Strategies to Retain Talent 

In our previous blog post we looked at the various reasons why talent leaves organisations including, feeling underappreciated and undervalued, a lack of autonomy, mental health issues often associated with long working hours, poor employee – manager relationships, corporate culture that isn’t the “right fit”, and a lack of purpose or meaning, all of which can lead to unhappy employees in both their work and private lives, making it difficult to retain them. 

In this post we’ll look at six specific strategies to help leaders retain key talent.

1. Value your Employees

To ensure employees feel appreciated and valued, check in with them regularly.  Managers often find it difficult to balance appreciation with developmental feedback and worry about sending mixed messages.  To create balance, these regular interactions can be informal and a valuable connection point for you and your employee.  They ensure each of you is visible to the other and provides an opportunity for employees to share stories with you about what they’re doing or working on, and creates the added benefit of helping you stay connected with what’s going on in the organisation. It is also worth recognising employees for specific projects, ideas or successes.  Showing employees that you recognise and appreciate their efforts, goes a long way towards building morale and helping to retain them.

2. Flexibility

Having a flexible workplace is all about work-life balance, and encouraging employees to live a balanced life, that is not dominated or encroached on by work and the organisation.

Flexibility at work might mean giving employees the autonomy and freedom to do their jobs without enforcing rigid rules, and can include things like providing employees the opportunity to own their projects, or take the lead on an initiative.

Flexibility can also apply to working models and there are various options to choose from, including:

Flexitime: employees have the freedom to structure their own workdays and weeks which can include when, where, and for how long they work as long as the work gets done

Remote Work: the employee spends some or all of their time working from home or another location 

Compressed Work Week: an employee completes all of their work hours in less working days, for example, 39 hours in 4 days instead of 5 

Job Sharing: two employees work half time, each sharing a role that would normally be done by one person

Permanent Part-Time: an permanent employee fills a  part-time role that doesn’t require a full-length work week 

Adaptability is key to flexibility. There is no right or wrong answer. Choosing the right approach depends on what works for your employee, for you and your organisation.

3. Mental Health

Work is a major part of our lives as we spend a significant amount of time there. Having a job that is fulfilling is good for our mental health and general wellbeing. We all experience times when things get the better of us, sometimes that’s work related like deadlines or workload.  Other times it’s something in our private lives, like health or relationship issues or other circumstances. Having a good manager-employee relationship makes it more likely an employee will confide in you, and you can then take appropriate steps to ensure the employee’s wellbeing.  It is critical that we protect employee mental health in the workforce as a whole. Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand, and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. It’s imperative that workplaces allow employees to thrive. Studies have shown that the most consistent issue impacting work related mental health issues is long working hours. To help ensure your employees are not overwhelmed and working outside the regular office times;  avoid sending them emails over the weekend or late in the evening, don’t text or instant message them persistently outside work hours.  Remember you also need to lead by example when it comes to working hours. If you consistently work late, take calls and answer emails outside office hours, your employees will feel pressure to do the same. There are always times when this may be necessary, but it should not be the norm.  Acknowledge when an employee has worked late during the week on a project, by allowing them a long lunchbreak or some hours off as soon as possible afterwards.  They will appreciate it.  It’s good to remember that mental health is the employer and employee’s responsibility in creating a safe workplace environment.  For support on this topic see CIPD Ireland.

4. Manager/ Employee Relationship

As outlined above in valuing your employees, scheduling regular one to one check-ins is where positive manager-employee relationships begin. These discussions foster ideas, help solve problems and give managers a better understanding of their employees’ personalities and motivations. Career development is a key area for employees so make it a priority. Gain an understanding of what motivates each employee, what their aspirations are, and proactively assist them in making these aspirations a reality.  There are numerous ways to do this including, learning and development, a side project, cross departmental collaboration, mentoring and coaching, job shadowing, presenting at a conference or participating in an industry group outside the organisation. In addition, ask for feedback, it’s really useful to know what you are doing that works or doesn’t work for your employees.  Find out what you can do to help them be more effective or make their job easier, or what changes they would like to see in policies and procedures.  Employees are more likely to stay with an organisation, when they feel supported and their voices are being heard.

5. Corporate Culture

A good corporate culture comprises the shared beliefs and values that are established by the leaders and supported by the organisation’s strategy.  These should be communicated and reinforced through various methods, so they can shape employee perception, behaviours and understanding. Corporate culture comprises many elements, and can be described in a range of ways such as: technology driven, customer-focused, hierarchical, innovative, fun, ethical, research-driven and risk-taking.  An organization with a strong people orientation, tends to put people first when making decisions, and believes that people drive the organisation’s performance and productivity. 

Positive company values have an affirmative impact on engagement, and help boost retention.  When employees can personally identify with the organisation’s values, they are empowered to align with them.  So the corporate values should ideally be ones that will bring people together.  Employees who don’t align with the company culture tend to display poorer work quality, decreased job satisfaction often resulting in higher turnover. Conversely, employees who are a good fit culturally, and share a strong belief in the organisation’s values, are more likely to flourish within the organisation, have greater job satisfaction, increased on the job performance and are less likely to leave. 

6. Purpose and Meaning

Today’s employees are looking for more than just a job and a salary.  They are looking for purpose and meaning in what they do.  Organisations who align their talent strategy with their business strategy and communicate that alignment, are more likely to retain employees.  These employees gain an understanding of how their role contributes to the overall organisational goals. To create a purposeful organisation, start by looking at the organisation’s purpose and align it to your employee’s personal purpose. Discuss the organisation’s purpose, spend time with your team and reflect with them, on the impact the company has on the local community or society at large.  This reflections on the bigger picture can inspire a sense of purpose. Assist employees in finding more personal meaning in their day-to-day work. By helping employees to live their purpose at work, you enable them to feel more fulfilled. When their work is aligned with the company’s own purpose, that sense of fulfilment will bring benefits to the organisation and the employees.  Organisations who implement a corporate social responsibility strategy afford employees the opportunity to engage in initiatives that support activities or organisations, typically in their local community. This is a great way to provide purpose and meaning beyond the organisation they work for. Studies have found a positive relationship between CSR and employee engagement and suggest that employees gain meaning and value from these activities. CSR allows companies to go beyond their formal values statement to actually living the values, which resonates with the employees who engage in the CSR activities. Those organisations who engage in Corporate Social Entrepreneurship, go a step further as they engage in innovative, entrepreneurial projects with not for profit organisations to help them become sustainable organisations in their own right. In these cases employees collaborate to define innovative solutions, products or services to ensure the not for profit can become a self-sustaining entity, resulting in the corporate employees experiencing significant purpose and meaning for their contributions.

In our next blog we’ll take a look at how learning and development is a key enabler to retain talent.

How can Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet Help?

If any of the areas covered in this blog resonate with you, and you would like the opportunity to discuss how we can help you move the dial from resignation to talent retention, please feel free to get in touch with me at carmel.somers@ictskillnet.ie and I will be happy to arrange a time for an informal chat.