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Employee Retention: Back to basics

Updated: May 22, 2023

Addressing the Triggers and Drivers


One of the most talked out topics currently in the industry this year are the layoffs .Employee loss causes substantial amount of revenue loss in the human capital matrix Voluntary attritions though are still forming essential part of attrition ratios ,and an important source of causing dent to the culture and reputation to the firm. A stream of companies have announced layoffs to optimise costs and re- calibrate to market and global corrections in recent times. This attrition further reduces employee engagement and trust which has substantial effect on people capital and ROI. Retention of manpower is a concern and a difficult challenge to address for large , mid cap companies and start ups alike.

Two key areas of focus required to be addressed in voluntary attrition are People and Process. In this article we examine the people side of the solution with a brief understanding on its process implications .In order to retain talent and manage talent understanding the career anchors could unlock the door to many potentials problems organizations face today.

A ‘career anchor’ is described as an internal compass that guides and defines an employees' ‘internal career’. It is the motivator or driver and is the one thing people will not give up, even in the face of difficult choices

What are the Career Anchors ?

One way to retain staff would be to do a RCA ( root cause analysis) over attrition and the retention process and keep guard over the triggers that cause attrition. Edgar Schein's original research in the 1970s identified five possible constructs upon which anchors are generally based, though this was expanded to eight following further research in the 1980s. These eight constructs describe the priorities individuals who possess different sets of talents, capabilities and personalities possess, and can thus be used as a basis for planning development and career changes around.

  1. Technical/functional competence – these individuals enjoy being good at specific tasks and will work hard in order to develop the specific skills necessary to complete them. The type of work these people seek can be in any specialty, industry, or organization.

  2. General managerial competence – these individuals thrive off performing in a position of responsibility; tackling high-level problems, building relationships and interacting with others; they have strong interpersonal skills.

  3. Autonomy/independence – these people prefer to work in environments where they can make their own rules, set their own standards, and work independent of others. They would like to work and be able to act without needing too much direction, interference or confirmation, often avoiding standards and procedures to do things in their own way.

  4. Security/stability – they seek stable and predictable positions and activities, which they are able to plan aspects of their life around, taking few risks; they are also often the individuals who will spend many years in the same position. They like pay, perks, benefits and a stable organizational culture without much flux and change management.

  5. Entrepreneurial capability – these are the creative people within an organization and also entrepreneurs and business owners , who enjoy brainstorming and creating new things and process , they are different from those who seek autonomy as they will share the workload with others and enjoy individuals, including themselves, they take ownership for their work; they often get bored with monotonous not fruitful tasks. They have a focus to generate wealth and growth.

  6. Service/dedication to a cause – these individuals always seek new ways to help other people, both within and outside the organization, serve work with a purpose and often love contributing to others and organization , and community as a whole. They are often engaged at people oriented roles.

  7. Pure challenge – driven nearly entirely by a need to be continuously stimulated by new challenges and tasks which test their abilities to solve problems; they would always like goal focus and energized when they break benchmarks and challenged for new and challenging tasks.

  8. Lifestyle – For people with these anchor, The ability to balance work, family and leisure is critically important and they will choose a position that enables them to achieve this balance. These individuals orient everything, including their role, around their pattern of living as a whole – not so much balancing work and life, as integrating it; they may also take long periods of leave to take part in recreational activities or balance themselves and their lives through holidays and other forms of downtime.

Utilizing Career Anchors in People Management: Career anchors can be used to our benefit in an organization to use people drives to enhance potential, productivity and performance as shown in diagram below.

From the above diagram we could see how we can apply career anchors to our benefit in the people management process in an organization.


Large amount of investment goes into recruitment in terms of manpower ,time ,technical and infrastructure costs. Similarly the cost of losing a productive employee is very substantial to cause dents in manpower budgets. Cost of productivity loss of disengaged employees due to loss of trust and faith in system, is overlooked in overall cost requirement for attrition management and recruitment cost. Edgar Schein career anchors give clarity over classification of employees based on job requirements. This concept can be extrapolated to other methods and assessments to decipher employee motives and drives in terms of a career. Several open and paid psychometric tools are available in the market.The idea of bringing up the concept in this article is not to lay emphasis on the psychometric tools but rather to generate focus on the current gaps in recruitment and talent management which is a slow gradual intricate process ,rather than a mass push towards growth merely by numbers.

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