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Two Ways to Improve Retention: From Flight Risk Jobs to Business Goals

We talk a lot about uncertainty, especially when it comes to keeping, motivating, rewarding, and attracting an increasingly mobile workforce. PayScale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report found that 56 percent of employers consider retention a major concern. With such a mobile workforce, organizations are exploring many options to keep their best people, from benefits and perks, to investing in learning and development, to a more robust rewards plan, to teaching managers how to coach and say thank you.

But seeking to retain every employee may not be attainable, nor the best strategy for organizations that have to be more intentional about where they spend their limited rewards budgets. Not every position has the same value, or the same potential to impact business results. So how do you know on which positions you should focus your retention efforts? There are two main ways to determine that answer.

Focus on Flight Risk Jobs

Some jobs are very mobile in the market right now. That mobility may stem from greater competition within these jobs and job functions. The mobility may result from low job satisfaction or low job meaning. Regardless of the drivers, a June 2017 PayScale Study[i] shows us the jobs where employees have reported the greatest intent to leave within the next six months.

Top 10 List Overall

[infogram id=”top_15_flight_risk_jobs” prefix=”BDH” format=”interactive” title=”Top 15 Flight Risk Jobs”]

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On the whole, the folks who intend to leave have lower job satisfaction and job meaning than those who are more likely to stay in their organization.

We also looked more closely by income brackets.

[infogram id=”highest_intent_to_leave_40k” prefix=”8Vu” format=”interactive” title=”Highest Intent to Leave <$40k”]

In the under $40k group, lots of service work jobs appear, as well as entry level nursing roles. In the middle income bracket, jobs with technical skills dominate the list, along with LPNs. The $70k and up list is mostly dominated by engineer and analyst roles. Also of interest: Intent to leave begins to noticeably drop as income increases.

Ultimately, in this approach, you begin with the knowledge of jobs with greatest flight risk and target your retention efforts there first.

Focus on Organizational Priorities

Another approach to addressing retention is to begin with your organizational priorities. What is your organization trying to accomplish now and in the next five years? After that? Using that as a north star, let your goals guide your talent priorities for retention, motivation, development, rewards, and recruitment.

Are you making new products for the market? You probably need to retain your innovative product researchers and developers. Are you trying to increase market presence? Seek to retain your business development, sales, and marketing folks. Are you a customer first organization? Your customer success trainers may be the most critical to help you get there. In this approach, you begin with the knowledge of your organizational priorities and align your retention efforts in that way.

A Hybrid Approach

At a time when slashies are increasing in popularity, the Prius rules the road, and Agile processes guide our organizations creating networks instead of hierarchies, it should come as no surprise that a hybrid approach may serve you best. Align your rewards and efforts to your business priorities, but keep an eye on the market.

Here are three things you can do to impact retention today:

  1. Identify your top five mission critical roles. Without these jobs your organization would be unable to complete their business priorities in the next five years and beyond.
  2. Price those jobs in the market. How do your pay for the people in these roles stack up to expected pay for these roles? Remember that employees can easily get an estimate for the value of their job online, so you need to also be clear about the value of these roles to your organization.
  3. Talk to the people in those roles. Get out of your chair and talk with anyone associated with the role, including incumbents, peers, managers, and leaders. What motivates the people in these roles to do their best work?

Equipped with that information, you can begin to formulate your retention strategy for the high-performing people within your most critical roles.

It’s a highly volatile market out there. Mobility of the workforce is the new normal. However, mobility isn’t always a bad thing if you can continue to develop a great network of current and former employee champions. One thing mobility is not, is inevitable. There are things you can do to impact retention, but you have to first decide where to start.

Tell us what you think

Is retention a major concern in your organization? Are there specific jobs or functions that are hardest to retain? Most important? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.


[i] Methodology


Data was obtained from 520,000 people who answered a specific set of engagement questions in the PayScale survey from 4/18/2015 through 4/18/2017.


Job Group: Level 40 of the O*NET-SOC Taxonomy ( that encompasses the respondent’s occupation.

Job Title: Proprietary PayScale job title (more specific than job group).

Income Bracket: Measured respondent’s income as effective annual compensation (EAC), which allows us to compare wage and salaried workers and includes cash compensation as well as bonuses, tips, commission, and so on.

Mykkah Herner
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