Should career retention efforts focus more on ‘squiggling’?

Discussion
Source: Walmart video - “Walmart Academies - Tools for Success | Lee’s Store”
Jul 21, 2022

Managers, in order to reduce turnover, need to shift the focus of career conversations from promotion to progression and developing in different directions, according to Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, co-founders of London, UK-based career development firm Amazin.

“Limited awareness of roles and a perceived lack of support from managers means that for many, it has become easier to leave and grow than squiggle — that is, change roles and develop in different directions — and stay,” the two wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

Career conversations are “often rushed, low quality,” or even skipped in favor of day-to-day responsibilities.

Instead, career conversations should focus on “strength spotting,” the two argue, to see where skills might apply elsewhere in the organization. Managers should help underlings make connections to explore internal opportunities outside their direct team and encourage “career experiments” or trials working with other teams.

Two hurdles, however, often interfering with career progression is the reality that managers:

  • Don’t want to lose their best talent; 
  • Are graded solely around their team performance.

Ms. Tupper and Ellis argue that measuring the number of career experiments, diversity and development of skills or the percentage of vacant roles filled internally could support net retention across organizations.

Providing the opportunity for employees to nominate managers for recognition and reward could also create visible signals of what success looks like,” the authors wrote. “Managers that are seen to embrace the ‘squiggle and stay’ mindset become magnets for top talent and are showcased as role models to learn from across the organization.”

Retention has been receiving more attention given labor shortages and the “Great Resignation.”

A recent global survey from Boston Consulting Group of more than 7,000 “deskless workers” — or those in retail, construction, distribution, factory, health care and transportation — found a lack of career advancement opportunities, cited by 41 percent, to be the highest factor driving the decision to leave their job. That was followed by pay, 30 percent; more flexibility, 28 percent; work-life balance, 22 percent; and lack of enjoyment in their current position, 15 percent.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is offering store associates a path to career advancement a particular challenge for retail managers? What do you think of the suggestions offered in the article and what others can you share about creating career development opportunities at retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The commentary sounds perfect. But the reality is it makes no sense until retail executives see their people as assets rather than labor."
"If you hire people at minimum wage, offer them no advancement, and limited, if any, benefits, why are you surprised at the turnover rate?"
"Pay, pay more, and pay even more, should be the first thing all managers should focus on."

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10 Comments on "Should career retention efforts focus more on ‘squiggling’?"


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Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Opportunities for growth are very important to today’s employees. Growth can come in two (or more) areas. First there’s internal company growth, as in opportunities for promotion. A career opportunity in a good company is very appealing to current and potential employees. Second is personal growth. A company that invests in continuous growth in skills (customer service, leadership, technical, etc.) is attractive. In the perfect world, this growth would coincide with promotion opportunities, but it doesn’t have to. Just know you may be “growing” the employee to move on if you don’t move them up.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

In order for this culture to be implemented successfully, retail managers themselves have to be properly trained to think this way. It is a challenge for many if not for most retail managers. As always, the culture and the ability to listen to the employees comes from the top and is disseminated down the hierarchy to the lowest ranks in the organization (I can cite Starbucks and Trader Joe’s from personal experiences). For employees who already have an idea of what their job goal is, there should be pre-defined paths with job type, length of time and success factors clearly spelled out. The apparel division of Kmart in its heydays of the ’70s had such a carrier path for those employees who knew they wanted to be merchandising executives (that’s 50+ years ago!).

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

When I was in line management in retail this “squiggling” idea was what worked. Our best people in IT came from the stores or came to us via a co-op agreement with a university. Retail needs to be a career not just a temp job. The student I hired ended up being the CIO. We need to foster upward mobility. What we’re talking about here is getting corporate aligned with store management in a new way. What about offering store managers a bonus for identifying talent that could be of greater value in a “desked” role? (Yes, I just made that up.) Retailers are still struggling to welcome new staff and see them as anything other than short-timers. Maybe if corporate gives managers an incentive and skills to look for future stars, things will start to improve.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The commentary by Amazin sounds perfect. But the reality is it makes no sense until retail executives see their people as assets rather than labor.

Retailers’ concern about retention is focused entirely on filling spots in an economy that can’t provide enough labor. They can say whatever they want publicly, but I don’t see the mindset changing.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Well said Gene! Changing the mindset around labor comes from the top. If executives view their employees as widgets, then the organization will continue to flail around with high attrition and low morale. Only when senior leaders get serious about treating their employees as their most important asset in the organization will positive change occur.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

People who see lateral moves as a growth opportunity are in the minority, unless the move is also accompanied with an increase in pay. Lateral moves make people well rounded and allow them to become huge assets only if the organization is equipped to nurture that value and take advantage of that asset. It takes a cultural shift and significant investments from the organization side. Otherwise it will be more work and more responsibilities compressed into one role.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

A career path for front line retail employees would be laughed at today. The turnover rates are high and skills can be learned quickly for most positions. The simplicity of the roles must be offset by a truly higher path – and that might mean rewards like tuition reimbursement or similar for those completing a “tour of duty” in retail. Stores typically have only one manager and a limited set of assistant managers – pathways have to lay out how associates can truly advance.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

The notion of “net retention” strikes me as singularly focused on what’s good for the company and remarkably not focused on what’s good for an individual worker, as opposed to the worker as part of the entire workforce. And yes, finding out how to personalize and humanize this pathing probably is outside the skillset of many – if not most – retail managers. Here’s what I mean. The manager is still being charged with a goal of retaining as many as employees as possible and, in order to do that, they have to somehow work out plausible career pathing. That’s a lot different from determining whether or not career pathing is possible, desirable, or even in the best interest of an individual employee. If you want to build a stronger and more loyal workforce you have to be able to recognize the “trees” not just keep staring at the “forest.”

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

If you hire people at minimum wage, offer them no advancement, and limited, if any, benefits, why are you surprised at the turnover rate? To retain these people they need to feel valued and have hope for future career development. It would not be hard to think of a plan, but it means that management would actually have to think about these people and value them.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

No, career retention should first focus on the basics instead of “squiggling.” Pay, pay more, and pay even more, should be the first thing all managers should focus on. This includes minimum pay that exceeds $15 per hour, paid holidays, paid bonuses, paid sick days, and paid benefits that includes paid medical, paid education, paid accrued time-off and paid seniority. It will be incredible what happens when this happens to all levels of employees in an organization and retention no longer becomes an issue!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The commentary sounds perfect. But the reality is it makes no sense until retail executives see their people as assets rather than labor."
"If you hire people at minimum wage, offer them no advancement, and limited, if any, benefits, why are you surprised at the turnover rate?"
"Pay, pay more, and pay even more, should be the first thing all managers should focus on."

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