The 5 Stages of Data Team Retention
You don’t have to look very far into today’s employment data to see why they’re calling it The Great Resignation in 2022. A new ZipRecruiter study of more than 2,000 workers aged 25 to 54 showed that 20 percent anticipate leaving their current job within a year, while another 26 percent said they see staying just one to two years. For those who have changed jobs, 64 percent said their new job pays more. Nearly 10 percent are making at least 50 percent more.
Among the 150 or so data experts I manage globally, the numbers look a little different. Our end-to-end employee retention program has yielded a turnover rate of around 5 percent over the past two years of the Great Resignation, compared to professional services turnover rates that typically approach 40 percent. It’s not an exaggeration to say that JLL has a reputation in the marketplace as a kind of fantasy football dream team of data and analytics professionals.
How to retain employees in 2022
So how do we drive these enviable retention figures at JLL? The answer is simple, though the effort is anything but. We take a strategic, end-to-end approach to retention that includes five discrete stages. If you’ve been looking for new ideas on how to retain employees, here are a few of the highlights of our approach.
Yes, employee retention begins before you’ve hired future colleagues. At conferences we have a JLL Data Fam badge program, because we’ve found that everyone loves a badge on their lanyard. During the pandemic we’ve even had virtual badges featuring the hashtag #jlldatafam that people sign up for by completing a short web form. One question asks whether they are interested in finding out about working for JLL. If they tick yes, it gives them an additional popup that prompts, What kind of role are you looking for? More questions follow, including the option to link to their Tableau public profile. In 2021 we had 135 people fill out the form for a virtual badge. Nearly 40 turned out to be serious candidates. Six, in fact, now work for our company.
Using this approach, we’ve built up a robust network of data professionals and had conversations with people before we even have a role to fill. It’s all in the spirit of, “Let’s find out more about you.” When something does become available, we can now react a lot faster.
One initiative we’ve added using Workday as our HR tool is to identify gender pay gaps, as well as our ethnicity and gender makeup. We share this information with our broader group, so they understand that we have a hiring policy where half of first-interview candidates must be female. As a result of this policy, 42 percent of my team are now female, which is up from 26 percent a little over two years ago. We believe that leaders need to look at their diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices more closely, as well as pay gaps, and think about how to close them. The benefits of a building diverse team are substantial, and it has become a competitive advantage for us.
We are serious about onboarding and training at JLL, and it’s a critical component of our employee retention strategy. Through Fi Gordon, my Global Director we have a division called SET (for Strategy, Enablement, Technology). As part of SET onboarding, before someone even starts with us they’ve got a JLL email and their new leader has filled in a spreadsheet with all their details, including analytics certification levels. And because we want them to feel like part of the family, they receive a mail package with a JLL Data Fam T-shirt, badges, a water bottle, and other swag.
As part of our onboarding process, all new employees receive an introduction to all our programs and are inducted into our team site. They’re introduced to our standards, dashboard best practices, and even our color palette. In their first week they have a meeting with one of our regional enablement leads. This lead takes them through all of the training, the community and as well as our data culture and our vision.
Whenever a new employee starts, whether they’re a direct report or four levels down in the organization, I also make it a point to schedule a half-hour one-to-one introduction with them myself. This makes a strong positive impression.
4. Continuous Learning
Retention requires finding opportunities for data professionals to grow and prosper. We have a series of Storytelling With Data challenges that we partner on with their CEO, Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. Participants publish their results on Tableau Public and get together to discuss each other’s dashboards. Based in part of these sessions our data team has been taught to question and challenge dashboard requests and to add design thinking to understand what someone is trying to answer.
We also give our teammates the freedom and autonomy to learn, try new things, and get engaged in the community. Our general principle is that Friday afternoon is do what you like time. Go and learn Python or do some research into art or increase your skill level and understanding of a partner tool like Alteryx. We always pay for people to get certified in these tools, even if they do not pass the first time before succeeding.
Other things we do include sending people to the Tableau Conference. The teams really like these perks. They also know that they could potentially earn more at the company next door, but that role might be no more than a “chart junkie” making red, amber and green 3D pie charts all day because that’s what the business thinks it needs. They might earn more money, but are they going to be satisfied doing the job?
In my mind if you don’t onboard people and create moments that matter in the first 30, 60, or 90 days, you’ll see higher turnover. New hires are too often left to their own devices in companies. The job description may not match what they’re tasked to do. We try to ensure that everyone has as much support in the company culture and community as we can possibly give them.
Having a career trajectory is hugely important to retention, as the lack of one is often cited as a reason why people leave jobs. We promoted 23 of our 150 team members last year, and we ensure that everyone can see a path beyond their current role, whether that’s an analyst becoming a senior analyst, a senior analyst becoming a specialist, a specialist becoming a manager, or a manager becoming a director.
I also make it clear that if people do decide to move on from JLL, they won’t get a last-minute phone call from me saying, “Actually, here’s a promotion to stay.” I’m just not in a position to do that, and our people know that we don’t use those bluff cards. But they also know that we do everything we can to pay people the right price today and do whatever we can to keep our employees engaged.
Passion always pays off
For all these reasons, a lot of people in the community want to come and work for JLL. They hear what we do. They speak to our people, who include four Tableau visionaries and 14 Tableau ambassadors as well as two Alteryx Aces.
I think they also see how our leadership likes to articulate their passion about what we do. If new employees get access to a senior leader early on in their career, it’s meaningful. Like everything else we do in our employee retention cycle at JLL, these are investments worth making.