Leveraging HR Metrics

HR leaders at Qualcomm delve more deeply into the company's initiative of using exit-interview data to enhance employee retention.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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After we get people on board and they are feeling positive about their early experiences in the company, how can we sustain that feeling? How do we continue to engage and motivate employees while they are at Qualcomm? And, ultimately, how do we retain them?

As a significantly engineering-focused organization, one thing HR at Qualcomm has is data. But just having data for the sake of data is not helpful. It's what you do with the information that's important. We realized about 18 months ago that we had a surplus of retention-related information:

* We conduct an employee Climate Survey that measures elements critical to who we are as an organization. That survey provides a tremendous amount of information about how we're doing on innovation, communication, productivity and many other factors that are important to business success.

* We also worked with Hay Group to do a former-employee survey, which was targeted at individuals who had left the company over the preceding two years. Hay Group performed interviews to gather feedback on former employees' work experiences while part of Qualcomm, their reasons for leaving, and their current situations and attitudes toward the company.

We wanted to know whether there were things we could have done to keep these employees at Qualcomm. There were also questions to relate former employees' current work situations to Qualcomm, such as how we compare in compensation, benefits or work-life balance. 

* Finally, our staffing team collects turnover information on an ongoing basis through exit surveys to identify the primary reasons people leave. This provides insight into whether departures are job-related or driven by personal circumstances (e.g., relocation, return to school).

We partnered with Hay Group again to triangulate all these data sources to identify the most important determinants of engagement and retention at Qualcomm.

For example, we did a correlation analysis looking at the Climate Survey items and how they related to actual turnover in different locations. We also did a driver analysis to look at the major predictors of job satisfaction and engagement at Qualcomm.

What we came up with were six factors that are essential to creating a very motivating and engaging environment in which our employees want to stay. These factors are:

* Development Opportunities

* Total Rewards

* Work Environment

* Management/Leadership

* Performance Management

* Understanding Qualcomm

These factors probably aren't shocking. But what's important to us is that they are based on Qualcomm's data. That's meaningful for communicating to our leaders and managers about what is essential for engaging and motivating our people.

This also provides HR a common framework and set of guidelines to focus on what employees want in their experience at Qualcomm. We can continue to evaluate new programs we roll out, as well as existing programs, based on whether they align with the factors that are important to our employees.

And if they don't, we need to re-evaluate the value they are adding.

We've used these six drivers as our framework for thinking about engagement and how it relates back to the business. We know that by creating an environment that reinforces these factors we will have employees who are more likely to exhibit discretionary effort, more likely to recommend Qualcomm to family and friends, and more likely to want to remain a part of the company.

And they will help us continue to innovate, to create the new technologies and solutions, and to deliver for our customers.

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We took this analysis very seriously and have aligned a number of HR initiatives to positively influence the six drivers:

* Development planning: The most important driver of engagement and retention at Qualcomm is opportunities for growth and development.

We're a technology company, and people want to work on the next cool thing that provides challenge and excitement. The more we can do to provide employees with those opportunities, the more likely we are going to have people doing a great job and staying with the company for years to come.

We've had a real focus on how we can equip our managers to have development conversations, because as engineers they are not always comfortable in that area. And we also needed to encourage our employees to take initiative and be accountable for their own development.

To do this, we deployed a Web site, easy-to-use tools and training sessions to encourage managers and employees to get involved.

* Employee trade show. The trade-show concept was designed to help employees connect to different innovative products and projects taking place throughout the company. We tend to be divisionally focused, so employees in one of division might not know what employees in other divisions are doing.

The trade show provides a tremendous opportunity to educate our employee population and make connections across the different technology groups.

* Fifty-two weeks at Qualcomm. The program is a story-telling mechanism that starts with a new employee's first day. It features a number of different stories about Qualcomm's founders and history, what makes us unique, significant aspects of our business environment and how we can continue to perpetuate the values and characteristics that made Qualcomm special in the first place.

Tamar Elkeles is vice president of learning and organizational development and Jaime Maas is a senior organizational development specialist at Qualcomm.

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