When was the last time you told your most valued employees how much you appreciate their contributions? When was the last time you asked them, “Why are you staying?” Now, I don’t mean that literally, but let’s think about this for a moment. Isn’t it true that we normally ask our employees why they are leaving after they have given notice? Wouldn’t it make sense to be checking in with them on a regular basis to determine why they are staying? You may consider asking them about their overall job satisfaction, clarity about future career path and development, feelings of appreciation and affirmation for their contributions to business success, etc.
If you didn’t have an opportunity to read last month’s issue of Leadership Best Practices, you may want to scan the article on Talent Development: A Research Based Perspective on Performance. The article summarizes compelling research-based evidence as to what is really essential for key talent development and retention.
Before we look at the “To Do” list, I would like to suggest a few common misconceptions or myths about the current economic conditions and why organizations may be at risk of losing their best talent.
- Myth: We don’t need to be concerned with employee attrition
right now. Besides, our employees really don’t have any other
place to go at the moment. They are fortunate to have a good job.Reality: You need to be telling your best talent, particularly
those whose loss would significantly impact the business, how
much you value them and their contributions. You need to talk
with them on a regular basis about their continued development
and future career within the organization.
- Myth: The employees we retained during past reorganizations,
layoffs, reductions-in-force, etc. are very loyal employees. They’re
smart and know we kept only the best of the best.Reality: These employees may be loyal and very committed to the
organization. However, they are more loyal and committed to themselves,
their families, their careers, their income potential, etc.
- Myth: Our employees are very satisfied and know what a good
company we are and the opportunities which are available to them
both now and in the future.Reality: Remember the cliché, “Be careful what you
wish for”; well, in this case, you should be careful what
you assume. Your employees may be satisfied and may appreciate
what a great company they work for. However, you are vulnerable
to talent attrition, particularly as the economy begins to improve
and hiring activities among your competitors and others begin
to gain momentum.
- Myth: You couldn’t pry our top talent out of this organization.
We take very good care of our best people.Reality: Some of your best talent may have “bunkered down”
during the recent economic times in order to weather the storm.
As the skies begin to clear, they are prone to get out of the
bunker and may consider some attractive alternatives to their
current situation (e.g. returning a headhunter’s call, talking
with a competitor just to see what might be available, thinking
that the grass may indeed be greener, etc.)
Here are some proactive steps and countermeasures for savvy business leaders to consider:
- Pay careful attention to the “short list” of key talent
within your organization. Hopefully, you already have such a list
and, if not, are planning to put one together soon. Beginning
today, schedule time to talk with your key talent about their
level of job satisfaction, future developmental plans and assignments,
coaching resources, future career options, etc. Express your appreciation
for their contributions with specific examples.
- If you are a senior manager, you should talk to other leaders
in your organization about some of the possible myths and realities
within your organization. Insist that other leaders join you in
more frequent dialogue with your best employees.
- Hopefully, your organization conducts frequent and robust talent
reviews with the same vigor as business planning, annual budget
preparation, etc., and you have a list of the next generation
of leaders and other key talent within your organization.
- Consider your organization’s Employee Value Proposition;
i.e. what is unique about the culture, leadership, developmental
opportunities, coaching and mentoring programs, etc. Retaining
key talent in today’s competitive market requires new innovative
methods to inspire your best employees to stay with the organization.
These new methods are well beyond the minimum expectations of
competitive compensation, stock options, bonuses, 401(k), benefits,
- Evaluate the competition in terms of their unique Employee Value
Proposition. How do they develop and retain key talent? It is
far more economical to anticipate the risks of attrition versus
evaluating the impact after the fact.
- Consider investing in a formal coaching and mentoring program
for your key talent. The best companies and leaders already have
such programs in place as part of an ongoing commitment to leadership
development and organizational effectiveness.
While we all look forward to better economic times — hopefully in the near future — we must be cognizant of the importance of caring for our key talent in the present to ensure our success in the future.