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Retaining Talent: A Benchmarking Study - Full Report

About the HR Benchmark Group

Development Dimensions International (DDI) understands how difficult it is to keep up with the changing face of human resources. That’s why we keep track of new trends in order to keep our clients as well as the industry in general informed. Our clients, in particular, frequently ask us for benchmarking data and thought leadership on issues such as leader development, advanced learning technology, performance enhancement, workforce effectiveness, selection, promotion, and succession management. In addition to our established methods for tracking such trends, we began the DDI HR Benchmark Group. The group is an alliance of organizations committed to sharing information and benchmarking current HR practices. These organizations, an international mix of DDI clients and non-clients, have agreed to respond to periodic surveys in order to provide current information in various areas of human resources. The organizations represent a geographical and industry cross section. Participation allows organizations in this alliance to provide current data through our surveys, to receive the results, and to help us choose future survey topics. The approach is systematic and easy, and response and interest have been outstanding.

Today’s growing “war for talent” is making it more difficult for organizations to keep current employees and to find qualified replacements.

This study examines the challenges that organizations face with employee retention in an increasingly competitive labor market. The objectives of this study were to:

  • Benchmark retention rates, costs, and outcomes.
  • Identify the reasons that employees leave.
  • Determine which practices for improving retention are most effective.
  • Understand how retention affects organizational outcomes.

This report is based on 745 employee responses to a retention survey submitted to 118 organizational members of the DDI HR Benchmark Group. In addition, participating organizations provided data from one HR contact. (Demographics for the sample can be found at the end of this report.)


Simply stated, retention refers to an organization’s ability to keep the employees it has already hired. The opposite of retention—turnover—is another way to understand and analyze retention. Many factors can cause turnover, which makes it especially hard to benchmark.

Organizations track turnover in several ways. In its simplest form turnover can be calculated using the following equation:
Turnover = Number of employee separations during the month Total number of employees at mid-month This equation is used by The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employee separation occurs when an employee permanently leaves the organization for any reason. For example, an organization with 75 employee separations during the month of July and 500 employees as of July 15 (mid-month) has a monthly turnover rate of 15 percent (75/500=15%). Turnover also can be calculated excluding the number of employee separations that were not under the organization’s control (for example, deaths, marriages, return to school).
The causes of retention and practices to improve retention can vary dramatically over time and across jobs, geographic locations, and industries. Depending on the organization, a high retention rate can be positive or negative. For example, a low retention rate can be desirable for organizations that want to keep only their best employees, not necessarily those they consider poor hiring choices. A lower retention rate also might be acceptable if the organization is downsizing or redefining job roles that would ultimately require new talent.
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