10 Proven Ways to Retain Top Talent

In today’s aggressive markets business owners find themselves competing for employees as well as customers. Recruiters and headhunters are relentless, and they are doing everything in their power to lure your top talent away. Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges you will face on a day-to-day basis. Retaining your best and brightest saves you time and money on every level, and benefits your business in countless ways, both short term and long, including:

  • HR and recruitment fees
  • Training and onboarding costs                           
  • Lost productivity
  • Pool of knowledge loss
  • Waning company morale
  • Damage to public image and corporate culture

How do we avoid these enormous time and money wasters? Hiring talented, intelligent, creative, self-motivated employees is the best place to start. Rather than asking what you might do to keep specific valuable talent, entrepreneurs should be focused on creating an environment filled with opportunities for employees to grow and make the most of their talents and abilities.

Workplaces are now composed of individuals from up to five distinct generations, each with its own characteristics, values, and attitudes. Because each group has different needs your organization must implement varied combinations of employee retention strategies. Mentoring and coaching are top priorities for those just joining the workforce, for example. Health and childcare initiatives are primary concerns for young families, and strategic financial planning might strike a chord with those looking at retirement in the next few years. It is important to understand the exceptional members of your workforce if you want to keep them. Find out what motivates your star employees and offer it to them before they look for it elsewhere.

Show your employees that you value them and their contributions. Involve them. It isn’t a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing process that should be continually improving. Take the time to find out what really matters to your prized employees, and provide them with the right tools and opportunities to compel your top talent to remain with your organization for the long haul.

If all your employees have individual needs and goals, how do you retain a stellar multigenerational workforce? Don’t fall into the trap of getting too hung up on age groups. Understanding your people in context can be enlightening, but remember that all your employees are individuals. That being said, let’s talk about some general commonalities and patterns you will likely recognize.

5 Generations Represented by Today’s Workforce:

The Silent/Traditional Generation (born in and before 1945)
Senior employees are among the most loyal. They are highly dedicated and often the first to arrive and the last to leave. They possess a strong commitment to teamwork and collaboration. They generally take the fewest risks and are often resistant to change. Although many have retired, they are returning to the workforce in droves due to various financial and social factors. Extending full medical benefits to employees shifting to part-time status is a great way to retain your most experienced talent.

Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) 
Baby boomers are often thought to value work over their personal life. They are results-oriented sales champions and often thrive in a highly competitive environment. Financial rewards and recognition among their peers are great motivators.

Generation X (born from 1965 to 1975)
Credited with creating the work/life balance concept, this generation is known for enjoying life’s pleasures, while deriving a strong sense of purpose and accomplishment from one's career. They often possess strong traditional technical skills but require continued education regarding technology. They will be among the first to retire without a reliable pension, so you can expect them to seek out employers offering 401K plans and matching contributions.

Generation Y/Millennials (born from 1976 to 1996)
Comprising 35% of today’s labor force, Millennials are now the largest generation in the North American workforce. They are a more collaborative group than any in recent history, and studies show that they require mentoring, coaching, training, and engagement, but they do not want to ‘compete’ for their job on a daily basis. They are notorious for frequent, shorter work histories. Millennials are among the most highly-educated generation of workers; they are resilient and the least resistant to change. They tend to value diversity, inclusion, and charitable works.

Generation Z (born in or after 1997)
This generation includes your most recent college grads and youngest hires. They have their finger on the pulse of technology like no other generation. They are risk takers, dreamers, and visionaries. They tend to enjoy challenges, and are productive individually and as members of a team. Offer them an exciting array of projects to work on, and all the new tools they need to get the job done.

Here are ten relevant strategies to hang on to your most valuable asset–your people:
1. Goals. Lofty aspirations are great, but to be useful, goals must be measurable. Measured KPIs allow you to monitor results while giving your staff ‘room to breathe’ and grow. Set big goals (with realistic expectations) and ensure your managers and employees do too.

2. Trust. Without the authority to act, all the plans and preparation in the world don’t mean a thing. Empower your employees by giving them the authority to act. Cut through the red tape and let your stellar employees do what you hired them to do, even (especially!) when it means taking a step back yourself.

3. Tools. One of the most common complaints of today's workforce is the lack of access to the tools they need. Hardware and technology. Courses and training. Subscriptions and memberships. Be practical and proactive by giving your employees everything they need to excel in their roles. Keep the lines of communication open. Chances are they know exactly what they need.

4. Freedom and Flexibility. Today’s workforce values the freedom to choose when and where they work, as well as what projects they work on. Flexible hours, alternate work schedules, and telecommuting options tend to extend the length of an employee’s service and make them more productive at the same time.

5. Recognition. Recognizing employee contributions is one of the simplest and most effective ways to retain your talent. Tell your staff how much they are valued, privately and publicly. Nothing instills resentment quite like someone taking credit for your work. Give credit where it is due, and ensure your managers do the same.

6. Opportunity. The opportunity for personal and professional growth and development is critical. The definition of success at your company should be highly visible. Hire and retain the best and brightest. It sets a precedent and encourages up-and-coming talent to seek you out. Provide your team with consistent access to developmental opportunities to create an environment that fosters education and learning.

7. Mentorship. Personal development is a high priority for successful individuals. Cross-directional mentorship is especially effective in a multigenerational workplace. Different generations have much to teach each other. Don’t make assumptions about age and experience–everyone has something to offer, and everyone has something to learn. Individualized coaching and mentorship is rare and extremely valuable; employees may stay with your organization longer because of these meaningful relationships.

8. Excellent Leadership. Much like mentorship, employees have a lot to gain from excellent management. Don't drop the ball when it comes to your managers. Encourage them to learn and grow with continued education and support, including courses, conferences, and seminars. Poor leadership is cited as one of the most common reasons employees leave an organization.

9. Effective Onboarding and Training. Your recruitment practices strongly influence your turnover rate. Give applicants a clear and accurate picture of both the role and its responsibilities during the introductory hiring process. Properly represent your corporate culture. Streamline your talent pipeline and keep your talent pool interested and active.

10. Engagement. Studies show that less than a third of employees are fully engaged in their role within the first year. Keeping employees engaged requires open, meaningful communication. Invest time and money in training, technology, and tools to keep your talent at the forefront of your field. An interested employee is an engaged employee.

You invest a great deal of time and money recruiting, vetting, and training top talent.
Work tirelessly to create a culture and environment that encourages them to grow individually, collectively, and generationally in order to retain it. Review and improve your employee retention strategy continually to ensure you’re doing everything in your power to keep your team current, interested, and engaged. Hire self-motivated individuals, set lofty, measurable, achievable goals, then give them the tools and the authority they need to succeed.

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