Employee Attachment Drives Retention and Performance

As the employment market heats up in 2011, employers are facing the challenge of not only finding, but retaining new talent. Anthony Sork, a researcher and consultant in employee attachment, believes that when an employee joins a company they are entering a new social structure and how they assimilate to this structure will significantly affect their long-term employment prospects. The strength of “attachment” they have to the structure is extremely important for both the employee and employer.


Sork says that a two-way assessment takes place when a new member joins a business. The member assesses the organisation and the organisation assesses the potential contribution and cultural fit of the new member. But it is the strength of bond the new employee feels they have with the social structure of the company that is the most significant.


Many companies believe they are in control of whether a new member moves from provisional to full member status; however, it is actually the new member who ultimately decides if they would like to be part of the social structure or not. And if so, with what level of effort are they going to engage.


The strength of bond achieved with a new employee is based on the core attachment perceptions of:

  • security
  • trust and value
  • acceptance, and
  • belonging


And the strength of bond will drive key response behaviours which include:

  • risk of attrition
  • discretionary effort and performance


If an organisation wishes to retain and get high levels of effort and performance from a new member then it must strive to achieve the strongest attachment levels it can.


The business case for attachment

Millions of dollars are wasted every year because of poor attachment. Based on research from Sork HC, an investment of $100,000 over the first three months is regularly made by an organisation for a new employee. This figure is based on average direct and indirect costs.


Direct costs include:

  • position review/advertising/agency fees/ interviews
  • profiling/testing/reference checking
  • Contracts/administration/resourcing
  • training venue/training personnel
  • salary during non-contribution period


Indirect costs include:

  • lost productivity
  • lost opportunity
  • suppressed engagement of team with vacancy


Sork suggests that to fully understand the risk to this investment, organisations should calculate how long it takes to pay back $100,000 and break even. Research has shown that it will take between 12 and 18 months to achieve a return and that employers should be aware of their attrition rates within this period and add any loss to the replacement costs to be incurred again.


If an organisation achieves a high level of attachment, it not only reduces the costs of repeat loss and replacement but it also benefits from retaining talent that is contributing to a higher level of effort and performance. High attachment leads to a low risk of attrition and increased performance through increased effort. With high levels of attachment, an organisation will achieve a return on its investment faster and retain an employee that is contributing to a higher level. It becomes a win-win scenario.


How do organisations achieve high attachment levels?

Attachment perceptions and response behaviours are influenced most significantly by the behavioural impact of a manager or supervisor on a new employee, and occur within the first 120 days of employment. Sork identifies 20 workplaces drivers that impact attachment levels and claims that at the foundation of these drivers are the core perceptions of security, trust and value, acceptance and belonging. The stronger these perceptions, the stronger the attachment.


The impact of the manager or supervisor in the workplace is most significant, with over 80% of new employee perceptions being formed directly by the behaviours of, and interactions with, their manager. Managers need to be aware of the drivers and work to ensure they are positively handled.


The drivers:

1. recruitment and selection

2. pre-employment

3. orientation

4. central messages

5. rotation

6. incremental learning

7. accuracy of job representation

8. manager alignment and accessibility

9. business awareness

10. performance objectives

11. learning path

12. reasons for joining

13. vision and career path

14. senior leadership

15. work/life balance

16. co-workers

17. work environment and resources

18. climate/culture

19. systems and processes

20. safety and behaviour.


Attrition that takes place before the first three months is either because the right person is in the wrong job (poor job definition), the wrong person is in the right job (poor recruitment practices), or for factors beyond either parties control such as death in the family. In fact, Sork HC research shows that over 90% of attrition that takes place between three and 18 months of employment is due to poor attachment.


It is important for employers to understand that measuring and managing attachment is an essential part of the recruitment and on-boarding process. Sork claims attachment is even more important than having a probationary period in place. In order to manage and measure attachment Sork HC has developed and patented a tool – the Employee Attachment Inventory (EAI) – that can assist recruiters and HR consultants reach successful outcomes for their business.


Anthony Sork is the Managing Director of Sork HC, experts in leadership development. With over 15 years of experience in the field of leadership, engagement and performance, Anthony is the leading researcher, speaker and writer on employee attachment. He has been awarded two patents for his work in this field and his company, Sork HC, is the licensed provider of the world leading measurement instrument — the Employee Attachment Inventory (EAI).


[Source: Recruitment Extra 22 March 2011]