At the peak of the global recession, the job market was a lot like being in a candy store that only sold lollipops. Whether or not people really liked lollipops, it was better than having no candy at all. Job opportunity was scarce, job security was fragile. Just having a job was a blessing.
Employees were even showing higher levels of engagement in their work than before the recession began. That's not exactly surprising since those who didn't stand out from the mould could easily get laid off.
Then, as the job market slowly (emphasis on slowly) began to improve, more job opportunities began to emerge, and the grass started looking a lot greener on the other side. There was choice. Now the candy store was offering chocolates, ice cream and cupcakes! "Screw lollies!" people began to say.
When people feel they have choice among their employment options, those high engagement levels can begin to drop; people feel less committed and satisfied to their current positions. Many of them leave their jobs.
While the recession is by no means behind us, and job security is still just as fragile, employers need to learn how to retain employees. This involves analyzing why employees are leaving and what has to be done or changed internally to keep top talent and valuable employees engaged in their work.
Why Employees Leave
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Many factors can contribute to an employee's decision to leave but three major ones employers should look out for include:
1) Management: Alas, yes it's true managers, people often leave their jobs because of dissatisfaction in their relationship with you.
2) Unpleasant work environment: A hostile work environment or one that lacks proper tools and resources for employees to perform their jobs effectively can push them to leave a company.
3) No advancement opportunities: When employees feel there is no opportunity for career advancement they are more likely to seek out other employment options.
How to Retain & Nurture Top Talent
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While compensation, benefits, and career development opportunities play vital roles in retaining employees, according to research carried out by the Center for Creative Leadership and cited in this Bloomberg Business Week article,
"the greatest predictor of how long talented workers will stick around, is the relationship they have with their immediate boss."
Strong leadership then, should be at the top of any employee retention plan.
With that said, here are best practices to help retain and nurture your top performers:
To Retain Employees You Should...
1) Offer Rewards and Incentives
What kinds of reward & incentives? A blend of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
Financial incentives, flexible work hours, and recognition are all key "reward plans" for retaining your best employees.
A mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are needed to better the chances of retaining your valuable staff. Simply giving employees recognition they're doing a great job can go a long way.
(And most of the time, it means more to them than money.)
2) Give Them the Tools & Resources They Need
By conducting frequent performance appraisals you can get a lot of insight into what employees need to make their jobs and work life better. The more resources they have available to them, the easier it is for them to streamline their work and do their jobs more effectively.
3) Offer Career Development Opportunities
Variety, challenge, and autonomy nurtures engagement. If employees feel they have an opportunity for advancement or even that there are new opportunities and challenges in their current position, it will incite them to stay longer.
To Nurture Employees You Should...
1) Motivate Them
What motivates top talent?
Direction, set goals, incentives, a positive work environment, positive reinforcement and big picture thinking.
Being able to motivate people on both a team and individual level is a soft skill that leaders must hone. It's more than being a good motivational speaker in hard times; it's about keeping morale up at ALL times.
Employee morale is high when employees feel proud about the company they work for and believe their job has meaning and purpose. By giving top performers clear direction, ensuring that their goals are aligned with the organization's, and exercising big picture thinking you can motivate your best talent to reach new heights with the company.
Bottom line: Re-recruit your people every day!
2) Give Them Meaningful Feedback
What is meaningful feedback? It's constructive, on-point and genuine.
According to a new Leadership IQ study referenced in an MSN Business on Main article by Toddi Gutner, 66 percent of employees believe they have too little interaction with their boss. The study also shows that 53 percent of employees say that when their boss does praise excellent performance, the feedback does not provide enough useful information to help them repeat it.
3) Give Feedback Frequently
Frequency of feedback plays a crucial role in the meaningfulness of the feedback given. Feedback that's only given when someone does something wrong or right, well or badly misses the mark when compared to regular, good feedback ( i.e. constructive, on-point and genuine) that is given through every step of the way.
Effective Leadership is Key
Again, leadership is one of the key factors in employee retention and engagement. Employers should focus on how to improve the quality of their management teams' coaching, communicaiton and motivation skills.
For more information on how to nurture top talent, download this white paper from Human Capital Institute.