Don’t Be a Scrooge: Why Your Employee Retention Strategies Must Include Flexibility

At Ebenezer’s Excellent Accounting, the CEO conducted all employee orientations himself. “You will be at your desk precisely at 7:30 each morning. You may take a lunch hour from 12 to 1, and you will always remain in the office until at least 4:30 in the afternoon. Our dress code is strictly business suits. After all, you never know when a client may appear.  

“You have a complete job description in your orientation binder. Completing tasks not listed in the description will result in disciplinary practices. You may not bring personal items into your office, and you must arrange your cubicle according to the procedures outlined in the orientation binder. If you have any questions or concerns, you’ll find our complete policies in the binder. Remember, consistency is our corporate motto. Now, I’ll have Bob here show you to your new desk.”

Bob always sighed as he led the new hires to their cubicles. There was no point in making conversation or getting attached. They’d be gone in a few months anyway. Ebenezer’s had raised its wages to match those of their competition, but they still couldn’t keep staff for long. Inevitably, the best performers moved on to Fezziwig’s Fun Accounting down the road within the year. Old Ebenezer said it was proof that youth today felt too secure, that they were immature, and that what the country needed was more workhouses to teach these young folk what real work was. Bob wasn’t so sure. After all, he’d probably leave too, if it wasn’t for his loyalty to the company. Ebenezer’s Excellent Accounting paid all right, but the atmosphere was a bit Victorian.

Flexibility – It’s Not Just for Yogis Anymore

According to a survey from Deloitte, 26% of employees are actively disengaged from their jobs. They’re showing up to earn a paycheck, but they don’t actually care about doing a good job and have no loyalty to the company. Meanwhile 46% of employees would not recommend their current company to a friend. That means they don’t see your company as a positive place to work, and they’re probably looking for a way to leave as soon as they’ve added a few more lines to their resume.

70% of employees want opportunities for creativity in work, and will be unhappy if their tasks grow too repetitive. Even worse, 2/3 are sure they could find a better job in 60 days or less if they sent out resumes and contacted headhunters. If you don’t keep your best employees engaged and interested, they’ll leave and join your competitors.

Creativity and flexibility are especially important to Millennials. They want the ability to be entrepreneurial at work, a chance to create their own jobs, and flexible working arrangements that let them maximize productivity in all areas of their lives.  

Fezziwig’s Secrets to Keeping New Recruits

Bob knew that Ebenezer’s couldn’t thrive as long as it was hemorrhaging new hires, so he decided to go undercover and find out what Fezziwig’s was doing right. One Friday night, instead of staying home and helping Mrs. Cratchit with her home laundry business, he set out for the local microbrewery. The pub was known for its excellent beer and live music. Fezziwig’s people usually went there right after work to kick off their weekends.

At the pub, Bob hung around the bar, talking to Fezziwig’s young employees. He didn’t have to pump them for information or buy drinks to loosen tongues. The enthusiastic youths were happy to have the chance to talk about what made their company great.

“I can create my own job,” one young woman explained. “Our job descriptions aren’t set in stone, and the boss is happy to let me use my talents when occasions crop up.”

“Fezziwig rewards initiative,” said one recent hire. “If I see a problem and solve a problem, I get praise. Back at Ebenezer’s, I got a warning.”

Bob compiled a list of other Fezziwig retention strategies. In addition to allowing creativity and rewarding initiative, the firm also:

  • Used technology to enable in-house and off-site communications
  • Offered flexible working hours and locations. Employees could work whenever and wherever they were most productive.
  • Conducted achievement based evaluations. Success on projects mattered more than time in a seat.
  • Gave official recognition to innovators. Fezziwig’s encouraged employees to think entrepreneurially and to suggest improvements to policies and processes.
  • Allowed employees to personalize their work environment—employees could use bluetooth headphones if they wanted music. The firm embraced a less stringent dress code that let their employees dress professionally but as individuals. It encouraged them to add creative touches to cubes, break rooms, and meeting rooms so that the office had a friendly, homey feel to it.

When he stumbled home from the pub, Bob tipsily glanced over his notes. None of Fezziwig’s policies were expensive or difficult to implement, but they created a flexible, productive corporate culture. Fezziwig’s employees saw them as a way to attract and retain millennials, but as a Generation Xer, Bob also found them appealing. Who wouldn’t want to be treated as a responsible, competent adult instead of a wayward child? The flexible, interesting working environment seemed so enticing that it would almost be worth forgoing higher wages in exchange for an enjoyable job.

The End of the Story

Bob stood trembling as he gave his report to Ebenezer. He hoped the old man would embrace the Fezziwig way, but experience warned him that his boss despised change. Ebenezer, as expected, reacted with anger. He raged and stomped. He delivered a diatribe about lazy youths, people with no work ethic, beggars and orphans.

As his rant wound down, Bob slid an envelope onto his desk.  “What’s this?” Ebenezer asked. “A request for more Christmas vacation?”

“No Sir, “Bob replied. “It’s my two weeks’ notice. I appreciate all you did for Tim a few years back when he had his surgery, but…I need more flexibility. I’m taking a position with Fezziwig’s.”


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