High-tech employees increasingly stay with a company only a year or two before moving on to greener pastures.

It’s a trend that has cost the high-tech industry a lot in terms of training time, lost opportunity, and actual dollars—generally 1.5 to 3 times the employee’s annual salary depending upon the position. Not surprisingly, enterprise software firm Oracle Corporation decided to minimize the chances that its own highly skilled employees would join the throngs of job-hopping individuals.

However, managers can’t take preemptive actions to retain key employees unless they can determine who is most likely to leave and can identify the early warning signs. Clearly Oracle needed a training program to help managers identify factors contributing to employee attrition, identify individuals’ likelihood of leaving, and develop an action plan to retain those individuals. Rather than develop a retention training program internally, Oracle implemented the “Retaining Top Talent” program developed by Integral Talent Systems.

Identify why employees leave and why they stay

Retaining Top Talent is a strategic planning workshop that includes retention skills assessment. Managers complete the assessment along with their direct reports to gain feedback on management behavior as they relate to training employees. The management assessment “identifies early warning signs,” explains Don Kraft, senior consultant in the management development department.

Retaining Top Talent’s purpose isn’t just to identify why people leave, but also to identify why people stay. “We had conversations with senior managers about what’s happening in their groups, and included HR experts, data from similar groups, and from the computer industry,” Kraft says. He incorporated that information into the existing program for a high degree of customization. “Retaining Top Talent isn’t an off-the-shelf program,” Kraft says. They also provided information in terms used at Oracle, so managers would feel it was relevant to attend.

Oracle learned valuable lessons about retention

Customization is the keyword throughout the Integral Talent Systems program. “The course revolves around the action plan,” Kraft says, that is tailored to Oracle’s high-tech environment and to each individual who may be at risk of leaving. In a workshop, managers identify their top three employees and their risk of leaving, based on such things as job security, working conditions, benefits, salary, and the extent to which they believe those factors motivate specific individuals. Later, managers talk with the employees themselves to ensure their own perceptions are accurate. “When they identify key employees’ risks of leaving, a lot of managers are surprised,” he adds. Next, managers examine themselves based on 72 managerial behaviors that are related to retention, identified by Integral Talent Systems. The course also examines how attrition affects the team, the business, the stock price and other aspects of Oracle.

Anecdotal reports from Oracle’s measurement and reinforcement phase indicate the Integral Talent Systems program is successful. In surveys immediately after the workshops, managers rated the course contents an outstanding 4.5 on a 1 to 5 scale, says Kraft.

Attendees estimated they knew 47 percent more about retention strategies after the workshop than they knew before.