Attrition Warrior

Faced with a perilously high voluntary attrition rate among global employees, Terry Geraghty focused his energies on training and engagement initiatives to plug the leaks in Manhattan Associates' talent pipeline. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
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This article accompanies A Perfect Cure and The 2014 HR Honor Roll.

In 2010, just as the economy was struggling to find any sort of financial foothold and the national unemployment rate hovered near double digits, Manhattan Associates' Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Terry Geraghty was two years into his role and witnessing a phenomenon just as troubling as it was unique.

But, as it turns out, his previous experiences with building and growing leadership-development and training programs, as well as his senior-vice-president role in an aggressive turnaround of McKesson's $1-billion healthcare unit, would soon come in very handy.

During a time when most workers were hanging on to their jobs as tightly as they could, and while other organizations in the technology industry were dealing with an average voluntary attrition rate of approximately 9 percent, Manhattan Associates was losing its workers at approximately double that figure.

So Geraghty decided to go looking for answers before any more disengaged and disenfranchised workers had a chance to walk out the door. He created the supply-chain-software provider's first-ever formal and transparent employee-satisfaction survey of its approximately 2,500 worldwide employees.

Administered by The Hay Group, the survey uncovered some deeply negative employee sentiments in the areas of training quality and access, as well as dim views on opportunities for career development within the organization.

Because of the anemic training programs available at the time of the survey, Geraghty realized that employees equated them with a lack of opportunity for growth and development within the organization. That combination, he realized, was the single biggest factor behind the company's high attrition rate.

"The training scores [from the survey] were very weak and we knew we needed to do something about it," he says.

Among his first efforts at tackling the problem, Geraghty created a team whose purpose was to address the training-and-development deficit -- a team that eventually became Manhattan Associates' global-learning-and-development department.

And, armed with a new budget, new staff and a reorganized approach to learning, the team's first objective was to devise its hallmark training-and-career-development element, called the Associate Career Enrichment program.

The program, which now offers more than 1,000 courses -- including ones focusing on leadership, professional skills and technical offerings -- provides employees with a career-development focus, options and resources on a global scale and includes both instructor-led and virtual sessions designed to deliver online content that is both custom-created and off-the-shelf.

Essentially, ACE allows learners to manage their to-do lists of courses based on assignments they have been given, their own interests and any compliance-related requirements for learning.

By using personalized learning paths, Geraghty says, employees got a reinforced message about the company's renewed focus on training and development as a way to advance up the ladder.

"Part of our value proposition is that we're going to give you a big job right away," he says, "but we'll also train you [to thrive in it] right away and we are extremely committed to your success."

The ACE program also established a vital link that had been previously missing.

"We put in place management accountability," Geraghty says, "in order to be able to measure our managers on the training of their direct reports. We wanted to inspect what we expected."

To that end, results of the program are measured through employee-satisfaction surveys, the number of hours of completed coursework per employee, and specific, ROI-based factors and metrics defined by senior leaders.

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Today, Geraghty is looking at a rosier set of numbers, including a much lower voluntary attrition rate -- 8.5 percent as of the first quarter of 2014 -- a 20-percent increase in employee-engagement scores, being twice named as a top place to work in Atlanta by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and a shelf's worth of awards for the company's e-learning courses, all of which helped secure him a place on this year's HR Honor Roll.

"The awards are nice," he says of the plaudits, "but that's not the juice. It's so hard to find this kind of talent, and we invest in the training, so it kills us when we lose someone. We get all kinds of juice from the retention."

In addition to his ACE efforts, Geraghty has also focused closely on millennials through the Manhattan Connect program, which brings volunteerism efforts (on behalf of Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, and Boys & Girls Clubs, among others), wellness and social activities together in order to provide a place for employees to connect with the community and each other, regardless of their demographic.

"Almost half of the population of our workforce is millennial," he says, "and they want to make an impact on the world around them."

Meanwhile, Geraghty's impact on Manhattan Associates has not gone unnoticed.

"In just a few years, Terry has helped set a vision and transform our organization into a place where people want to work and into a company that people want to do business with," says CEO Eddie Capel. "He generously shares his time and talents for nurturing leadership both inside and outside the company because he is passionate about helping others achieve their goals.

"And he demonstrates every day what it means to be a true leader," he says, "with respect for individuals and commitment to excellence."

Read also:

Terry Geraghty: In Brief

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