Paving the Road to Maximizing Employee Retention and Development.
By Alan Keith and Sheila Hanley
Monday, 2nd March 2009
One must recognize the value of investing in people even during an economic downturn and this respect for developing an employee's potential will lead to outstanding outcomes such as improved performance due to greater awareness of one's strengths and opportunities.

The Challenge of Separating the "Movers" from the "Shakers"…

Investing in employee and organizational development seems like a luxury – even a burden – during chaotic times.  Then again, such initiatives seem unnecessary when business is good.  However, the most successful organizations believe and consistently invest in talent management as a core business strategy.

Critical to talent management is the task of separating the movers from the shakers. "Movers" are rising stars; they are positive catalysts who help set the standard for productivity, contribute to a positive employee morale and move the organization forward. 

"Shakers" hold back the organization; they are employees who tend to rock the boat in counterproductive or negative ways. The idea is to cull your workforce -- retain and develop your movers while phasing out the shakers.

Identifying the movers in any workforce is neither easily nor effectively done without a strategic process.  Dry Creek has integrated the 20/20 Skills™ assessment and 20/20 Individual Development Plan (IDP)™ into its talent management program with exceptional results. These 20/20 tools are the foundation for Dry Creek's standardized and objective approach to employee development.  Their approach might well serve as a model for your organization.  More than ever, retention and development of your top talent should be top of mind.

Employee Development = Business Development…

Dry Creek's image as an employer of choice is reinforced by its voluntary program for those seeking personal and professional development. Employees from all levels of employment -- tribal and non tribal alike -- have the opportunity to better understand their strengths and areas of opportunity and participate in the creation of a personalized development plan.

In this context 20/20 Skills™ assessment has progressively migrated from being a resource for those seeking self-development to being the first step of the application process for those seeking continuing educational assistance in Dry Creek's "50/50 Tribal College Intern Program."  This program allows employees to work half-time, attend
9-12 units of schooling and continue to be paid full-time and receive full benefits.

For Dry Creek one of the first signs that someone is a "mover" is when he or she takes the initiative to contact the Training Manager to complete a 20/20 Skills™ assessment and participate in a feedback session with a 20/20 Assessment™ development expert.  20/20 Skills™ takes a rigorous inventory of ten competencies specific to the hospitality industry:

  • Creativity
  • Ethical Awareness
  • Group Process
  • Leadership
  • Loyalty to Company
  • Problem Solving
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Sense of Humor
  • Sensitivity to Diversity
  • Service Orientation
These ten competencies cover the three broad skill sets that best predict job performance, namely Task Orientation, Social Maintenance and General Mental Ability.

The structured and motivational nature of the feedback sessions ensures efficiency and effectiveness -- briefings usually take no more than 90 minutes. The session can be conducted face-to-face or via conference call with the Training Manager, employee and development coach in attendance. The coach begins the session by determining the employee's career goals and interests in order to provide feedback in a proper and motivational context.

The session -- or sometimes set of sessions -- concludes with the preparation of a customized Individual Development Plan (IDP) specific to the employee's desire to leverage personal strengths and address areas of opportunity.  This plan is a working document; the employee is free to alter it in any that best suits them and their resources as it is being implemented.

Another clue someone is a "mover" is when an employee participates enthusiastically in this development session and takes clear ownership of the resulting Individual Development Plan (IDP). Clear outcomes materialize when this happens -- employees in the voluntary 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program are more engaged, more likely to remain committed to their jobs at Dry Creek and they hold each other accountable in aggressively working on their development plans. Of course, any employee can elect additional tactical and morale support through 20/20's special service of six (6) month's of structured coaching related to the IDP.

Thus 20/20 and Dry Creek work together to tailor development services to the needs of the employee, as opposed to forcing the employee to participate in a generic and cookie-cutter training program that neither speaks to the employee's learning-style nor exact areas of development.

And unlike many commercially available training modules, the 20/20 Individual Development Plan (IDP) ™ and coaching approach leverages the employee's strengths while simultaneously addressing areas of opportunity.

