The Challenge of Retaining Employees

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 Source: Baafi, Alex Bossman

By Alex Bossman Baafi

The challenge to retain key talents keeps awakening leaders of organizations at night because today’s key employees have many employment options. Research reveals that, even though pay and benefits count, one cannot depend on money to retain talented employees who have many employment openings outside their organizations. Among other things, key motivators include challenging and stimulating work, opportunity to learn and grow; great friendly people at work, recognition of achievement and a good boss.

Though managers can influence these major retention factors, many do not believe they have the power to keep their best and outstanding talents. The fact however remains that retention is a hot issue in the organizational experience regardless of whether the economy is declining or booming across all industries and countries.

There are good reasons for retention issue to keep waking leaders of organizations at night. The challenge is how to understand what will retain their new-millennium workers in order to adopt that best practice to retain, mentor and manage these golden assets to achieve their organizational objectives.

In this millennium age, managers of organizations should understand that talent is the only differentiator. It separates their organizations from their competitors and ensures their companies’ future. Capital is abundant while technology is easy to access but brainpower of knowledge and experienced people become the major asset for the modern progressive organizations. Research shows that a global shortage of talent is expected to last for at least the next decade. For example in the United States researchers have predicted an estimated shortage of 40 million workers by 2015, based on 2% economic growth and current retirement conditions. It continues to say that fertility is now below replacement level in 61 countries. Good employees do not even have to leave their desks to find new jobs. The most popular log-on time for job-search abounds. Professional and corporate recruiters practice a multi-faceted science complete with firewall-breaking strategies to identify and steal top talents from competitors. Recruitment experts agree that replacing a talented employee costs at least two times his or her annual salary. The most obvious costs include search firms’ fees and sign-on bonuses. Soft opportunity costs include lost customers, contracts or businesses and in most cases replacing outstanding talents will costs two to five times their annual salary. When the organisation begins to experience high attrition rate, then know that the business is at risk. When employees are overworked, neglected, and demoralized, they become pessimistic about the organization’s future. In times like that, leaders’ options should include doubling retention efforts.

Having explained the compelling reasons for why retention is a hot issue let me explain the techniques for retaining employees.

Understand What Motivate People Leaders must first understand what actually motivate people. According to the research carried out by Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye, more than 15,000 workers were asked why they stayed in their organisation for a considerable length of time and came out with top five responses. They are: i) exciting and challenging work, ii) career growth, learning and development, iii) great friendly people, iv) fair pay and benefits and v) a good boss. This finding was in line with what researchers have agreed for over 50 years today as among factors that satisfy, motivate or engage their talented employees. The finding also obeys the principle of Abraham Maslow’s survival needs that concluded that once those needs are met, people focus on social needs and self – actualizing needs. It also confirms Frederick Herzberg’s hygiene factors of descent work environment, pay and benefits as potential dissatisfiers when they are inadequate but are not necessarily motivators.

Keep the Motivational Import of Remuneration in Perspective When employees are not challenged or growing in descent working environment or if they do not get on well with the boss, their pay will not probably keep them for long because there are companies around waiting to steal them.

Select the Right People and Support their Growth In the first place, get in the door the right people by not resorting to desperation. This is because today hiring mistake is tomorrow’s problem. Enrich and enhance their work. When the excitement or thrill is gone, so they are. Allow employees to grow or they will find employer that will. Remember to ask individuals what and how they want to learn and mentor them and they are twice as likely to stay. Encourage, nurture and teach them how to be successful in the organization and link them to mentors, coaches, leaders or colleague. What is more, identify options in addition to promotions. Help your key employees to identify or uncover multiple options including lateral moves, special projects that will enable them growing while in place.

Develop a Management Style that Inspires Loyalty Though loyalty is increasingly complex, it is still possible. Talented employees can be committed to the team, the project, the boss, the mission and even to the company that provides just what they want and need. Show respect in many ways, treat people fairly and not identically. Trust them and they will prove to be trustworthy. Create a culture of inclusion, valuing different experiences and attitudes. Guard against negative behaviours that might turn off or turn away your talents. Provide feedback. People want to know how they are doing and how they can improve and grow. Give feedback clearly, truthfully and respectfully and get feedback in return from them about your own strength and opportunities. Reward creatively. Use the universal reward: praise. Use it often and authentically with every one of your talented people then give individual rewards. Do not guess what people want, ask.

Create a Work Environment that People Love, Enjoy and Respond to Many busy and high – stress organisations admit they have become a fun – free zone. Fun may be just what they need to ease the pressure and stress. It is definitely, what they need if they are to retain their fun loving employees. Find ways to make the workplace fun and enjoyable. Information is power so give it freely, openly and often as you can. Give people space; provide freedom to get the job done in ways that work best for them. Trust them, negotiate with them, open your mind to really hear their requests and brainstorm creative solutions. Encourage people to have life outside work, and you will get people who show up refreshed and ready to work. Uncover new opportunities inside your organisation so that employees do not seek them outside.

Conclusion Leaders of organisations should know that their success depends on keeping their best-experienced people. They must recognise the importance of retention, understand how people feel and what action is needed before it is too late. Once they manage others, they have phenomenal influence over their decision to stay or go. If you have managers reporting to you, they may need help in becoming retention-focused leaders. Be clear about what keeps people. Customize your retention strategies to individual needs and pass the message and method on to anyone who manages others in the organisation. This single retention issue increasingly determines the success or failure of many organizations.

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman