The Art of Top Talent Retention: How to Stop Losing A-players
In the midst of the Great Resignation and The War for Talent, one of the biggest challenges for C-level executives today is keeping their high-potential employees on board. Because attracting those star talents is one thing, but retaining them for the long term is just as critical for organizational success. Clearly, with the right employee retention strategy, you can hold on to your A-players.
But retention is not just about creating an engaging place to work and offering a good salary: it’s the result of many different factors. In this article, we’ll discuss why your best people leave and share several practical tips that will help you master the art of top talent retention.
- Intro: What If the Majority of Your Top Talent Left Today?
- Why Do Best Employees Leave
- Tips on How To Retain Your Top Talent
1. Intro: What If the Majority of Your Top Talent Left Today?
Imagine 40% of your highly skilled employees leaving your company today. That’s not just a monetary loss; it’s a loss in morale, expertise, and motivation. Not to mention the high costs of recruiting and onboarding new talent.
And if you think it won’t happen to you, think again. Because this is not merely a ‘what-if’-scenario, it’s quite the reality. In 2022, approximately 40% of the global workforce (1.2 billion people) indicated that with no career mobility, they’re prepared to quit their current job.
Zoom in to Millennials and Gen-Z, and you’ll find that almost two-thirds of young professionals leave their first job within two years, 34 percent even leave within one year, and 12 percent say they only stayed with their first employer for less than six months.
These are alarming numbers.
Because high potential employees are vital to your company’s success and sustainable growth: they possess the skills, knowledge, and drive to take on leadership roles and push the organization forward. So when talent turnover is high, HR leaders must address two critical questions:
1. Why are my employees leaving?
2. How can we keep them from going?
2. This is Why Your Best Employees Leave
If you want to know which steps to take to keep your high-performing employees from quitting, you must understand why they jump ship in the first place. Now before we discuss that, let’s start by debunking a myth.
Some executives might argue that good employees will stick around as long as they’re paid handsomely for their work.
Of course, there are exceptions, but generally, your talents don’t leave just because the competition made them an offer they couldn’t refuse – financially speaking. More often, someone’s departure is a sum of frustrations combined with a new opportunity that presents itself – which can also be a complete career change.
So, what makes those A-players want to leave their jobs?
1. A feeling of disconnection with the company culture
In a recent study that surveyed 1600 C-suite executives and employees in the US, it turns out that the number one reason people leave is because they miss an authentic connection with the company culture and their co-workers. The study reveals that “while the shift to remote work has largely been beneficial, it’s also led to widespread isolation and loneliness among today’s remote workforce.”
The findings indicate that some employers have been so focused on maintaining productivity during the pandemic that they’ve neglected to prioritize culture and connectedness among their people — and this could have a profound impact on their retention efforts amidst the ongoing Great Resignation.
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2. A lack of career development and perspective
Another main reason top employees hand in their resignation is a need for more professional and personal development.
Today’s talent is highly driven and ambitious. They want to learn new skills, grow into new roles, and be challenged to become better at what they do. This is backed up by a McKinsey report which revealed that 41% of the employees they surveyed said they quit because of the lack of perspective for career advancement within their company.
On top of that, many Gen-Zers and millennials are passionate about finding a job matching their values and life goals. If they can’t do meaningful work at their current employer, they won’t hesitate to switch to another.
3. A poor onboarding process
Very few HR professionals would dispute that when done right, onboarding can do wonders for the level of commitment and integration of a new hire. However, Gallup reports that only 12% of employees feel their company does a good job onboarding new team members, leaving 88% of workers with uninspiring onboarding experiences – or none at all. There’s plenty of room for improvement there, given that many people search elsewhere when they feel unwelcomed and let down by the onboarding process of their new employer.
You might also like our checklist on How To Create a Successful Onboarding Process
4. Insufficient leadership
We all know the cliché: people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their managers. Poor management provokes disengagement and frustration. It can certainly add up to people being fed up and deciding to leave. Because let’s face it: a good leader can elevate a team to great heights, but an inefficient leader can make them pack their bags quicker than you can say “I resign.”
While in the past an attractive salary could help keep people in a job despite a bad boss, that is much less true now than before the pandemic. Our survey shows that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a major reason people continue to quit their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, meanwhile, is a primary motivation for people staying at their jobs.
