Keys to Retaining your Top Talent

Written by: Rainee Busby
23 Feb 2015

Today companies are constantly wondering about how they are going to keep their most important people inside the company. In previous articles we have discussed how your people make up your company, and how important it is to ensure that you keep your top performers. Companies invest a large amount of time and money into their employees. It’s best to put forth the effort necessary to ensure that critical human capital value doesn’t walk out the door.

If you follow our show you have already identified your talent gaps and realigned your employees so they are all where they can perform at a high level. This means you have actually identified the most valuable part of your workforce; your high performing and high potential employees. We need to make every effort necessary to ensure they are aware of how much we value them and to take the extra steps to ensure they are recognized for the value they provide.

Your top performers are going to take up about about the top 20% to 30% of your workforce, and these are the people who give you your competitive edge. The last thing you want to happen is for your competition to lure these people away. Chances are they are currently contacting them with hopes of at least having a conversation as to why their company is such a better place to work.

The big issue here is that, unfortunately, most companies don’t realize there’s a problem until it’s too late. So our first step in preventing this issue, is to identify why someone would want to leave in the first place.

Reasons People Leave a Company.

The number one reason that employees leave is because of a poor relationship with their boss/leaders. In many cases this can be as simple as not recognizing them for their achievements to pretty serious events such as a manager taking personal credit for their direct reports accomplishments. Obviously, this causes trust issues, lack of confidence in their leader and so much more.

The second reason employees will leave is lack of advancement opportunities. This is especially true with our younger generations. When we are in the hiring process we tend to make a lot of promises about career development and planning but then we don’t follow through on our promises. Many times this can spur from not knowing what other opportunities are out there or how to find out specific information to see if they might be a fit. Overall, they need help navigating the environment. Many times leaders struggle with this as well. They are uncertain and not confident about their abilities to have a genuine and effective career conversation. Ultimately this is the responsibility of your managers, but many lack the skills or insight to be effective.

The next most popular reason is that they don’t get along with their co-workers. Part of this issue falls back on leadership. Too often a leader will allow poor behavior from a team member because they don’t want to deal with it. Many times the team member with the poor behavior is often a high performer who needs some behavior based coaching. When not taken care of other team members will leave in search of a team they do like to work with. As they say, one bad apple ruins the whole bushel. Some are trying to play nice while others have agendas and are withholding information in hopes of improving their job security. In a high performing culture this type of behavior is not tolerated and quickly modified.

We also need to acknowledge that compensation is also a huge factor. The issue of pay is a delicate balance, you want to pay your employees enough to keep the conversation about money off the table. A great way to do this is to ensure your pay ranges stay up with the market. We recommend at least once a year and let your employees know that you do evaluate and will adjust accordingly. We recommend a tool called Fusion V HR. This tool has great salary analysis functionality across multiple states and industries. It is a quick and inexpensive way to stay up with the changing market and it keeps your mind focused on the job which is a win-win for everyone. You also need to be careful about pay equity when it comes to the pay you offer to new hires versus those that have been with you a while and have much more experience. Be ready to keep it fair and equitable for everyone. They will not forget and will be appreciative that you recognize their value. Benefits are another compensation area that employers really need to stay on their toes about. If your employee is paying too much, they will be tempted by offers elsewhere.

The last issue that causes many workers to jump ship is lack of flexibility and work/life balance. Technology has contributed to that, sometimes we are so connected we don’t know when we are working and when we aren’t because we are constantly responding to emails and dealing with work issues on non-work hours. This can be turned into a positive factor if you allow your employees to work when they want and truly focus on their deliverables and the value they add, not the hours they are at their desk. Many employees like to think outside the box, have a huge desire for autonomy, and they want to do their tasks their way. This creates the ability for employees to be innovative and able to come up with new and more effective ways to do things. There is also a lack of job-sharing or part time opportunities. This can be valuable to keep your retirees and new parents in active in the workforce. Many companies have also adopted flex-time to help their employees with the commute.

All of these in our long list of reasons people leave, could be turned into benefits to make them stay. They will become more and more common in the workplace, so it is important to stay ahead of the curve when trying to retain your best people. Know what motivates them as an individual and deliver on those desires!

What to do When Your Top Talent Leaves

Okay, employees will come and go. That’s not a bad thing. New people, new ideas, and new thoughts will continue to propel your business forward. Low turnover can be just as bad as high turnover. What do you do when you receive notice that an employee has turned in their resignation notice? Many turn to exit interviews to understand what happened.

Exit interviews are important but I question the true value. Employees typically don’t tell you the real reason they are leaving because they don’t want to burn any bridges. There are those employers who perform exit interviews but don’t really take action on the results. This is basically a waste of time. About 85% of your leaders believe employees are leaving because of pay. This isn’t exactly true, but an easy way out since as you recall an employee’s manager is typically the number 1 reason for leaving.

The biggest issue with performing exit interviews is that it’s too late. Why close the barn door when the horses have already gotten out? The employee is already checked out. In almost every case you can’t get them to change their mind unless its pay related. Statistics report that almost 80% of the employees who take a counter offer to stay will be gone within 9 months unless they were put in a different role. Beware of counter offers. Be sure you know the real reason they have decided to quit.

Retain your Top Talent with a Stay Interview

The good news is we can resolve this issue by conducting what I like to call ‘stay interviews’. Stay interviews will happen while the employee is still employed. This allows us to solve the issues while we still have the employee instead of after they are gone. Typically, the issue that leads to an employee’s resignation has to do with their leadership or manger either directly or indirectly. These types of issues take time to resolve and with stay interviews we have that time.

Stay interviews should be regular conversations that include conversations like ‘how satisfied are you with your job’, ‘if you could change something what would it be’, ‘do you have the tools you need to be successful’, ‘how can I support you’, and ‘what other opportunities are you interested in’.

It is important through this process to remember that you are building relationships with your employees. Help them build the connections they need to be successful and, if needed, be open to redesigning jobs to get the perfect fit. Your support can dramatically impact the retention level of your staff because they feel engaged and supported and the way they feel ultimately creates your company culture.

What is your Employee Value Proposition

Just as important and creating a culture to retain your employees it is important that you also have an employee value proposition. W have previously talked about your Human Capital and the value that an employee brings to your company. This proposition is the inverse relationship of that, so what value is the company giving the employee to work there.

The talent shortage is real and getting worse each day as baby boomers start to retire. Employees want to work for the best company and when they find a perfect fit they will typically stick around. But, this fit must be maintained long term in order to retain your top talent.

Your Employee Value Proposition is the total value an employee receives when working for your company. We know the typical stuff like pay and standard benefits. We are really talking about all the other perks that might be important to an employee to have. This may include, discount programs, educational reimbursement, help paying student loans for new grads, flex time, personal time off, community volunteer paid time, great culture, career paths, mentor programs and so much more. Be creative and be sure to ask what they want. This starts with a company’s values and continues through every aspect of the employee experience.

This proposition will be different for every employee. Remember the segmentation of our employees from our Talent Gap Identification article, we need to do the same thing, but with demographics. For example, millennial and baby boomer will find different programs attractive. A millennial may find working remote attractive, while a baby boomer is going to be looking for retirement and pension benefits. Men and women will also have different needs. It is important you understand the individual.

Here is a list of a few key elements to consider when creating your Employee Value Proposition:

  • Your brand:

    What’s your brand? What do people say about the company? You want your employee to be proud to work at your company.

  • Traditional Benefits Package:

    This includes compensations and benefits like health and retirement. Are you able to provide the top paying wage in your area? If not, what else are you offering in your benefits package that people are looking for.

  • Programs:

    This includes EAP (employee assistance programs), Discounts set up with other corporate partners, offering a wellness center at your facility, and education reimbursement. So many other little programs are available to help you add value to your company.

  • Non-Traditional Job Segmentation:

    This may include Job sharing, flex time, and virtual work.

  • Career opportunities:

    Professionals, especially our young professionals, want to know what kind of career path they can have in your company. There are tools to offer you support in creating these paths like Fuel50. Tools like this one create an opportunity for an employee to drive their career and create their career path while increasing employee satisfaction and ultimately retention.

Now that you know what key factors you need for optimal employee retention, remember it is important to know your employee and build string relationships with them. When you create a strong culture of collaboration across your workforce, you will increase your employees’ satisfaction. Ultimately it is all about creating a win-win situation for everyone involved, you and your employees.

Click here for our next radio program and blog about Attracting Top Talent to Your Organization. Great tips and techniques to attract prospective employees to you rather than you searching for them.


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