3 Things You Need To Do Now to Retain Your Top Talent

3 Things You Need To Do Now to Retain Your Top Talent

You’re About to Lose Your Star Employee

And you don’t even know it yet

According to a newly released SHRM study, 47% of HR leaders surveyed have cited employee retention and turnover as the biggest workforce management challenge they face in 2018. This can’t come as a surprise. We’ve been in a candidate’s market for a while now. In fact, this is the third year in a row that retention and turnover have occupied the top spot in this same survey. So what can you do to insulate your organization from an ever-shortening average tenure? If I had to boil it all down to a one-word piece of advice, it would be this:


You know what the word means. Recruiting is the courtship phase. In your attempts to woo and hire the best new talent out there, you showcase the very best of everything your organization has to offer. You demonstrate sincere interest in the candidate’s career goals, workplace values, key sources of motivation – and then you point to the many ways your organization is the perfect fit for them. When you make offer, it’s filled with phrases like delighted and excited and looking forward to you joining our team

But far too often, the courtship ends with Day 1 on the job. Before too long, this same, talented individual – whom you worked so hard to recruit – is responding to Inmails from headhunters, referrals from friends and the newer, more appealing courtship promises of the next hiring organization. (And just so we’re clear about what I mean when I say, “before too long,” I’m talking about a matter of a year or two… not a decade.)

Turnover hurts. The loss of top talent hurts more, often derailing the momentum of entire departments. So, before you lose another rockstar and find yourself recruiting “out there,” take a look at the talent pool you’re already lucky enough to have. Recruit them and re-recruit every day, on the job. Here are three high impact re-recruiting strategies you can launch today, no matter where what your current employee attrition numbers say.

1. Upgrade Your Onboarding
Set up a standard onboarding process that includes daily contact, coaching and mentoring from a variety of trusted, high performing peers and managers. Be sure that there is a minimum of weekly face-to-face check-ins between you and the new hire during which you can ask how they’re doing, what they’re working on, and what questions they have. No matter how much technical new hire training may be needed, don’t overlook the need for simple, warm-hearted human support – and deliver that support in way that reinforces the four pillars of high performing teams: Values & Goals, Roles, Processes and Relationships:

Values & Goals: Make sure every employee gets a total immersion in your organization’s core values, mission and performance goals. Don’t assume they know just because they dazzled you with their company knowledge during the interviews. They don’t know from the insider perspective. They need to. Walk through printed materials including, at a minimum, company history, leadership team bios, core values, important HR policies and the company directory. More importantly, schedule team meetings and informal gatherings that where current employees are expected to make the newbie feel welcome – and role model the core values of the team.

Roles: Who’s in charge of what? Who’s available to give direction, feedback, support? Yes, your new hire got the job description and they’re getting paid to do those tasks on that list. But team structures are complex organisms and org charts are notoriously unclear. No new hire automatically sees where the invisible boundaries – and areas of overlap – exist. And because every new hire will enter the team with their own unique strengths and interests, you should anticipate some early confusion, even discomfort. Defining the formal details of roles and expectations is the manager’s job. Welcoming and guiding a new hire is everybody’s job. Assign a rotation of “team Sherpas” from within the department to shadow – or lead – them through the first few weeks on the job.

Processes: How do want to receive project updates? A daily informal email? A weekly spreadsheet? A monthly Powerpoint? How do you provide feedback? How are teams assembled, managed, and evaluated? What are the documentation requirements? How is time away from work requested, reported and compensated? For each key accountability, make sure your new hire is given the heads up on “this is how we do it here.” Be open to new ideas. But don’t make them guess.

Onboarding is more than trotting through the manuals. It’s your first opportunity to re-recruit your new hire by giving them a warm welcome and the tools and information they’ll need to hit the ground running. It’s not an exercise that you can check off your list after the first week on the job. It’s an on-going process that may last for months or even a year. They’re not fully onboard until they feel connected, respected and energized within the company.

2. Maintain Multiple Internal Growth Channels
LinkedIn Talent Solutions just released an insightful new study, titled “Global Recruiting Trends 2018.” It was all fascinating, useful information. But as I read it, one particularly powerful anecdote jumped out at me. It involved the Nielsen organization. According to the study, Nielsen asked their internal People Analytics team to figure out why it was experiencing turnover. Going back five years, they were able to identify key factors that correlated to talent attrition. Here’s what they describe as their biggest finding: employees who had experienced a change in job responsibilities due to promotion or a lateral move were less likely to leave. The finding prompted Nielsen to focus on creating – and better communicating – internal growth opportunities. They also put extra energy toward identifying their high performers who were attrition risks and proactively discussing internal growth opportunities with them. Nielsen reports that, during the first year of this initiative, they saw an 800% increase in what they termed “internal mobility.” What’s more, they achieved a 5-10% increase in annual retention of those identified “at risk” team members.  Since then, Nielsen has been working on replicating the effort across more of the organization.

There’s a lesson here for all of us. Talk to your employees. Individualize career pathing conversations by asking them what they really want to do next – and in the long term – with their career. Then be prepared to listen to – and possibly be surprised by – the answers you hear. If you sincerely want to keep your best talent inside your organization, help them identify and pursue the best opportunities, even if it’s outside your department. And put your money where your mouth is. Offer tuition reimbursement for continuing education – and free up the time and workload expectations to make that education a realistic opportunity.

3. Make Employee Recognition a Way of Life, Not a Program.
In another recent SHRM report, employee recognition was found to be one of the most powerful strategies in improving employee retention. But here’s the thing: they’re not talking about “programs” like Employee of the Month. Neither am I. Instead, they point to how a culture of appreciation increases employee morale, engagement and likelihood of sticking around. In other words, you need to notice when people are trying, what they did to achieve great results, what they did to correct errors – and thank them for all of those things, not just the results themselves. Positive employment culture provides a constant reminder to employees that they are appreciated for promoting the company values – and that they, as individuals, are valued by the company. According to their survey, 68% of HR professionals in organizations with values-based recognition practices saw a positive effect on employee retention. Fully 86% of HR professionals went so far as to say that these practices make their employees “happier.” Isn’t that what we’re trying to achieve, especially among our top performers?

Employee turnover is costing you more than you know. Often, key departures rattle everyone else who stays, creating a ripple effect of nervous job hunting and a decreased sense of employee loyalty. The best way to fight turnover is to stop it before it begins. Talk to your staff. Listen to what they need. And follow the three steps I outlined above to give them the most powerful and compelling reasons to stay.

Paul Beard

Paul Beard