Why Surfing and Talking at the same time on an iPhone will help you Retain More Employees

Yesterday I got a 12 page magazine from AT&T. I did not subscribe to it, and did not send for it. It came to my home mail box, and was addressed to me directly. On the cover, it said Special iPhone Edition, and in the lower left corner there was a very Cosmo-like caption stating “Great Match! 10 Reasons AT&T and your iPhone work best together”.

My first response – wow! haven’t gotten a retention package on anything in a while. Of course the word retention then stuck out and I started thinking about this blog post. Meanwhile, my colleague and FB friend Jeff Bloch threw up a status the other day that 26% of AT&T iPhone customers are switching to Verizon. I am pretty sure he didn’t make that up – if was a re-tweet of an article from some survey. Both the magazine and the tweet arrived within a few days of each other, not to mention the constant AT&T and Verizon commercials on the iPhone I am seeing on every channel – its like a US Presidential Election out there.

This is a great battle – the next Cola Wars – but it is actually a preview of what will happen if the job market’s flood gates every swing wide open and employees consider leaving or staying with their current employer.

We all knew that Verizon was eventually getting the iPhone. People on AT&T have dropped calls. Some hated it so much that cracked the code on their AT&T iPhones, and switched to Verizon or another carrier through hacking. Then the day came. The waters parted, and there was beady eyed glasses guy on an iPhone saying “can you hear me now” and he was on an iPhone? Prayers were answered, AT&T’s sweating had officially gone public, and people left the warm blanket of of the Stanly Tucci voice over for the windbreaker of the nerdy guy.

For the record, I am former Verizon person, who switched to AT&T for the iPhone, and I am sticking with AT&T, even though I drop calls in my own house on a regular basis. Why I am sticking is why employees will stay…

So if the waters part in employment, there will be a mass exodus of employees from current employers to new employers. All of a sudden employers will start being concerned about retention. Some have started already, but probably not as many as they should. In fact, they have been remiss in working on retention as they have assumed people can’t leave in the wake of the recession.

The fear is climbing – how are we going to hold our top talent? Do we need to make promises? Do we give them something else? I am hearing it more and more each week from our companies and in the wind from people who are restless in their job.

Employees are restless because they just ARE. There are lots of people who had planned on leaving their job, but all of a sudden could not, for whatever reason. A small percentage of those people have changed their mind, but wake up employers – they decided to leave a long time ago.

These are the AT&T customers who were waiting for Verizon. Its a sizable group. But they stayed with AT&T because they had no choice. As employees, they wanted two things – the money and the job satisfaction, but they needed the money. Now they will go and get the satisfaction now, because its available.

Then there are the employees who are staying with AT&T. There are likely two types:

1) DON’T FEEL LIKE MOVING – They don’t want to change because they think its a pain, or something will go wrong, or they don’t want to bother, etc. This is the majority of the crowd, and guess what – that is the majority of the people who will stay with a company. They have too much invested to not even bother. The brand (like AT&T) might be holding them, but I am sure that if the deal was sweet enough (from Verizon) they would jump. BTW the way, you have probably noticed that Verizon is not giving away the iPhone or having massive discounts. They are not cutting their own throat to get people to jump. That is because of the NEXT group.

2) I AM STAYING BECAUSE ITS BETTER – The magic group. The ones who want to stay because they know its actually better for them – really better. For AT&T customers, its probably because they can talk and surf at the same time. I am on my phone so much that I surf, text, Google, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and so on while on the phone. Maybe I am on a conference call and texting people at the same time. Its really convenient, and makes me productive.

Yes – I experience at least one dropped call a day, and at first I was ready to switch. Then I realized I can just call people back. People understand – they get it. Its actually a nice reinforcement. Whatever I was talking about was provocative enough that they were eager to have me call back. I am not leaving AT&T because I am actually at my most productive and effective with AT&T – and THAT is what we want for ANY top employee. That very realization.

You want employees who realize they want to stay because they know they are at their most productive and effective with your company.

So send your newsletters and emails. Make your websites. Have your conversations at your companies. Some people are going to leave. Oh – and CEO – don’t blame your HR people when they do – if employees bail its because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, not because your HR manager is weak.

The thing about exodus, is that its catchy. You don’t see too many lemmings stay back after the jump…

So you have to prepare to hold onto the people who use the iPhone and like to surf at the same time (keep that visual in your head). BTW – this is the market share that Verizon (your competitors) are REALLY going after and going trying to steal. he are the most effective and productive people you have. Its the few percentage points of the team, but it makes all the difference in profitability.

Protect your “iPhone talking surfers” from the exodus. Find out who they are. Get HR and managers to engage with people and find out why they are with the company. How does your company enable them – really and truly. For top talent, CEOs and heads of businesses can do this themselves. Make the time and have talks with those who are marked for promotion or have intellectual knowledge that you know you need. Get out of the office talk to the great team players. Find out if and why they are talking and surfing at the same time.

Realize that the “surfing” at your company is a unique combination of things for each employee, and likely has differences for each person – but make sure they are surfing and talking at the same time. Once they recognize that the surfing is really not available elsewhere…you will keep them on your network.

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