Retention Strategies in the War for Talent
In the new world of work, companies are shifting their talent management efforts from looking externally to fill new roles to cultivating talent internally. With unemployment being at an all-time low and an aging population leaving full-time employment for creative retirement options, organizations understand that to remain competitive they need to focus their efforts on retention.
Beyond the challenges of the talent shortage, the cost of hiring and onboarding a single employee can be up to 200 times that of an individual’s yearly salary. The loss of organizational knowledge and loyalty adds to the cost. Smart employers recognize that they cannot treat employees as disposable commodities, instead they understand that it is critical that people be treated as valuable assets.
To retain more people, companies need to find ways to repurpose the talent they have by providing learning and development opportunities and establishing working environments that reinvigorate employees. Forward-thinking organizations are starting the recruitment process early by building alliances with high schools and universities to identify and offer opportunities for apprenticeships and internships. The time invested in working with people still in their educational phase can pay off when those people join the company fully onboarded.
Make the most of the older generation
Smart companies are cultivating talent in the later stages of their careers as well as in the early stages. These organizations recognize the value of the mature worker. In a recent study, more than 80 percent of U.S. employers valued workers aged 50 and up for their “knowledge, wisdom, and life experience. They saw the mature worker as an important source of institutional knowledge, and a valuable resource for training and mentoring.” Furthermore, studies have shown that the vast majority of people want to work past the age of 65 and are not retiring from work, just retiring from the things they don’t need.
In addition to being more settled and less likely to leave after two years, the Baby Boomer Generation often has more financial resources and less responsibilities—and therefore more flexibility. Mature workers tend to be more open to part-time, project, or gig work. If organizations have cultivated and maintained relationships with their alumni mature talent, they have the added ability to hire quickly in times of need. Because they possess organizational knowledge and have likely developed critical soft skills, members of the mature workforce can act as sponsors, mentors, and trainers to others within your organization.
Organizations hoping to retain institutional knowledge and get the most out of their mature workforce will start the conversation early with these people to talk about career goals and plan for the later phases of their careers.
Career development - not just when there is a problem
In an effort to manage costs, companies sometimes need to reduce headcount and raise productivity expectations for those who remain. They cut back on learning and development, including career development programs. In some cases, resources are focused on coaching senior executives and recruiting and cultivating high-potential individuals, at the exclusion of other employees. These practices are short-sighted and leave too many good contributors feeling ignored and looking for valuation somewhere else. As a result, many talented employees may decide that the solution to the lack of career mobility and development is to leave one organization to get the experiences they need at another.
Instead of looking at cutting those programs that encourage growth, successful organizations recognize that making an investment in people is not throwing away money. In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Investing in existing talent is actually a strategy to make the most of the costs you’ve already incurred through recruitment and onboarding. Providing career mobility within your organization is one way to keep your employees from seeking mobility outside your company.
Make an investment in your future company success by supporting career development for all employees, including remote workers. Talk to individuals about career progress at onboarding and continue the discussion at every stage of their tenure at your company. From the first touch with the company, make sure people are clear about the role they will be filling and the opportunities they will have to impact the organization. Support managers in engaging in progressive feedback to those who report to them. Build goodwill and inspire loyalty by continuing to engage with employees to review not just how they are performing their individual tasks, but to understand their professional goals and how those goals can be met within the organization.
Here are a few career mobility solutions to keep employees engaged:
- Offer career exploration programs. Allow people to ask the question, “Am I in the right position or department in my organization?” Support networking, shadowing, and special opportunities for employees to gain new skills and test-drive new career possibilities.
- Encourage employees to be proactive in understanding future trends. What’s the shelf-life for my career? What new career fits my skills? What skills do I have to develop?
- Provide educational support. Educational programs might include online courses, university partnerships or funding, or even a resource database of MOOCS (massive open online courses), and of course, supporting internal mentoring and sponsor programs.
- Provide management and leadership programs. Cultivate your existing workforce and raise people up through the ranks.
- Expand career coaching. Elevate career coaching from a tool to only help people improve their performance to an effective method to help team members develop their careers.
- Consider and support employees through the natural career cycle. That may mean at minimum annual or even quarterly programs in areas such as internships, onboarding, new managers, mid-career review, advanced career planning and retirement.
- Teach management to give helpful feedback. Career development, as well as performance development, should be a regular part of a manager’s conversation with employees.
- Make career development meaningful. If you offer career development through online learning apps, set-up cohort groups to discuss courses and participate in learnings together. Make sure that people have a place to check-in to discuss their learnings and have opportunities to apply what they have learned.
Building relationships within the community is an essential factor in building company loyalty, brand, and retention.
Here are some routine and creative ways to strengthen your professional community:
- "Donut Meetings” times for individual employees to talk with each other about something good (actual donuts not required)
- Employer sponsored lunch meetings between members of different departments
- Employer sponsored charity events – something people can participate in together
- Regularly scheduled events and celebrations
- Longevity parties – to replace retirement parties
- Mentor and sponsorship programs
- Lunch and learns
- Internal networking opportunities
- Professional shadowing days to learn about a day in the life of someone at the organization
- Social committees to plan social events like “pajama day” or other fun events throughout the year that people can participate in.
Redeployment, career development, and community building are keys to developing retention. Having said that, it is still important to ensure employee compensation and benefits are up-to-date and competitive. The world of work is changing, and you want to make sure your organization does too; consider the range of benefits, including career mobility, parental leave, caretaker leave, and remote and flexible work options. It’s all part of supporting the employee in a holistic manner. In doing so, the company is guaranteed to reap the benefits of a more engaged, productive and stable workforce