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As an employee retention expert and employee retention speaker, I am always looking for articles that will help me to build my body of knowledge.  Recently, I read an article that an organization has developed an algorithm that can predict if software engineers are thinking about leaving their job based on the changes in their social media behavior.  WOW!  I started to wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  In some ways it seemed kind of right out of Orson Wells 1984 and on the other hand I am all for being able to improve employee retention strategies with good information.  I am told the software is very expensive and only applies to software engineers so it will not be a predictor to other types of people.  I tell companies that as an employee retention trainer, if they can predict when someone is going to leave, then they can take proactive measures to address the issues and retain the employee.  That is sound business.

Then the other side of me kicked in and I started to think this is just another tool that gives management an excuse to hibernate in their office and not get out and talk to their employees.  After all, I can just flip on my computer, pull up the analytics and see who is thinking about leaving and act on it.  This is exactly what happened with our spy networks in this country after the Viet Nam war.  Years ago, we had informants and other “assets” who fed us information.  Then as electronic spying became more in vogue, we stopped using these human “assets” and relied almost exclusively on electronic intelligence.  The result:  When trouble erupted several decades later we found we did not have the BEST intelligence information and we had to rebuild these human networks.

With this scenario as the backdrop, I began to think how this relates to employee retention strategies. What I came up with is these tools MIGHT be valuable but they are no substitute for getting your butt off your chair, getting out into the shop or the office, wandering around and TALKING TO PEOPLE!  I don’t know about you but you don’t have to be an employee retention expert to know when someone is not happy, I can generally tell.  Which leads to me asking what is going on and LISTENING to what they have to say and then taking action on what I hear.  I combine this with my employee surveys, stay interviews, exit interviews etc. and I have far better information than an algorithm as a predictor.  I also have an added bonus…the human touch that we hear people saying in all our employee engagement studies is missing from work.

Ultimately, that led me to the conclusion that if I had to pick, I opt for getting out of the office and wandering around and talking with people.  For those of you that have gotten an e mail from me you may remember the quote I have on the bottom, “Forget fancy strategies…focus on the fundamentals.”  Getting out of your office and talking to people is as fundamental as it gets.  Without boots on the ground, you are not going to drive employee retention strategies.