5. The struggle to sustain a healthy work-life balance
Another reason for high employee turnover is feelings of excessive stress and burnout due to an unhealthy work-life balance. If a job is highly demanding 24/7, people tend to lose sight of the separation between their professional and personal lives, leaving them not enough time to take a break, unwind and spend valuable time with friends, family, and loved ones. This takes its toll on retaining capable employees.
3. Tips on How To Retain Your Top Talent
No one wants their business to be a revolving door for talented professionals. This begs the question: can something be done about it? If you are making so much effort to find those A-players, what can you do to retain them?
Here are some of our high-impact tips:
- Listen carefully: “I have so many great ideas, but it seems my manager doesn’t want to hear them.” A typical answer from a frustrated young professional when asked why they are calling it quits. Or what about this one: “I feel I’m not recognized for my efforts.” In other words: the new generation of employees wants to be respected and heard. They want to talk about their concerns and challenges, express their ideas and discuss their future career plans. Management should ask about their ambitions, drivers, and needs and show genuine interest – also in their private lives. If people feel valued, they’re much more likely to stay inspired and motivated, meaning they’re also less likely to start looking for another job.
- Leading by example: Dropbox does recurrent engagement surveys to take a pulse on their people’s sentiments. They run focus groups, schedule frequent executive coffee chats, and hold listening sessions.
- Set the stage for a feedback culture: in line with the above, providing regular 360• feedback is a cost-effective way for top talent management. Organize one-on-ones with employees, talk with them about their short- and long-term goals and help them visualize their future within the company. Then, act on it and lay out a structured career development plan to reach those goals. Not only will constructive feedback sessions help employees improve their skills and performance, but it also provides leaders with critical insights about their businesses’ key strengths and weaknesses.
- Leading by example: when food producer and distributor Cargill was struggling to motivate their 166.000 employees around the globe effectively, they shifted from annual reviews to an ongoing performance management system, including daily, on-the-job conversations between employees and their superiors. As a result, almost 70% of their workforce reported they experienced higher job satisfaction.
- Take steps to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment: when diversity and inclusion are considered a priority, it can make for a winning corporate culture. People who feel a sense of belonging at work, who are valued for who they are, and who spend time with colleagues they can relate to are more likely to develop their talents and maximize their potential – resulting in engaged and loyal staff. Not only will it be easier to retain a workforce with diverse talents, but it will also help to attract them too.
- Leading by example: at Accenture, their commitment to DEI starts at the top. 60% of their board members are racially and ethnically diverse, and 50% are women. The company is also a front-runner when it comes to gender equity, with a 100% pay equity for women compared to men in every country it operates. These are just some examples of their DEI efforts which granted them the number one position in the Diversity Inc Top 50 Companies for Diversity.
People say diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance, but belonging is being asked to share your playlist.
Gerri Mason Hall, VP Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at NetApp
- Offer flexibility in the workplace: flexibility is the magic word for today’s modern businesses, and it’s proving time and again to be essential for talent retention. If there’s one thing we have learned from the pandemic, it’s that employees want to have a say over where, when, and how they work. So to keep your best talent on board, try to offer these options: agile working, self-directed teams, multidisciplinary approaches, a hybrid or remote work environment, flexible working hours, etc. According to Lepaya’s 2023 State of Skills report, 71% of workers between 18 to 24 years old would quit if they were forced to return to the office.
- Leading by example: in addition to a global ‘week of rest’, HubSpot offers an unlimited vacation year-round. After five years with HubSpot, you get a four-week paid sabbatical plus a sabbatical bonus. At Netflix, employees are in charge of deciding for themselves when to work.
- Double down on internal mobility: employees who are given a chance for a promotion, or to horizontally move to a new job in a different department, are more likely to stay put. LinkedIn data shows that employees stick around 41% longer at companies with strong internal mobility programs than those with companies with poor internal mobility offerings or none.
- Leading by example: like many other future-forward companies today, Cisco developed an internal recruitment process and hiring strategy allowing their unique talents to power Cisco forward. Their People Movement program connects them to a marketplace of opportunities and enables managers to identify internal talent.
You might also like: How to Create a Future Proof Workforce through Internal Talent Mobility
- Create upskilling and continuous learning opportunities: LinkedIn research shows that 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they had more learning opportunities. Also, employees who feel their skills are not put to good use are 10 times more likely to look for a new job. These retention statistics prove just how crucial it is to encourage personal development and training. So for talent to stay engaged, it’s essential to create a continuous learning culture and tap into your people’s potential so that they can thrive. Not just by focusing on learning new skills but also by offering career coaching and modern-day, innovative leadership programs.
