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Retention Strategies For Keeping Your Most Talented Employees

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Retaining your best staff is the clearest sign your working culture is in a healthy place.

But traditional retention strategies have been put under the microscope since the advent of COVID-19, and many of them have been found lacking.

That’s not for any want of trying, and certainly not because business leaders were initially negligent - the pandemic represented an instant shift in workplace culture and employee expectations changed completely. Of course, the fastest employers to adapt were the ones who benefited from less disruption to staffing numbers. The ones that didn't’ - the ones who readily stuck to legacy staff retention processes, immovable performance management techniques and old-school productivity analysis – unfortunately suffered the most. As we now know, talent retention in the era of the 'great resignation' was next to impossible for companies without the know-how, budget or foresight to adapt accordingly. But the world has moved on and new rules of retention have come to the fore that, if followed, can almost certainly guarantee less staff turnover and a much more engaged, happy workforce.

So here are 5 top tips for making sure you’re able to keep hold of your best staff and continue to hire the 'best in class' talent.

1) Build a culture of continuous feedback

Continuous feedback is best described as:

  • “A Human Resource strategy that seeks to encourage and empower the exchange of feedback on a regular basis”.
  • “A series of ongoing, structured conversations that take place between managers and their employees”.

Continuous feedback is both a top-level strategic imperative and a day-to-day, peer-to-peer interaction, focused on iterative feedback and communication between managers and staff and peers in the same workforce. As this Deloitte Insights study notes, continuous feedback is a central component of creating an improved culture of performance management, related to immediate targets and KPIs that are openly and frequently discussed, resulting in “90 per cent of companies that have redesigned performance management see direct improvements in engagement”. Feedback of this kind - personal, frequent, face-to-face and connected to business and personal outcomes - is a vital part of retaining talent.

2) Transform your perks into a system of rewards and recognition

An often underutilised retention tool is adequate, meaningful reward and recognition for work done. See this as a contemporary version of a company perks system, revamped for the post-pandemic workplace. This helps retain talent in two ways:

  • It offers relatable, direct incentives to staff who are already delivering for your company, but you want to make sure they feel justly rewarded for continuing to hit targets and lead the way.
  • It offers a pathway for other staff, and future staff, to walk - rewards are seen as realistically achievable and tangible, rather than theoretical and far away.

The trick to packaging a good reward and recognition scheme is to make them hyper-personal, and relevant for your people. For example, if the majority of your team works remotely and you’re still offering a free gym membership near your office, you won't keep, nor attract staff to your workplace.

3) Pay people properly, not competitively, and expect to be challenged on it

See this as an extension of your revamped perks system: your entire compensation strategy needs to be beyond competitive because you can be sure your competitors will offer more. Paying your people properly means more than simply adding figures onto a monthly pay cheque, although in a cost of living crisis every little helps. You need to make sure “compensation” covers the full gamut of experience in your company: salary, rewards and recognition, L&D and skills development, friendships, mentoring, a chance to make a difference or a chance to change your employee’s life. Attach meaning to the money and you’ll see staff loyalty rise.

4) Diversify your recruitment, and become more representative

Furthering the idea of meaning to compensation, it’s worthwhile analysing how representative your company is. Talent retention strategies - like many other key metrics within recruitment and HR - are not immune to the changing tides of activism. Almost every worker (but especially younger workers) wants to work for companies that reflect their values and whose corporate vision includes positively affecting their community and environment. Simply put, the best talent won’t work for companies whose sole goal is profit. They want to work for companies with a purpose. They want to work for companies that are leading the way in diversifying their workforce, doing more work in their community, or helping protect the environment. This is ESG, made real - embody the purpose your staff want to see and you’ll keep hold of your people.

5) Don’t counteroffer, simply learn from staff exits

Lastly, we want to look at how staff exits are one of the most powerful learning tools for business leaders looking at improving their retention strategies. This is all about data - if you don’t know why your people are leaving, you can’t affect change. So use exit interviews to mine as much information as possible about how your company stacks up against competitors, and how your work culture helps staff feel valued, safe and well-remunerated.

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