08 Feb 2018


To stay in an organisation, a person needs to feel that their contribution is noticed and valued. There are various things a leader can do to help, and not all of them are based around incentives, financial or otherwise.


Create an environment in which each person feels like a genuine asset, rather than a nobody, a necessity or, worse, an overhead. Simple things such as leaders knowing and using people’s names can make a difference to how staff feel. Ask for their opinions, show that you are taking those views on board, and communicate individuals’ roles and contributions to the rest of the team clearly and often.


Enabling your staff to learn and develop, and letting them know what career development opportunities are available to them, is key to retaining staff, especially those in the younger generations. Julian Wragg, Pluralsight, points to research by Deloitte that shows professional training is often the primary motivator for choosing an employer. “Millennials have been a big driver of attitude change towards talent retention since they entered the workforce,” he says. “Perhaps unlike previous generations, they recognise continual development as integral to job satisfaction.”


The impact that any act of recognition or reward has depends on how personalised it feels. Make sure you praise a specific project or achievement rather than making a blanket statement, like ‘good work’. Remember also that what motivates and engages one person won’t necessarily work for another. “Retaining your top talent is about understanding what makes them tick,” says Sandy Middleton, senior HR manager of Racepoint Global. “Companies need a wide-ranging suite of benefits and perks, but also need to encourage line managers to get to know the individuals in their teams, and then enable those managers to reward them in a unique way.”


People are more likely to feel satisfied and settled in a job if they feel in control of their own progress and performance. Leaders therefore need to foster ownership and accountability in their teams, encouraging individuals to set their own goals and standards, seeking their input on any rules or changes that might affect them and empowering them to make their own choices as often as possible.


If you have recruited well, all of your staff will be keen to impress you with their abilities and to exceed expectations. Frustrations can mount, though, when those expectations are not clear or when people aren’t sure if their performance is up to scratch or in line with their colleagues’ work. Leaders should be crystal clear about each individual’s responsibilities before they are hired and hold conversations around expectations, personal and team goals, and standards from the outset.


A common reason for someone moving on to pastures new is that the job they accepted was not the same as the one they ended up doing. Rebekah Wallis, Ricoh UK, says, “A recent survey from Business in the Community and the City and Guilds Group has found that 66 per cent of young workers (aged 16 to 24) don’t understand the role they are applying for. It’s important that firms focus on making job descriptions as clear and transparent as possible to manage expectations and position themselves to attract the right candidates for the right roles.”


Two-way communication, involving great listening on behalf of managers, is a great way to demonstrate that team members are valued and that their opinions count. Give feedback on specific projects or progress, invite and listen to their work-related concerns, be open to new ideas and suggestions and make yourself as available as possible. If you can create a culture of honesty, trust and open, clear communication, your top talent are unlikely to want to be anywhere else.


Willis Towers Watson’s Global Talent Management and Rewards Study found that helping employees manage stress is one of the top five ways to strengthen a retention programme. According to the study, employers that invest in supporting employee health and confidence in their financial wellbeing achieve a substantial return for stakeholders. In fact, the ROI tied to employee productivity, talent management and public image can be between two and four times higher for these organisations.


Reduced staff turnover is just one of the benefits that organisations are realising by offering greater flexibility to their staff. Warwick Business School’s Dr Shainaz Firfiray explains, “Flexible working is more than just working from home. It’s about working from wherever one needs to be, making the best use of technology. Research has shown that flexible workers are not necessarily less productive than conventional office-based workers. Instead, flexibility drives greater engagement among employees by allowing them to work in an environment that is best suited to their personal working styles.”


Employees value organisations that embrace diversity and make the most of the benefits that it offers and will eschew those that don’t. If you want your talented team members to remain, it’s important to actively promote diversity throughout your organisation and be seen to offer equal opportunities to contribute, develop and advance to everyone in your team.