We’re been seeing a tsunami of human resource problems since the so-called Great Resignation. How to retain top talent has therefore risen up the agenda. No staff, no chance of surviving this decade. Whether you’re a startup or established in business, like Waterways is, it’s still disappointing if you lose your best employees to someone who perhaps
- pays more,
- allows more work from home (WFH), or
- simply offers better career pathways.
You’re probably also wincing at how many resources it’s going to use up to rebuild your teams with new employees – even if you manage to hook them at interview.
It’s a while since we wrote about this problem and things have got even more serious.
So what can be done to improve your rates of talent retention?
You can’t always afford to raise salaries and you maybe cannot allow home working. But you can deal with most other things that help retain top talent.
One of your priority To-Dos is therefore going to have to be to decide on a fail-safe plan for recruiting and retaining the talent your business needs to thrive. This is what we’ll discuss in this article, with our seven best ways for turning things around into a “Great Retention.”
But first a quick look at the main benefits to your business of having a retention strategy.
Why is it Important to Retain Top Talent?
- It creates a sense of security for your organization, knowing your staff churn is minimal and you have reliable talent committed to your goals and ethos.
- You reduce expenditure on advertising for, interviewing, and onboarding new employees and possibly reassigning job responsibilities to accommodate changed experience levels.
- You build a good work environment among your teams and build meaningful, supportive, and ongoing relationships – not only focused on your business goals but as they learn about and support each other’s outside-work needs.
Two golden rules apply – that perhaps always did, before portfolio jobs took root:
1 Meet your employees’ expectations in all aspects of the job from promises you made to clear delivery of them.
2 Give staff no reason to even want to leave, with an ethos that’s inclusive, affirmative, and empathic.
1 Start With Your Recruitment Process
Attracting and retaining employees in a challenging and competitive environment starts with your recruitment process. From the beginning, you have to be clear on who you want to onboard and where you’ll look for them. Maybe you have a pipeline where you nurture possibles? Or maybe you use Predictive Index assessments to assist. Both help you know what you’re looking for. Either way, these points will count:
A team process
We advise creating a specific process to ensure any applicant understands the job and how to be successful. The whole recruitment team should be on the same page about clearly explaining to the candidates their potential role. People who feel deceived leave.
Truth and detail
You need to be completely transparent with any enquirers about the likely experience and the culture of your organization. If things get fraught at certain times because of the nature of your business, tell them! If you expect a certain amount of flexibility, don’t just put the fact on the job description, but explain it upfront at interview.
Questions and answers
Some firms have started giving questions out in advance so they can judge the quality of replies better. But either way, as well as asking your own questions during interview, encourage applicants to ask difficult or sensitive questions themselves. This will allow them to make their own correct assessment of your organization. Continue the process during visits to your premises to look round.
Looking around and trying out
Speaking of which: Involve your candidates in the real work that goes on in your company. Have them experience what it truly feels like to work with you and the team. If possible, show them different parts of your business, spending time in client success, HR and support, production, sales, marketing, finance, etc. You’re letting them really understand how your organization functions. This is time-consuming but helps you retain any top talent you engage.
Thorough onboarding to retain top talent
Lastly, the onboarding of the new talent should mirror your culture. Once you’ve made a job offer, it’s only fair to help them set up, become accustomed with the processes and procedures, align their work week with existing team members, and schedule proper introductions to the new team. “Getting one’s feet under the desk” springs to mind, even if there’s no actual desk because they’ll work from home on the settee!
2 Model Good Leadership
There’s a saying that people leave bad bosses not bad businesses. There’s a morsel of truth here. It’s really hard to do a great day’s work and feel satisfied if your section boss is throwing up obstacles instead of providing support. A good work environment is not only about great benefits but having a manager who empowers employees and inspires trust.
Your talents need to feel they can take the initiative instead of feeling micro-managed. They want support from managers or supervisors to do more and achieve more and receive encouragement and acknowledgement. Do your managers and leaders possess these qualities:
- Leadership by example
- Clear and consistent communication
- Good listening skills
- Offering and receiving feedback calmly
- Mentoring skills?
If not, it’s time to train up your leaders rather than blame staff for leaving!
3 Training and Development Helps Retain Top Talent
Today’s employees want a career path and development opportunities of all kinds. Ensure your talents can brush up their knowledge and skills as new trends and technology emerge. Help them grow professionally and they will feel proud of themselves and your business.
There are various ways to ensure this happens. For example:
- Make time for them to attend virtual conferences.
- Offer in-house learning workshops with career progression in mind.
- Pay for the college tuition on a day-release basis etc.
It’s not a waste of money. It’s about ROI down the line. Any new skills and competencies can be embedded with discussion groups and regular staff meetings, and your business will grow in proportion as staff deploy these abilities.
