Holding onto your valued workers doesn't end with a competitive
paycheck. It requires an environment of great management, open
communication, empowerment, and recognition.
While the U.S. economy may be growing at a rate of 3 to 4 percent
each year, employers are seeing a corresponding decrease in the
availability of bright, talented 35- to 45-year olds. When you
combine this statistic with the idea that at any given time 75
percent of the employees in a typical organization are at least
passively searching for new jobs, you begin to see how a raging
talent war is just around the corner.
If corporations can't stop the shrinking of the workforce, then HR
executives and hiring managers are going to have to put greater
focus on how to retain the talented individuals they have already
According to Paul Glen, author of Leading Geeks: How to Manage
and Lead People Who Deliver Technology, there are two forces
at work in employee retention: engagement and coercion.
When employees are emotionally connected to their work, they are
engaged. But forces outside an employee's control--such as policies
and compliance--can either promote attachment to, or disengagement
from, the company.
Where to start
Building a retention culture starts with an understanding that
talented, high performing people are the foundation that leads to
sustainable success. Great people need great leaders to guide them;
thus, the goal of every company should be to ensure that leadership
is not only top notch, but developed in all areas of the
Know how your people feel
A few short years ago a poll of U.S. employees by Randstad revealed
that 86 percent felt their happiness on the job depended on
employers letting them know that they were valued.
I wondered how well companies were performing in relation to this
expressed employee need. Sadly, recent statistics still indicate
that approximately 70 percent of employees are actively or
passively looking for other jobs. So it's fair to conclude that
companies could do a much better job of letting their employees
know they are valued.
It could be easy to point the finger at employers and assume that
they don't care about their people. But we probably ought to look
more closely at what employees mean when they say their happiness
depends on their employers letting them know that they are valued.
One obvious way that employees feel valued is in the compensation
they receive for the work that they do. But as multiple HR studies
show, compensation is not the only driver of a strong retention
Great compensation and benefits are important, but in the end,
people choose to stay with their organizations for many more
reasons than money. Here are some of the traits employees look for
in a company:
Encourages ideas and contributions. Time and
again, employees have expressed the desire to make a meaningful
contribution at work. As individuals, they want to participate and
contribute is ways uniquely their own. This requires that
management adopt a lead and coach attitude, nurturing the creative
talents of their people, rather than trying to force everyone into
a "one-size-fits-all" approach to getting the work done.
Invests in management development. People continue
to leave due to bad bosses, and with the talent pool tightening,
you cannot afford to have managers pushing your talented people out
the door. With people still saying that the number one reason they
leave their jobs is a negative relationship with the boss, it's
clear we have a long way to go. Engaging disengaged employees and
retaining top talent requires that the people given management
positions have the strengths needed to do the job.
Provides clear expectations. Define the required
results and then let good people do their work. Managers who rule
from a place of fear and insist on micromanaging will only find
that they lose good people. Within reasonably established
boundaries, be willing to let people tap their own unique and
creative ideas to come up with innovative solutions to their work.
Invests in career growth and development. A
commitment to offer ongoing training and development is an
afterthought for far too many companies. Competition for talent is
tight and it's going to get tighter. When you invest in your
people, they are more engaged in their work and more likely to stay
with your company. In an increasing complex multi-generational work
environment this becomes even more important. Younger workers in
particular expect their employer to help develop their professional
skills. If you don't, they move on to someone who will.
Provides an environment that encourages life
balance. Rightsizing, downsizing, tight economy, whatever
the current challenge, employees are asked to do more with less.
And they acutely feel the pressure to perform when layoffs occur
and they remain behind. It is very important to provide employees
the support they need when stress becomes too much, and leaders
must model balanced behavior themselves. If managers are sending
emails to employees in the middle of the night, while professing
the need for work/life balance, I'm pretty sure employees won't
believe a word they have to say.
Shows appreciation often. I recently read about a
manager who actually believed that saying thank you for a job well
done wasn't necessary. In his mind, receiving a paycheck is all the
thanks an employee needs. That sort of attitude does one of two
things: It drives people away altogether, or gives them incentive
to do only the minimal required in their job. Either way, the
If you want people to be engaged, care about the success of the
business, and give more than the minimum they are expected to, say
thank you--and sincerely mean it. If you don't, someone else
probably will. Employees still reveal in surveys that they want to
feel valued but mostly feel that they aren't; this suggests there
is much work to be done on the retention front.
In the war for talent, companies that care about their people,
invest in their development, prepare people to succeed as managers,
set clear expectations, offer opportunities for increased
responsibility and advancement, and say thank you for a job well
done, are well on their way to creating a retention culture.