How to retain top talent

how to retain top talent

The economy is getting back on track and some areas of business, like the supply chain, are growing rapidly and experiencing a dearth of applications, sometimes trying to fill “six to eight management jobs” for every one application received. So in an environment such as this, shouldn’t a company want to hang on tight to talented employees? The answer is yes. In a 2013 survey by Careerbuilder, 39% of employers were concerned about retention of top talent. Given the high cost it can take to fill an open position, keeping top employees around is vital to a company’s success.

Some of the things that tempt talented employees away are:

  • The desire for new experiences, training and growth
  • More money, stock options, vacation, and better benefits and perks
  • A better title, a more prestigious company, a better location or environment
  • Dissatisfaction in current job, one of the main causes being stress, work overload, and frustration with supervisors 
  • The “job hopping” climate— people expect to have many jobs over a lifetime unlike decades ago when one worked with a company for a lifetime

Many promising and talented workers expect a lot from the companies they work for “precisely because they work harder (and often better) than their peers, they expect their organizations to treat them well—by providing them with stimulating work, lots of recognition, compelling career paths, and the chance to prosper if the organization does.” When an employer disappoints even the most talented employee, productivity, effort, and interest falls. So how can a company prevent this from happening, and mitigate the risk of losing top talent?

Here is what companies can do to retain top talent:

  • In a survey by Careerbuilder, 70% of employees reported that an increase in salary was the best way to retain them followed by 58% saying that benefits were important.
  • Communicate with these employees and “assess their level of engagement” and satisfaction. Employees want to feel valued, so ask them if they feel valued.
  • Understand that happiness in the workplace produces loyalty and productivity, and act on it. Be a thoughtful and generous leader. Provide career opportunities and work-life balance considerations.
  • Ensure that your top talent is part of the conversation about the future of the company. These employees want to feel like part of something meaningful, so let them be stakeholders, too.
  • Because of their talent and success, these employees may be given the brunt of the work. When top talent is recognized and rewarded, they will produce more. When they are not treated “fairly” they may become dissatisfied, less productive, and resentful.
  • This idea may seem to work against everything previously listed, but allow for some risk. Don’t coddle these employees or shield them from failure that could prevent them from developing. Let them learn and grow. Ask yourself: do I want to retain top talent if they are incredibly high-maintenance or if their requirements are outrageous? Be generous, but don’t create a monster.

Honest conversations can often be the best way to retain top talent. Don’t assume that, in today’s climate with an increasingly savvy workforce, people will feel satisfied by simply being told they’re lucky to have a job. People often know they’re lucky to have a job, but top talent also believe something potentially more valuable: the company is lucky to have me. Everyone might be replaceable, but at what cost? Let your employees see you as an ally, as a caring entity, then you have a chance of earning their loyalty.


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