Remember, in addition, to create a development plan for everyone, whatever their job. As we said, career advancement and growth is important to everyone, not just executives. And flag up at interview that your firm has such plans for all staff.
4 Give Your Talent Challenges and New Opportunities
Why? Your top talent needs ongoing challenges to
- stimulate them,
- keep them engaged, and
We all know that boring routines turn us off! Make sure you’re giving your staff intellectual, technical, and emotional challenges to help them grow.
This is not a pub quiz event but something like
- a more advanced project,
- leading a session, or
- an opportunity to expand their horizon by sending them to a different branch or center – whatever fits with your business.
Other ways to challenge your employees may include inspiring them to come up with ideas and rewarding them when the implementation goes well.
When you challenge them, let them know that you believe in their skills and are sure they’ll be able to do it. However, the challenges are meant to push them in a fruitful way so make sure you recognize their effort throughout.
Whatever the outcome, remind them of the benefits from the experience. Society often divides outcomes into win or fail. It’s a relief to find a different, more nuanced approach – and you’re trying to retain staff by giving them a good experience!
5 Get Employee Engagement Data
Employee engagement is the level of enthusiasm a worker feels for their job. It makes complete sense to know how your staff feel. But how can organizations measure employee engagement?
Exit interviews are not the entire answer! By the time an employee completes that, the information is pointless. They’ve already left. You need to measure the engagement before people leave.
You could therefore use a whole-business employee survey and analyze the data. An annual one will help you to identify problems and fix them before employees leave.
To do this well, figure out the goal of your survey beforehand. What exactly do you want to know? You definitely want to identify possible problems or causes for likely turnover. But there are other aspects: What about asking them to report on
- management changes that affect everyone (which you’ll have done well, of course!),
- new rules in certain departments,
- recent decisions, etc.
We mentioned being willing to receive feedback up above. You staff value you listening to them.
But will it be a 1-10 score card? Or will you make slots for comments? Often, staff feel ticking numbers doesn’t offer you their true experience. Whereas the comment attached to a 5, for instance, can be more illuminating than the simple “average” it indicates.
Ideally, however, surveys should not be your norm! It’s better to get to know if your employees are happy are not – on the ground, regularly. How? Ask them! Find out how they’re doing and what needs to change for them.
As a result of all this quantitative and qualitative data, and what you do about the results, you’ll have staff who’re happier and have increased commitment. And with that, talent retention levels rise.
6 Build a Better Company Culture
You need to remember that the recruitment process we mentioned in point one is a two-way street. Not only are you evaluating a potential new recruit, the candidates are also evaluating you as an employer they might want to work with! They will certainly notice some of your company culture during the recruitment process. So build a good one.
What makes a better company culture?
It’s more than providing fun activities or staff time off to help their favorite charities. That’s important, of course, because employee priorities are changing. But it’s also rooted in your vision and mission.
Can your company find ways to provide a space in which people feel comfortable communicating ideas, thoughts, opinions, and anything else – without fear of revenge?
Employees will be much more motivated to stay when the environment is one of trust and respect on all sides. Make sure to implement your core values, make them known, and also highlight employees’ actions when they demonstrate them. To retain top talent you need culture in action, not just a page on a website!
7 Offer a Good Work-Life Balance
You can help your employees achieve a better work-life balance by considering their expectations outside the place of employment vs. their duties as employees. Employees nowadays have the following expectations towards their employment and work-life balance:
Working remotely or flexible working hours
During the pandemic, most people enjoyed the freedom to work from home or other remote areas. Your employee’s idea of benefits and perks has changed! If it helps you to be flexible in your employment offer, decide to measure whether work is being completed well and on time, rather than how many hours you believe the employee is putting in!
That’s because agreeing to flexible work is key now, and may well attract top talent. It’s part of your unique value proposition to your employees from now on.
Safe work environment
Safety doesn’t only mean the literal physical area of employment. It also means a space for employees to flourish mentally and psychologically. At times, because of market pressures, employers will put too much pressure and a lot of expectations on their employees. However, this does more harm than good! When they’re too pushed, you remove their ability to become creative and most productive. They may therefore quit. The best work-life balance is when they feel as safe working as at home.
People thrive when they’re free to do what they want even within boundaries. Let your employees have a say in company matters that directly affect their work life. When you include them, they’ll feel a sense of belonging to the team and the organization at large. Today, it’s no longer about the salary or benefits. Top talents need to feel they’re choosing to be a part of something beyond the tangible benefits that many organizations offer.
We Can Help You
To retain top talent, you can’t, however, just apply these seven points like sticking on a Band-Aid. But you can certainly achieve it from within the company with thought and planning. Every organization is unique but every organization these days is having to give serious thought to retaining employees – or else lose them to a rival that has planned better.
If you’d like our help to think through how to implement a winning strategy and retain your talent, contact us. We have years of experience with employee retention and would love to help.