The Situation

The CEO of an Iowa based real estate development and construction company was not satisfied with the level of turnover that had been occurring over the past few years. Turnover resided at 20%; the desire was for turnover to be no more than 10% annually. New recruiting practices were implemented along with training to assist management in hiring the right people the first time around, believing that would be the answer in part to turnover reduction. Team development and other forms of training related to internal and external customer service were also instituted to elevate skills in multiple areas while creating a better work environment for all levels of personnel. When turnover rates minimally moved downward, Human Resources created a more thorough exit interview system to help them better assess reasons for voluntary terminations. Subsequent data provided some valuable information, however, specific reasons for turnover continued to be difficult to define and target.


The company hired HR Hotline Associates to conduct an employee survey developed by the consulting group measuring employee satisfaction and engagement. With HR Hotline Associates guidance, the realty company realized if levels of employee engagement and satisfaction could be better discerned, potential reasons behind the turnover could also be better discerned. The survey results surfaced different issues. Most surprising to the leadership: compensation and benefits had the lowest level of satisfaction among employees. Executive management decided to take a deeper look with a focus on benefits first, especially since the conventional belief had been that benefits were stellar and employees were enthusiastic about the offerings. HR Hotline Associates further examined the reasons behind the benefits scores by developing and conducting a benefits survey 9 months after the initial survey with subsequent focus groups.


The most prevalent finding by HR Hotline Associates related the following:

Most Highly Valued Benefit

Vacation Time Off


Benefit with Highest Dissatisfaction


The biggest reasons noted for the dissatisfaction were threefold: (1) Not enough vacation days; (2) took too long to gain additional vacation time based on length of service; and (3) people were expected to attend to their jobs and work while on vacation.

Other significant findings included employees wanting a larger company contribution into the 401K plan along with having a short term disability program. However, since the biggest GAP or disparity was with vacation, vacation was the first priority before tackling the other issues.


The company vacation plan was reviewed against market so any changes made would be competitive with other companies in Iowa. Those changes are now being developed. Senior management also agreed employees should be able to break away from work when on vacation. With HR Hotline Associates’ assistance, the policy is being changed accordingly. Changes have yet to be fully implemented, but once completed the impact of those changes along with turnover will be measured.


Prior to the studies, the company took actions attempting to correct an issue without fully understanding the reasons for the issue. The investigative / analytical work conducted by HR Hotline Associates provided a basis of knowledge by which the company could make more intelligent decisions focused on the right things. The conclusion is for organizations to first clearly understand the issues and determine root causes before applying interventions or solutions, thereby, optimizing the chances of success.