Organizational Retention Is A Group Effort


November 2, 2011

Have you heard the expression you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole?

Well, you can.  You can get creative and smash it in there or fill up the edges with other items.  In other words, you can make it work temporarily.  But, what if you are that square peg?  What does that mean for you?  What does it mean if you are the leader and notice a strong employee not fitting into the department they are part of?

As a human resources professional, I’ve had my share of discussions with employees and leaders about not fitting in.  What we don’t talk enough about is our mutual ability to positively impact retention and how we can avoid the high cost of unnecessary turnover. According  to a study by AARP, replacing an experienced worker at any age can cost 50 percent or more of the individual’s annual salary in turnover-related costs, with increased costs for jobs requiring specialized skills, advanced training or extensive experience.”  That reason alone should compel organizational leaders to look across the company and determine who the strong players are and how best to collectively retain them.

As leaders:

  • Why do we let good employees go just because they are not a fit with one supervisor?
  • Why do we let that historical knowledge walk out the door?
  • Why don’t we do more to find a fit internally for that individual?

Recognize a square peg

Most articles on leadership and management focus on developing your own team or your skills and ability to manage and lead.  My challenge for you today is to look at another team in the organization and see if you find a square peg.  Is there someone who may be in the wrong role and struggling in fitting in there who would be a shining star in another part of the organization?

As leaders, it’s our duty to work toward what is best for the organization and part of that is ensuring we keep the best employees.  Retaining top people is a group effort and if you know that there is someone your organization is at risk of losing, look deeper.  Reach out. You may just save someone from leaving an organization where they could excel and push things forward.



  • We created company supported networking programs for new AND later career employees that twinned each participant with a manager from outside their immediate work group. We knew that there was a payoff for helping new hires build networks but were surprised a bit by the lack of networking skills among more experienced employees. I know that some “square pegs” rounded off their own edges when they saw larger processes and functions outside of their “round hole”.

    • @Martin- Your idea of using managers outside the immediate work group. We’re implementing a program like that at my current organization and I’m hoping it really takes off. I think you’re right about the lack of networking skills at that early level. It’s even more important now for leaders to teach our team members how to network and that it can be a fun journey. Thanks for the comment.

  • Great article, retention is (or should be) a key concern for all organizations! The cost of employee turnover can range between 1/2 to 4 times an employee’s annual wages and benefits (from Stormy Higgins, LPC). Attempting to make exceptions for certain employees and force those ‘square pegs’ (whether this pertains to you, a candidate for hire, or a current employee) is almost a surefire way to impede their (and thus, your institution’s) success and facilitate more employee turnover, which can cost your company large amounts of money. 80% of turnover can be attributed to mistakes made in the hiring process (Harvard Business Review), so ensuring your candidate’s fit is essential for improving retention. is specifically designed (and aptly named) to avoid this problematic ‘square pegg, round hole’ situation and works to match the ’round peggs’ with ’round holes’ through a series of easy and quick to complete assessments to ensure candidate’s fit in any company’s culture. The assessments are available to try it out for free at, so if the particular dilemma described in this post is of concern to you, or even if you’re just curious about the software, feel free to stop by and try it out and see what it can do for you!

    • @Elise- Thanks for the link/ resource and for the comment. I will check it out.

  • I have always been the square peg. I don’t know why an organisation would hire me except if it is to shake up the current structure. I know I scream “square peg”, so I know there is hope somewhere that maybe I could singlehandedly diversify the personality demographic of the workforce in that organisation. I have been hired in the hope that I would round off my edges, which never happens. Take me as I am, as I say…

    Many don’t know what to do with the square peg. With guidance, the square peg can be your saviour. If no guidance is given, the square peg is a waste of time.

    • @Doug- You, square peg? lol Seriously, I think you’re a good example of how someone can define his own vision of success without compromising who you really are as a person. Thanks for sharing with us!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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