There are many myths surrounding employee retention and engagement in organizations. We've previously discussed and debunked some of these myths – for example, we often hear that people join organizations but they leave managers or people are mainly motivated by money.
Our research suggests that it pays to look at the data in your own company. Why? The drivers of engagement and retention are more unique than you realize. What works for one company may not be effective in yours.
As a company that invests significant resources and energy to retain key talent, Box doesn’t want culture and retention strategies directed by conventional or generic notions. Instead, Box collects a multitude of data to predict factors unique to Box that will retain and engage their employees who call themselves “Boxers.”
Understanding what drives attrition at Box
A key source of untapped data was the survey responses from Box’s annual engagement survey run by Culture Amp. Box realized that this data could be a substantial source of insights on what drives attrition specific to Box’s population.
To identify leading survey-based indicators related to retention, Culture Amp utilized survey data collected in late 2012 and compared responses between employees who stayed and employees who voluntarily left over the next 18 months. The analysis was conducted by Culture Amp using de-identified aggregate data to ensure employee confidentiality was maintained in accordance with Box’s cultural values.
Among our Employee Engagement Index questions, we found the best predictor was whether people could still see themselves at the company in two years - no huge surprise. Boxers who stayed were 28% more likely to say they could still see themselves at Box in two years. This finding supports the ongoing use of direct retention type questions in any employee engagement index.
Interestingly, when we compared the two groups’ responses to whether they would recommend Box as a great place to work there was only a 12% higher result for those who stayed. While positive to see this narrow gap, the result suggests that using this Net Promoter type question alone may not be optimal if you want to predict retention.
Percentage difference in agreement levels between employees who stayed versus left.
Taking action on what's driving attrition
After validating the predictive qualities of the Engagement Index questions, we shifted focus to the best predictors amongst the workplace and culture questions - which are more actionable. For this analysis, we took all the remaining questions used in the 2012 survey and again assessed the relative relationships to retention 18 months post survey.
The results suggested that team and cooperation focused questions were the top predictors of retention, followed closely by belief in career opportunities at Box.
So where did the traditionally stated reasons for employee leaving a company fit in? We went down the list of predictors and while all survey questions provided some predictive value, the questions pertaining to traditional drivers like managers, compensation and work-life balance were a long way down the list.
These results provide a glimpse into a collaborative project between Box and Culture Amp to directly understand what drives retention and other important outcomes. Armed with this data unique to Box, Box has been able to execute “evidence based” retention tactics including:
- Providing guidance to Box’s People Partners (HRBPs) to proactively engage groups identified as at risk on these metrics and communicate findings with org leaders
- Identify actionable strategies to address these issues such as:
- Team connectedness via social events, recognition for both individual and team based work and expanded one-on-ones to provide mentorship and support from senior leaders
- Career path via defining stretch assignments and educating Boxers on the career path within and outside their current function
Box’s willingness to utilize its engagement data to understand retention has only strengthened Box’s position in a competitive talent market and reduced further what was already a low attrition rate. The key is to be proactive and use your data to make better decisions for your organization.
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