Your top employees may be worth far more than their weight in gold. To build a strong culture and stay competitive, you need these superstars to continue providing their expertise to your team. You also need them to provide a positive example and influence for the rest of your employees.
How do you convince them to stay?
Often, top employees decide to leave an organization when they don’t see the company reciprocating their level of passion and engagement. Here are five ways to meet top employees where they are, strengthen your relationship with them and encourage them to stay.
1. Collaborate on Growth Plans
Investing in people is one of the strongest ways to build loyalty, trust and faith within an organization. “Lack of people investment is the main reason that 91 percent of employees resort to looking elsewhere” rather than continuing to build with their current employer, says Izabela Lundberg, CEO of Legacy Leaders Institute.
High performers prioritize learning and growth, both in their own careers and in the employers they choose, says Lisa Sterling, executive vice president and chief people and culture officer at Ceridian. Companies seeking to retain their top talent can leverage these values by collaborating with employees to offer learning and growth opportunities.
“Tailoring learning initiatives to career exploration and growth can make employees feel personally valued, increasing their loyalty if other firms come calling,” Sterling says.
Companies that actively engage with their employees’ growth and development take an intentional, employee-centered approach that is crucial to retention. But this approach requires both a long- and short-term view of growth. That’s why Adler Group CEO Lou Adler tells companies to create long-term growth plans for new hires. While pay and benefits might initially convince a candidate to accept a job offer, long-term opportunities to grow keep new hires in that role.
Adler calls this the 30% Solution. “Simply put, this concept proposes that in order to attract, hire and retain the strongest and most diverse talent, you need to offer candidates at least a 30% non-monetary increase,” he writes. “This 30% is the combination of job stretch (a bigger job), a job with more impact, a mix of more satisfying work, faster and more continuous growth and an opportunity to work with equally talented people.”
By committing to a path for future growth, you will demonstrate to your employees a willingness to be an active partner in their career development.
2. Offer Financial Incentives
Financial incentives in the form of living wages and strong benefits are essential for retaining top talent, particularly among the younger generations. According to researchers Anne Vandermey and Nicolas Rapp at Fortune, workers between ages 21 and 39 currently make on average 20 percent less than their parents’ generation did at the same age.
This financial outlook tends to make younger workers more pessimistic about the economy and their place in it. “This pessimism, combined with the knowledge that job opportunities are rare, could lead to weaker negotiation strategies being employed when job opportunities do present themselves,” Anna Johansson writes at Forbes.
Yet this pessimism provides an opportunity for employers seeking to retain their best young talent. Because younger workers expect not to find financial security at work, providing it in the form of living-wage salaries and comprehensive benefits generates a strong positive response from employees. This positivity, in turn, generates loyalty.
Paying above-average salaries strategically can boost a company’s bottom line, says John Boitnott at Inc. Higher salaries not only help keep top talent on your team but also encourage those staff members to do better work.
“When people perceive that they are getting paid more than their counterparts at other companies, it often compels them to expend extra effort,” says Boitnott. “They will work harder to demonstrate that they deserve that money.”
3. Make It Easy to Work For You
In 2018, Werk co-founders Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach asked 1,583 white-collar professionals about the flexibility of their work. Ninety-six percent of respondents said they needed flexibility at work, but only 47 percent said they had the kind of flexibility they needed.
Among the most-desired forms of flexibility on the job are the ability to adapt the place and time one works, say Dean and Auerbach. For instance, workers want the flexibility to work from home in order to be present when a repair or maintenance person comes, or the ability to leave work for a few hours for a family event and make that time up later in the day or week. The ability to adapt their schedules to coincide with the hours in which they are most alert and creative also ranks highly on top talent’s list.
By offering employee-attuned flexibility and compensation, companies put their employees first, creating a feedback loop that increases loyalty and improves business results.
“Loyalty begets retention and retention, in turn, saves you and makes you more money. It is a beautiful catch-22 that cultivates profits and allows me to be even more generous,” says Wes Gardner, CEO of Prime Trailer Leasing, whose teams have worked together for 30 years or more. Gardner earns that kind of loyalty by understanding employees’ needs and providing financial security, a team-focused culture, opportunities and dignity in work.
Another way to make it easier for your top talent to stay is to treat them as trusted partners, says Patty McCord, chief talent officer at Netflix, a company with an above-average retention rate for star talent. Netflix’s approach includes an expense policy that trusts employees to exercise good judgment and leave policies that require employees to take the time off they need instead of setting arbitrary boundaries on their available vacation or family leave.
These policies tell employees that they are trusted and valued. They engender a sense of responsibility for the team and company as a whole, rather than for the employee’s own interests. By doing so, they create interrelationships that employees want to preserve by staying with the team and company.
4. Recognize Your Rockstars
Chick-fil-A boasts a 97 percent retention rate among its staff. When it polled employees to find out why they stay, the company found that having a boss who cares topped the list, says Ryan Jenkins in Inc.
Here, caring refers to managers’ ability to get to know staff members and to account for their hopes, fears, strengths and needs from day to day. It also includes the ability to respond constructively to this information, through offering recognition for work well done or achievements reached in the employee’s professional growth and development.
When you can’t offer praise, offer constructive criticism. “Today’s workforce wants feedback — positive and negative — on an ongoing basis so they can continue to improve and grow,” says Dave Poling, executive director at Aerotek. Continuous feedback keeps people engaged in their work and gives them a sense of direction and purpose, increasing the chances they’ll stay and continue to improve on their current projects.
Finally, provide feedback on the challenges the company faces, as well. “If the company is experiencing economic issues that might influence employee growth or satisfaction, it is far better to discuss those” with candidates and employees, Bobby Hoffman, Ph.D. writes at Psychology Today. Even discouraging news can help employees prepare for the future and avoid miscommunication or uncomfortable surprises that might result in the employee seeking a new job.
5. Promote Your Approach
Creating a strong talent management plan maximizes a company’s opportunities to retain its best talent. When this plan is incorporated into the organization’s overall employment brand, top candidates are more likely to apply.
Culture is a leading factor in candidate decision-making. One LinkedIn study found that 70 percent of candidates would turn down a job at a leading company if they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture, and 71 percent would accept a pay cut if it meant working for an organization that shared their values, says Nina McQueen, VP of global benefits and employee experience at LinkedIn.
Ultimately, a strong cultural fit may have a larger effect on employee retention than pay or benefits. “Ultimately, people leave their jobs because their manager is bad or because the company has a crappy culture that sucks the life out of them,” says Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps. Since culture plays such a strong role in recruiting and retention, communicating cultural features like talent management programs is a must.
“When people work with like-minded employees who believe in the same mission and are comfortable challenging it, you create the type of team cohesion that makes good companies great,” says Jeff Boss, principal and senior advisor at N2Growth.
A strong talent management program helps to support a pro-talent culture, but top candidates can’t find your program attractive if they don’t know about it. Make your talent management strategy a cornerstone of your employment brand in order to pique the interest of candidates who offer a strong fit with your existing team.
Often, retaining top talent boils down to better communication. When organizations communicate on topics like professional development, compensation, policies, work effectiveness and their own strategies, employees engage with the information and thus with the organization. That’s what makes them able and willing to stick with their employers.
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