Keys to Keeping Talent

Part 4: In this final segment of my four-part series, I will discuss retention strategies tied to the sixth-most important reason that talented employees stay with organizations—respect and professional appreciation.

  • Communicate effectively. According to multiple employee commitment surveys, most talented employees are dissatisfied with the quality of communication between company ranks. People feel that they are not well-informed about what is going on in their firm. It is especially felt when employees find out what is new in the company from newspapers rather than their supervisors. Because communication is so important to all employees, many firms now have monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual business information newsletters from upper management that give updates on the company’s financial situation, upcoming assignments, and changes. Turnover at some companies remains quite significant, but it is mostly due to numerous organizational changes. So, if people perceive that they are informed about possible upcoming transformations, they can better plan for their future. And they won’t experience the unexpected on-the-job shocks that are one of the main reasons people leave.

Read more of Vlad Vaiman’s thought leadership.

  • Expand career opportunities for top performers. Many companies I follow mention that respect and professional appreciation come from expanded career opportunities, which they are now trying to offer to their most talented employees. 
  • Promote an environment of mutual trust and respect. The key here is in the firm’s internal environment, which should be professional, respectful, and non-confrontational. Managers should remember that this is all about people’s strengths, not their weaknesses. Therefore, many successful strategies revolve around attempts to leverage positive aspects, as opposed to managing negatives. Caution: Some professionals complained that respect was given more from outside of the organization than from within it. Consequently, many firms should work harder to ensure that proper appreciation is offered to their top performers. 

Most companies realize that the ultimate goal of talent management in general, and retention management in particular, is not 100% retention, because a healthy level of turnover is beneficial. It is often important to get that “fresh blood,” new people with different experiences and opinions. However, the organization should always monitor for signs of trouble. These signs may include: 

  • Low morale
  • Lack of trust
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Difficulty in the decision-making process
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of confidence
  • Decreased productivity, which is a product of the above signs

The ultimate goal is to create certain value propositions that are the best in the industry. In other words, in order to attract and retain the top talent, a professional services organization must have a strong and positive employer brand, which embraces the atmosphere of respect and professional appreciation. 

Every firm should listen carefully to its employees, giving them a chance to convey their wishes and needs.

It is important to note that the model of hiring, developing, and terminating employees that functioned so well in past years could fail if it is continued in the same manner. There are two reasons behind this fact: fast aging of the largest segment of the North American workforce and the critical shortage of young, talented people. These trends change the outlook on human resources management as a whole. Employers have to reorganize the way they attract and retain their employees. Also, changes are coming to the way employers motivate and reward people. The old way may become a serious impediment to productivity and efficiency. 

What is more important, especially for knowledge-intensive businesses, is that current demographical trends may seriously threaten a firm’s ability to create new products or services—in other words, to innovate. Companies already feel the impact of the changing demographics in six key areas: cost, productivity, culture, innovation, competitiveness, and, even more important, in attraction and retention. Attracting and retaining young talent is already a major concern for companies competing for skilled and knowledgeable employees. As the pool of such employees shrinks, employers will realize the necessity to “squeeze” as much as possible from aging employees. This, in turn, alters the vast majority of HR strategies, such as motivation, reward, and professional growth. So, what we are witnessing now is a profound shift from the concept of HR management to the concept of human capital management, or talent management, with a strong emphasis on a global, mobile, and effective workforce. 

Learn more about California Lutheran University’s approach to talent management.

Nearly all companies I studied agree that it is simple and feasible, in terms of time and money, to identify key retention drivers by simply asking employees. Many companies conduct exit interviews that help them identify why people are leaving. However, only a handful of these firms conduct “stay-in” surveys. These surveys ask professionals what keeps them with the company, what makes them happy, and what their needs are in terms of feeling important and valued. The results of such surveys should serve as a main basis for building an effective retention policy in any organization. 

The reasons, associated strategies, and practical implications of why talented employees stay tell the compelling story of what should be done in organizations, and particularly in knowledge-based firms, to retain their best people in the long-term, thereby achieving and maintaining a competitive advantage. The practices should not be taken as a panacea for all the issues associated with voluntary turnover. Every firm should listen carefully to its employees, giving them a chance to convey their wishes and needs. These best practices, however, can give organizations valuable insights into the area of retention that can provide a general direction for channeling talent management efforts.