- Leading by example: upskilling the workforce and future leaders of the world’s leading organizations, Lepaya combines face-to-face training with Virtual Reality as an innovative tool to enhance the effectiveness of their training programs.
The lack of building solid and strategic talent retention strategies is a cause for serious concern. However, there’s a way forward. We must rethink how we hire, develop careers and retain high-performing employees to align with business goals. The more we align our talent’s skills with business targets, the higher the impact on healthy business growth and revenue in 2023. Find more info on how to retain your most valuable talent & progress your business performance in 2023 in Lepaya’s State of Skills 2023 report today.
Peter Kuperus, CEO & Founder at Lepaya
- Recognize the power of purpose: purpose plays a significant role in the lives of Gen-Z and millennials. They want to see their personal goals aligned with the organization’s goals, make a positive impact on the world, and be proud of their work. PwC research shows that millennials are 5.3 times more likely to stay on board if they feel a strong connection to a company’s purpose and are even willing to take a pay cut to land a job that matches their ideals. In other words: it pays off to make purpose and meaning a core part of your internal and external communication strategy and invest time in discovering how that message resonates with your people. If there’s no alignment, then they probably won’t stay with you for long.
- Leading by example: outdoor apparel brand Patagonia embodies a purpose-driven brand. They have a long-standing dedication to sustainability and social issues, combating global carbon emissions by using recycled fabrics and offering reuse and repair programs. Their mission: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”
- Support a healthy work-life balance: according to a 2021 LinkedIn survey, a healthy work-life balance is now the leading priority for job seekers and essential to work happiness. To prevent stress and burnout, encourage employees to set their boundaries, reduce workloads, avoid working after hours and offer plenty of time off. To promote a culture of self-care, invest in wellness and stress management programs, and offer fun, low-profile team activities so people can unwind and recharge.
- Leading by example: at Microsoft, everything revolves around health. Not only do they fund fitness training and gym memberships, they also offer weight management and smoking cessation programs. And the list goes on and on: at the Microsoft campus, restaurants are stocked with healthy food options, there’s an on-site clinic and pharmacy, and they even offer free personal and family counseling.
- Create a strong onboarding program: how new talent is welcomed and guided in the first stages of their employee journey can have an enormous impact on retention. With an effective onboarding strategy in place, ideally combined with a mentoring program or buddy system, nothing will stand in the way of retaining your best employees. Plus, it does wonders for your employer brand and employee engagement.
- Leading by example: at WeTransfer, new hires get a drawn picture of themselves. Now, if that isn’t fun enough, look at the creative onboarding video that Zendesk created.
- Encourage democratic leadership: as young professionals are moving up the career ladder, they like to be inspired by empowering leaders that create an environment where everybody’s voice is heard in the decision-making process: people that are open to feedback and have the mindset of a team player. Companies that have these types of democratic leaders are well-known for their ability to recruit and retain talent – it simply is a very effective leadership style, so consider investing in management training and nurturing these types of leaders.
- Leading by example: at Google, employees from all over the world are encouraged to share their ideas during extensive brainstorming sessions with the entire company. It has led to some very successful, innovative ideas.
Related: Types of Leadership Styles: Which is Best for you and your Organization?
- Provide a fair salary and generous benefits: true, a higher salary is not the top reason people look for a new job, but paying your people fairly will give them the incentive to stay. So audit your salary and bonus structure to detect any pay inequities, and correct them if this is the case. On top of that, providing high-quality secondary benefits and other perks can have a significant impact on retention and engagement.
- Leading by example: Starbucks offers some enticing benefits to its employees, like free Spotify subscriptions, dry-cleaning services, and a weekly box of tea or coffee. On the more serious side, they have an extensive healthcare program in place, a solid savings plan (cleverly called ‘Future Roast’), and tuition reimbursement.
You might also like: How to Calculate Your Employee Retention Rate (and Why It is Important)
Also, take a look at thought leaders’ insights & our data in Lepaya’s State of Skills 2023 to attract & retain the most valuable talent at your business.
At Lepaya, we help organizations retain top talent by creating a culture of continuous learning. We build stronger teams and inspire future leaders by offering innovative learning experiences through our Power Skills training.
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