Customized Solutions

This article accompanies Keeping the Keepers

Monday, February 7, 2011
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Most people focus on attraction and retention, but the hard part is actually improving people's performance," says Susan Cantrell, a Fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance based in Boston and co-author with Accenture Managing Partner David Y. Smith of Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management through Customization.

"If people have customized learning and they are able to learn the way they learn the best, then they are going to be better skilled," she says. "If they are at a place that is most conducive to the way they work best, then they are going to perform better at their job. If rewards and incentives are customized for what really motivates them, then they are going to be more motivated."

Cantrell points to the example of one employee's job definition at Best Buy's Geek Squad: Help provide customers with a superior customer experience with Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy.

"Her job was broadly defined and she had to customize how she achieved it. She found that customers really resonated with her personal style and there weren't a lot of female Geek-squad employees. She decided it would improve Best Buy's customer experience if more females had gotten into that line of work.

So she created a series of summer camps oriented toward female high-school students to get them really interested in technology and that ultimately fed the pipeline for Geek Squad employees. And she did that all within the broad confines of her job description," says Cantell.

"These innovative solutions [center] on the idea of creating a personally meaningful experience for employees that will make them want to stay, where their work is so relevant and meaningful to their unique passions and needs that going somewhere else where there's a standardized work environment would not be as appealing," she says.

"A lot of companies are moving toward non-cash-based rewards," says Cantrell. "For example, a manager at Corning said he had an employee who suffered from seasonal-affective disorder. He was able to give her extra vacation time in the winter to go to a sunny climate. That engaged her and ensured she stayed with the company. For others, it could be more time off to run a marathon."

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Offering work/life balance is also a valuable strategy, says Fran Durekas, founder of Children's Creative Learning Centers, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based national provider of on-site and off-site childcare centers for companies such as Pixar, Electronic Arts and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

"Companies want to ensure that their employees are going to be able to show up to work and aren't disrupted by typical childcare issues," says Durekas. She has not seen a decline in demand for her firm's services in the last two years.

"They are viewing how they are treated now as being representative of how they will be treated when the economy turns. The fact that their company is making an investment that is important to them means that they are going to be much more likely committed to the company and less likely to leave when the economy turns around."

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