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Retaining Talent In A Challenging Economy


In my last blog I described how not to retain talent in a low unemployment environment. To review:

  • Don’t rely on salary and cash bonuses as a way to keep the competition from taking your talent
  • Stock options and restricted stock don’t always provide the golden handcuff you’re seeking
  • Playing the guilt card with demands of loyalty to the firm is a futile exercise, and
  • Making it difficult to leave with restrictive employment contracts is just a waste of paper

Yet this past week we saw Twitter try to staunch its talent outflow by using cash bonuses and stock awards. Time will tell if this will cure what ails Twitter, but in this highly competitive market
for capable employees, employers need to consider fresh ways to motivate and retain their best performers. Truly accomplished staff is hard to find and even harder to keep.

Flexibility is key.
Consider the changing demographics of your staff.

Two income families are the norm.Many don’t own cars.

A personal hobby or cause is an important day-time aspect of their lives.

These workers aren’t lazy millennials who flexibilitylack focus. Indeed, they may be your top growers. And a little bit of flexibility may go a long way in keeping them. Flex hours, telecommuting and adaptable personal time off policies are all low-cost ways to retain talent. Rather than expense, the issue with these benefits is management‘s supposed loss of control. Yahoo reportedly yanked telecommuting privileges from many employees not because it was costly. Rather, they found these unmotivated individuals weren’t signing on and working remotely. That’s a management issue.

Sometimes the flexibility challenges aren’t obvious. For example gender. There is a concern that young women are burning out. A recent McKinsey study shows that over half of corporate entry-level jobs are held by women, but they only hold a little over one third of mid-management positions. While a portion of this difference may be accounted for by a desire to leave the workplace to have children, the rest is suspected to be a result of high expectations. Employers should demand a lot from their talent, but sensitivity to gender differences may help retain the keepers. There are ways to motivate other than creating a dog-eat-dog macho workplace environment. Collaboration rather than competition; praise rather than punishment.

Leverage what you have. A potentially low-cost, high return retention idea is to design benefits that reflect the competencies and aspirations of the company. Look for perks that fit what the firm offers. So, an actuarial services company offers free retirement income assessments for its key staff. A health services company provides employees with walking work stations (treadmills tied to desks). An energy bar company has a climbing wall near its product development facilities. In many cases, these benefits not only align with company values, but also offer n inexpensive way to leverage services and skill sets the company already has.

retainingMarket what you have The hidden paycheck is one of your most powerful stories as an employer. Do your employees really understand the costs you incur for their benefits, be they the employer’s contribution to FICA, facilities offered at the workplace, parking? With key talent in particular, crow about what you’re doing for them. It may be worth it to spend money for materials and seminars to promote what you already provide. Consider the fate of the defined benefit pension plan. How much of its decline in popularity with employers was due to the fact that employees didn’t understand, and therefore didn’t appreciate, this costly benefit?

Essentials versus entitlements Remember in the movie ?Christmas Vacation?, where Clark had mentally spent his Christmas bonus on a swimming pool, only be surprised with a ?Jelly of the Month Club? membership? The Christmas bonus had obviously become an entitlement, not an incentive. Management had let complacency take root.

Don’t treat key benefits as an option (?nice to have?) or a given (?I deserve it?), but as an essential (?I need/want it?). The progress toward an annual bonus should be a measured and publicized process, and the payment of the bonus should be an event. Otherwise, save the money for something that is actually appreciated by employees. Even the mere granting of jeans days can be a motivator. For some companies, the wearing of jeans during a particular week is not just a treat for staff; it is a reward for hard work and accomplishment.

Provide enough perks, promote enough benefits, and soon employees will see these incentives as essentials. They become so core to the work experience that the employee can’t imagine leaving them behind for a new employer.

Fresh solutions are needed to reward and
retain talent. In this economy where employers are fighting to retain
gifted staff, have you really considered how you’re going to keep your keepers?



He uses his experience to help save business owners a headache or two.