Using the radar approach to help clients achieve job retention

Helping your client get a job is not enough. That’s just the first step in the process. The biggest challenge is job retention, and job developers need to train both employees and employers on how to help those with barriers keep their jobs.

Workforce development expert Larry Robbin calls it the radar approach to job retention and made it the subject of his June 7th workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

This approach works like radar because it’s an early warning system. It looks at the indicators of quitting or firing problems before people go to work and teaches retention skill building techniques to help new employees prevent their own job loss.

“Shift the focus of your program from getting the job to holding the job,” Robbin says. “Decide what the factors are that keep your clients from keeping a job and address those from the beginning.”

According to Robbin, the greatest risk of job loss is during the first three weeks of employment. He recommends doing a lot of follow-up during that time, beginning with the first day on the job.

After they complete their first day of work, ask them, “How does this job match your expectations? What did you expect it to be and what is it? What are you proud of in the way you worked today that will make your boss hang onto you if there’s a layoff?”

Another question would be “Is there anything you need help with from me that would help you stay on the job?”

Try to get a sense of how they did and what they think about their work and new employer and address any issues that could come up based on what they say.

Robbin also urges contacting the employer, and asking them, “How did my employee do on the first day compared to other people on the first day? Did they do worse, the same, better? Is there anything about the way that they performed that I should address or complement?”

“You need to train the employer in job retention with your population. There are certain things about your population that the employer needs to know about,” he says. “If you want to criticize youth, for example, pull them aside, because if you criticize them in public, they’ll walk.”

“If a person has been incarcerated for 20 years, they might have issues with authority figures, so you have to be careful how you criticize them, as well.”

As part of the radar retention strategy you must try to figure out why they might not show up at work the first day – a serious problem, considering that 25 percent of all entry-level employees don’t, according to Robbin.

“And the No. 1 reason they don’t show up the first day is fear. In your workshops you need to talk about first-day-of-work anxiety. You need to call them the day before they start work and tell them that the boss hired them because they think they’re good and can do the job,” he says.

Another reason people don’t show up is that someone sabotages them from wanting to work. Their best friend may show up the night before with a bottle of Jack Daniels and the strongest weed imaginable. That person is afraid he’ll lose his friend. The most serious enemies in the war for retention are the people who don’t want your clients to go to work, whether they be a friend, a parent or a child.

An individual does not go to work, says Robbin. A system goes to work, so clients need a support system, and maybe you have to establish one for them. One of the best job retention techniques is a mentorship program, and some of the best mentors are your program alumni.

You also have to make sure clients have transportation to get to their jobs. They need a plan and a backup plan. They also need a plan and a backup plan for childcare if that’s an issue.

Once on a job, they need to stay on the job. As job developers, you need to address the three most common reasons people quit jobs and how they can deal with them. These reasons are:

  • The pay wasn’t worth the work. You should include financial literacy in your program, so people learn paycheck math and the taxes that will be taken out, as well as the importance of saving money.
  • Didn’t like the boss, coworkers and or the customers.  You need to talk about getting along with people as opposed to liking people. You also need to address the issue of bad bosses and how to survive them.
  • The job was a dead end. You need to educate them on job progression, how to figure out how long to stay at a particular job, and when it’s time to quit. Quitting is a career progression strategy.

Take Larry Robbin’s advice, cover all these bases, and your clients will be better prepared to keep their jobs once they find them.

If you have any job retention ideas to share, we’d love to hear from you.


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