This blog post was written in response to the May 2013 Coffee Shop HR World Café topic: “What will it take to retain the best talent over the next 5 years?”
I might not work in HR, but I do have the constant challenge of retaining talented employees, so I feel it’s my responsibility, not that of HR. I also have to accept that any aim to retain an employee will (almost) always end in failure. At some point, an employee will leave. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, and it could be in five years’ time. I can’t hold on forever.
So really, the question is – what can I do to keep my best employees for as long as possible? Or, how can I maximize their potential for however long I’ve got them?
The foundation, or the basics
I lump contractuals and engagement ‘tactics’ into one package – the very foundation of your retention efforts. Whether it’s the contract your people want, or fresh coffee and more pot plants, it’s the environment you create.
There are external pressures coming from everywhere these days – financial, childcare, relationships, legal, even dealing with builders! You don’t want to add to the pressures, so a workplace should be, at its very least, a haven from everything else.
If you’re going to lose a talented employee, don’t let it be due to something stupid like forgetting to pay on time. The basics.
Nobody likes your company values
I liked this statistic – 77% of people in the UK admit they’re ‘not engaged’ with the company’s brand values. Get over it.
Nobody likes your company values, and nobody cares about them. Yeah, sure, they might tell you they really care, but they’re mostly lying.
They care about their own careers, and where you, as a business, fit into that schema is the one thing that counts. Company values are not going to help you retain or engage anyone… after all, most businesses have the same values, they just use different words. No company’s brand values state “rip people off and lie to them”, do they.
What they do is help you craft the right message and behaviour in front of clients. They’re nothing whatever to do with retention or engagement, and if people aren’t engaged with them, move on. Nothing to see here.
Work makes people stay
When people leave their jobs, it’s often because of their line managers. It’s often because their work isn’t challenging enough, or because there’s a greater chance of career progression somewhere else.
You could be paying everyone on time, and you could be handing out free coffee, gym sessions, EAPs and you might even have a pool table. Whoopee-doo. But anyone can do that, and your competitors might well be doing more. Unless you’re offering way more than everyone else, the grass might always be just as green next door.
If you’re going to retain really talented employees, you’re going to have to give them a reason to stay, and here’s your bullet points:
– a job they love
– a hope (and a vision) of career progression
– a challenge
HR’s responsibility in this mix is twofold: number 1, get the basics right. If that’s finding an outsourcing partner and a shared service centre, then do it. It’s cheap and scalable and it removes the stuff that doesn’t add value.
Number 2, look after those line managers. If you’ve got bad line managers, you should be the first to know, and you should be working with them on people management skills. Transfer your hard-earned knowledge and give them a little love. Pin-point the future managers, develop a succession programme and don’t keep it close to your chest – let them in on it.
Talk to people, find out what motivates them, and find out how you can keep them just that little bit longer. They might ask say something like “I want to earn $100k, run my own business by the time I’m 40 and grow a beard”, but you could harness some of that ambition and say “you know what, let’s work together. We can help you become more entrepreneurial, but we can’t help with the beard.”
The Magic Bullet by Nicole Davidson
How to Keep The BEST Ones by Carolyn Courage, CHRP
It Takes More than Money to Retain Your Best Talent by Jessica Lau