time to hire for larger companies is 43 days and 29 for smaller companies.  That is a very long time in today’s pace of business operations.  Add a couple more weeks to get that potential new hire give you an actual start date.  And then add a couple more weeks to get that new hire trained and fully up to speed.   


After all the time and resources you invest in getting this new employee on board, what you don’t want to see is this person eventually realize that the position is not a fit and that s/he was not cut out for the demands of the job.  This could lead you into that cycle of attrition where it just repeats over and over again until you get that right person for the job who would actually stay.  This cycle of attrition could span anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months and could amount to several thousands of dollars lost in training money and in productivity.  Sure, you can rush the hiring process so that you minimize the disruption in the flow of operations but such hasty hiring is susceptible to mismatches and mistakes that could be inconspicuously costly in the long run.  And no hiring manager wants to be stuck in that endless cycle of attrition.  


Escaping the Attrition Cycle


One key step to breaking that cycle of attrition is for hiring managers to step back and analyze the situation.  It might be too rash to jump right into hiring just to get a body in a chair. Hiring managers should, instead, pause and turn this situation into an opportunity.  Now that the position is vacated, this might be a good time to reflect and analyze what that particular position’s role is in the organization.  This is a timely opportunity for the organization where managers can self-reflect and ask some important questions.  When was the last time this position was filled?  How does this position add value to my organization?  What other skill sets do we need in our organization that we should look for in our candidate?  The job demands do change over time especially considering the rapidly changing business environment we now live in.  There is always new technology, new softwares, new rules and regulations, new kinds of certifications, etc., and job descriptions do get outdated.  This new job vacancy presents an opportunity for you to revisit the position description and revise as needed to match the current needs.  The organizational goals and strategies also do change so take those statements and crosswalk them with the job description to help ensure that there is a close alignment between the position and the organization’s mission.  This should help crystallize what knowledge, skills, and characteristics the hiring manager should be posting in the job ad to ensure that the right applicants are targeted.


Another key step that hiring managers should take before jumping into the actual recruiting is to develop a hiring strategy.  Use the information that was gathered from the review of the position.  Upon reviewing the nature and the demands of the position, you should now have information to help you develop some of your application screening and interview questions.  Questions that are based on real job scenarios should do at least a couple of things:


(1) give the candidates a realistic preview of what the job entails and

(2) give the hiring managers a more qualitative opportunity to assess the candidates.  


Giving the candidates a preview of what it is exactly they will be performing is very important in many ways.  It gives them the chance to make sure that they understand what they are getting into early on.  Candidates with the right knowledge and skills could easily breeze through the early stages of the selection process but only to realize later that the job is not a good fit.  Hiring managers should be wary of those candidates and try to catch those early.  By asking some of these real job scenario questions, you’re giving the candidates the opportunity to imagine themselves in the shoes that they are trying to fill.  


Use Psychology

Using real job scenarios to design questions serves as a good job simulation which can also give the hiring managers the opportunity to qualitatively assess the candidate’s responses.  Hiring managers can assess not only how the candidates use their competencies to respond to actual job situations but to also give hiring managers a preview of the candidate’s personality traits.  Not all traits can be equally applicable across jobs.  Each job is unique and there are certain traits that are a better fit for certain jobs.  When it comes to avoiding attrition, some personality traits are better predictors of retention in certain jobs.  


Software Advice recently released a study which used data and psychology to analyze retention at a call center showed that traits like curiosity, creativity, and ability to multitask strongly correlate with the length of stay at the job.  Personality traits, however, don’t often show up on resumes.  One would think that duration of past employments is a good enough predictor of retention but it is actually not the case according to Evolv’s research study.  Therefore, you as the hiring manager would have to find other indicators of whether the candidate has the traits that correlate with longer retention.  Ask open-ended questions that are more based on actual job scenarios to get that opportunity to assess your candidate’s personality traits and see if you have a match.


By using an analytical approach and a more psychology-based approach to hiring, this call center was able to transform its hiring process, reduce attrition, and reduce costs.  Such efforts should result not only in cost-savings but also in better customer service and more engaged employees.


Data + Psychology

Investing time and resources in using psychology and analysis of data is a wise and worthwhile approach to getting the right hire--not only getting the right hire but getting it right the first time.  Avoid getting in that cycle of attrition by using an analytical approach to hiring.  And know that there is a wealth of data available out there waiting to either be collected or analyzed.  Transaction data, HR databases, job satisfaction surveys, either internal surveys that your organization conducts or external surveys like the SHRM survey above, are excellent data sources that can provide useful insight into what’s coming ahead.  There’s also a wealth of psychological studies, case studies, and applied research available out there that can help you in making better hiring decisions.  If unsure, get an expert in psychology or a workforce scientist to help you get started.  Data analytics and the science of psychology, together, deliver promising results when it comes to hiring, retention, and getting a high performing organization.


Still relying on gut decisions?  Companies who have been successful at making gut decisions all along can now make even stronger decisions with the addition of data analytics.  Gut decisions and data-driven decisions, together, can complement each other effectively.  


In : Org Psychology 


Tags: data psychology attrition 
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