The Battle of Retaining Talents

Today’s workplace is a fast-paced and challenging environment. Global competition and rapidly changing technology have resulted in new skill requirements and more complex jobs with fewer qualified people to fill them. Faced with a shrinking talent pool and more “me-focused” employees, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to attract, motivate, and retain top talent. Losing high performers and highly talented individuals is extremely painful and usually comes at high costs to the company.

 The Traditional Talent Management Model

Companies are running 21st-century businesses with 20th-century workplace practices and programs. In the old model of retaining talent, companies often see human labour as mere resources. They are a means to improving a company’s productivity and financial growth. When faced with employees leaving, companies set all out to increase the pay and outbid the competing company (if any). There is a general reluctance in companies to provide more than just the basic benefits: leave, medical and insurance. This model, which is so pervasive it is almost unseen, is grounded in 20th-century assumptions about people and the workplace. It hasn’t adapted to shifting attitudes among employees (who are more educated and individualistic), to increased choices of work environments, or to the new priorities of global corporations. It needs to be changed, and the needed reform will come about only through deliberate changes in policies and practices.

So does money matter…or not?

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At first glance, money continues to matter in the workplace, with more than half of exiting employees citing better pay and benefits as their reasons for moving on. However, in many circumstances, these very same employees decided to leave because they did not like the people, the boss, or the environment they are in. In reality, only 12% actually depart because of money matters as their top reason. It seemed that money is no longer a deciding factor in employees’ decision to stay or leave a company.

Employees seek for a foothold in the company, growth and career opportunities, and most importantly, being valued and heard in a company. Perks become symbolic representations of how one’s company values its people. Benefits constantly remind people why they are important and why they matter to the firm. When people feel valued at the company, work quality, engagement and loyalty soar. Being happy at work is essential for many employees as emotions come into play. After all, happy workers = happy customers is an equation we are more than familiar with.

In 2013, The Great Place to Work Institute named analytics software giant SAS as the world’s best multinational workplace. SAS had 37 consecutive years of record earnings—$2.8 billion in 2012, irrefutable proof that even with a employee-centric workplace, a happy company will result. Not only does SAS value people above all else, it has a generous system of perks and benefits that motivates employees. They also made workforce happiness one of their primary missions by focusing on feelings and emotions. Their annual turnover of 2-3% reflects their ability to retain top-notched staff , compared to an industry average of 22%. This is extraordinary considering the highly competitive information technology sector, where companies often see talents being recruited by fellow competitors.

Then what are the best practices?

It’s important for organizations to be nimble and flexible in designing and delivering their  retention and engagement strategies. Using educational benefits, flextime and other perks at work can help employees reach personal and career goals. The idea of trust is imperative between managers and employees. Trust can be conveyed by giving more autonomy to the workers, allowing them to take charge of projects or meetings and also to make important decisions. When employees feel a sense of control over their work, they have a sense of purpose. This is reflected in the recent Taj Mahal case we have read, where 70-80% of the employees communicate with the guests unsupervised, wielding autonomy in everyday work.

Organizations and their leaders should have a clear understanding of what truly motivates and energizes employees in their work, and why and how that affects their productivity and behavior on the job. In such an environment, you can see and feel the pulse of activity — the intense discussions, lively meeting conferences, groups working a project plan. There’s stress, but it’s often what we call positive stress because it’s intellectually and emotionally rewarding and exciting. And organizations are beginning to understand that. In January 2014, Cisco launched an innovative recognition program enterprise-wide called Connected Recognition. This program provides a fast, easy, and fun way for employees to recognize coworkers for exhibiting Cisco’s values, clearly an interesting manner to motivate people.

One should take caution in replicating these practices and examples as the idea of best practices is unique to each industry and company, and should be at most taken as guidelines. It is impossible to replicate the success in its entirety, but you can definitely achieve the same level of quality in retaining top talents in time to come.

One thought on “The Battle of Retaining Talents

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