The Employee Verdict is in…

The combination of sound science and personalization defines Dry Creek's 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program. Management appreciates the positive impact of the program, and recent employee data reveal that the 20/20 Skills™ and 20/20 IDP™ are crucial components. In particular, employees in Dry Creek's 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program participated in a six-item, anonymous survey that gauged the impact of the 20/20 Skills™ assessment and the corresponding Individual Development Plan (IDP) on their professional development.

Based on rigorous Item Response Theory (IRT) scaling analytics1, the overall "positive-impact" rating of the 20/20 Skills™ assessment on employee performance and development was 9.28 on a 0-10 scale. The employees strongly indicated that the 20/20 Assessment™ components were educational, insightful, helpful for supporting development and improved their job performance.

Moreover, these employees also strongly indicated that they would recommend the process to coworkers, as well as recommend that Dry Creek continue offering the 20/20 Assessment™ components. This strongly validates that the 20/20 tools and the overall 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program is having the desired impact on employees -- and especially the "movers" in the organization. 

Establishing Training and Development Programs: Important Points

Of course, the 20/20 Assessment™ contributions to the development planning process do not alone account for the success of Dry Creek's 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program. Instead, success follows from the confluence of strong science, personalization in working with employees, talented HR and training professionals and support from executive management.  To that end, here are some helpful guidelines for establishing or expanding a training and development program in your own organization:

  • Establish a development program only if you have the commitment to follow it through and nurture it. Poorly designed and managed programs benefit no one.
  • Start slow and expand strategically if you are introducing a new program to the organization. A pilot program with a select department, office or property is a smart way to gauge initial success and learn valuable administrative
  • Development plans and training modules are best grounded in skill and competency development -- not personality traits that are inherently fixed and resistant to change. Indeed, recent research3 shows that personality tests are generally poor predictors of work performance.
  • Personalize interventions to the employee; do not assume all employees respond well and learn patterns of success from generic training modules or resource materials that dominate the market.
  • Employees should focus on no more than three development goals at a time. People with too many goals are negatively affected in many ways: 1) they never feel as if they accomplish a complete task, 2) it is difficult to tie their goal accomplishment to a reward and recognition system that recognizes their accomplishments, 3) they do not know what is most important to accomplish next, and 4) they fall prey to the "check it off the list" syndrome in which they check tasks off their list before the actions have been integrated by the organization. 
How many employers do you know who take an hour or more to speak strictly about an employee's career goals and development?  In our experience few organizations actively work at identifying and nurturing their "movers."  This is a lost opportunity, since nothing a company does is more important for its lasting success than managing talent.

In The War for Talent, for example, McKinsey and Company2 noted that "talent driven companies of the Fortune 500 experienced nearly 82% greater profit than their competitor."  We strongly recommend that organizations adopt the business strategy of establishing a process like Dry Creek's 50/50 Tribal College Intern Program to find and develop the movers amid your shakers. Talent management is not a business luxury; it is a business lifeline.


1 Houran, J., & Lange, R. (2007). State-of-the-art measurement in Human Resource assessment. International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Systems, 1, 78-92.
2 Michaels, E., Handfield-Jones, H., & Axelrod, B. (2001). The war for talent.  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
3 Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K., & Schmitt, N. (2007). Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts. Personnel Psychology, 60, 683-729.

Sheila Hanley is the Training Manager, Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians

For information on Best Practice 20/20 Coaching ™ service, contact:
Alan Keith, MBA
Vice President, 20/20 Assessment™ (a service of HVS)
akeith@2020skills.com or call 516.248.8828 x 265


About the Author
Alan Keith received an M.B.A from the Schulich School of Business, York University and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in Industrial Relations from the I.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba. Alan joined 20/20 Skills™ assessment as Vice President following twenty years of experience in the hospitality and assessment industry. A frequent speaker on talent management and service excellence, he has markedly increased financial results by establishing performance based cultures that are focused on attracting and retaining talent.

Alan has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on talent management issues including assessment. He provides personal coaching to people looking to improve their career path and also offers sales and service training to the service sector. He is currently on the Board of Directors for JVS Toronto, a community organization that offers career, employment, training and psychological services.
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