Ensuring that your HR Team Doesn't Do a Runner

It is quite alarming these days how quickly HR folks are moving between companies. The markets across Asia Pacific Japan have been buoyant for too long, and there has never been a greater stretch on the HR talent base here. Your talented HR staff are fielding calls from head-hunters and competitors every day. Lucrative offers are being bandied about in the market as companies ‘buy’ HR talent. Today more than ever, it’s important to look after your HR staff or they’ll soon walk out the door.

There are, however, those exceptional HR Directors who are getting it right – those who are using non-conventional techniques to ensure loyalty and continuity in the HR team. In this article we look at some creative measures to keep your HR team intact.

Those Lines We’ve Heard Before

The table below highlights some of the most common causes of HR talent ‘calling it quits’. Take a look at the conventional response to these situations, but compare them with some of the solutions that we are seeing from the region’s more creative and results-oriented HR leaders.




In all the creative approaches listed in the table, the HR leader has shown that they have taken a long-term approach to their HR staff and can anticipate the problems of the future. Of course it takes time to build this level of understanding, especially if the HR head is contending with a legacy situation where they must build trust in a team they didn’t create. But we are more commonly seeing incoming HR Directors set this as an immediate goal if they hope to retain HR employees in a tight market. Building on from this, here are five solutions that are helping HR heads ensure that their teams stick: Hire the Right HR People in the First Place. Simply put, neither under-hire nor over-hire for a position. Under-hiring tends to be the most common problem, most often caused by tight budgets or the fear of causing internal inequity between staff on by bringing in a highly paid new hire. The danger when under-hiring is that the new HR person, although initially up for the challenge, may end up feeling overwhelmed once they get into the role. Perhaps the greater problem is where the HR leader and business leaders expect greater results, since they ideally wanted a more senior or experienced person but have settled for someone junior.

The flipside is where a company invests heavily in bringing in more sophisticated or experienced HR staff than the HR environment currently warrants. This classic scenario can be crudely described as bringing in an ‘A’ grade HR staff member into a ‘B’ grade HR organisation. Often involving paying new hires above market rates or giving them grand titles, this requires careful management by the HR and business leadership teams. These new HR folks need to be careful integrated into the company, otherwise more often than not when things get tough they’ll soon leave for the ‘A’ grade company that they felt they always deserved.

Develop your HR Talent Fast

The moment you hire an HR person, start to plan their career. This process should actually begin even from the time that you first interview the individual, as this is the best chance you’ll have to get a sense of their potential and desired career track. One of the most common reasons HR staff leave their current job is because they feel they can obtain greater career development elsewhere.

Always be planning one role ahead of where the person currently is, and communicate this plan to them on an on-going basis. For instance, if you hire a Generalist HR Manager who expresses a desire to gain experience in C&B, then plan for them to be assigned to the Compensation team within an agreed time frame. Communicate to them the key result areas in their HR Manager role that need to be fulfilled first, but explain to them once they fulfill these, they will switch roles. But don’t stop just there. Show them where they will go even beyond the Compensation & Benefits role. Give them options. Perhaps they may want a greater leadership role or broader geographical experience. Ultimately, as the HR leader, you will have a big say in the career track of your HR staff, but involving them in the process will ensure that the development of their career plan is a collaborative exercise.

Review the Content of your HR Roles Regularly

Stifling talented HR folks in roles that are too operational is another popular reason for poor retention. Smart HR professionals know that the key to succeeding in HR is by being flexible at balancing operational and strategic responsibilities. However, no HR person likes to be caught in a role that is too transactional for too long. Everyone likes to see light at the end of the tunnel. Dissect problem roles and be confident in shuffling responsibilities between incumbents. For instance, if HR Generalists are getting bogged down in recruitment, perhaps a dedicated recruitment manager is the answer. If an HR Business Partner is complaining that the shared services Compensation & Benefits Head is not giving the Business Partner’s unit enough service, then consider whether it’s worth hiring a dedicated Compensation specialist for the business unit. Ensure that your higher performing HR staff have the potential to build teams below them, freeing them up to working more strategically when the time is right. This will allow them to develop juniors who can handle more of the operational responsibility and who, over time, will themselves be able to skill up into more senior roles.

Foresee a Resignation Before it Happens and Already Have the Solution

It will often be the case that you have talented HR staff who you have invested a lot of time in developing but who you still feel may be poached or may leave. The trick is to always have an ace up your sleeve. Naturally the best plan might be to have a successor already in place for each important HR role. However another useful strategy is to never have any member of your HR team functioning at limit of their threshold. In this way, you can upscale the challenge or seniority of their role, and always be able to have something juicier in store.

For instance, your Training and Development Head who you have been constantly developing and communicating the next move for, may have once expressed a desire to do an assignment in China. Keep this in mind, do some basic research on the feasibility of this being able to happen, and then if you ever need to, you can put the green light on a China assignment. This may be a smart tool in retaining the person if they ever showed signs of wanting to resign.

Make your HR Team Feel Important

Make each member of your HR team feel important by exposing them to the business and HR leadership team. This is especially the case where your organisation has many layers, and particularly for high potential junior HR staff who may be reporting up to the HR Head through many levels. As HR leader, try to meet regularly with as many of your HR team as possible and don’t rely just on the views of your direct reports. Encourage your HR team to promote themselves to business leaders and be sure to openly praise good work in your team, even if you are hearing about it second hand from one of your one-belows. A common complaint in large organisations is that junior and mid-level HR staff can feel undervalued — an awareness of this can help rectify a simple problem.

Make it work

Today more than ever, it’s important as an HR Leader to
devote time to looking after and retaining your HR staff. With companies always on the hunt for HR talent, and your good HR staff always in danger being poached, don’t wait until the resignation letter arrives on your desk. Think about some of the creative measures mentioned above to keep your HR team intact and apply what works for your HR team, quick.


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