Retain Top Talent

Retaining top talent is difficult.  It is especially difficult in today’s world where there are more jobs than people who are able to take them.  Given the competitive job market how can you keep top talent?

First you have to create a great organization and a compelling vision.  If your company does work that is not very interesting to most and have dispassionate employees then it’s unlikely that anyone is even going to be attracted to your company in the first place.  Alternatively, organizations with great ideas but who are disorganized and have difficult work cultures may get smart people interested but will not be able to keep them for very long.  These cultures may have managers or employees who cannibalize other coworkers for their own benefit.  They may take other’s ideas as their own or hold those that report to them down in a position for their own benefit.  They may promote people who just further their own agenda and are yes people instead of those that challenge the status quo and deliver great results on a consistent basis. Similarly, some managers may be disinterested in what their resources have to say and may even tell this to them directly.  They may talk over coworkers or are dismissive of their ideas and status.  These egocentric leaders care more about what they want then the desires of their employees and consequently smart people leave. When people are unhappy generally they don’t feel like they are part of the decision making process and are excluded. Most often times people just want their voice heard. 

So, we’ve covered destructive organizational cultures that lose employees.  What characteristics do companies that retain their employees for a long period of time have?  They have an employee centric mindset and they help employees grow their skills.  They encourage collaborative thought and teamwork.  They give fair and competitive compensation and reward achievement. In a great organization even entry level employees are empowered to take on issues that they feel passionate about that benefit the company. Instead of being threatened or yelled at when employees make a mistake managers are patient and ask questions to guide back to the correct path. Additionally, great leaders help their team members expand and explore their thoughts into areas that they may not have thought of without the discussion. Employees are treated like partners rather than subordinates. Elevate their status and make them feel part of the team. These soft items don’t necessarily mean dollars and cents, but it can go a long way to keeping a team together. When an employee works for a company with a great culture he or she feels as if in a family rather than a company.  When you work with a company like that it’s easy to wake up in the morning because work is fun rather than something that you feel you are forced to do.

A great employee centric culture is important but if your employees do not have a long term vision of where they will be in your company then another company with a similar culture but a better employee growth strategy will attract them away.  So career planning is important for keeping your top talent. All employees regardless of skill level and experience want to move up quickly in an organization and it’s unsurprising that most employees leave an organization after two years for this reason.  So, it’s beneficial then to start with a long-term vision of where your resource wants to grow then create a mutual plan with incremental steps to get there. It’s almost better if you can show them incremental growth by changing their title and compensation even a little bit to make them feel like they are continuously moving. It would almost be better if you let your employees pick their title. You want them to feel motivated by making a direct correlation between the work that they put in and their career growth. Don’t create disincentives by stifling their growth.  Organizations that have good employee centric cultures may not create the correlation and value nice people over those that get results; an action that is detrimental as it turns hard work into a disincentive. Why would an employee work hard if just being liked by coworkers gets them a promotion?

Finally, the companies that really attract the best talent are working on big problems that impact the world in a major way. Employees who find deep meaning and identity in their work are the most likely to stay at your company.  So, if you’re looking to start an organization and want to attract top talent tackle big problems and take risks. Other smart people will be attracted by your audacious goals and want to help.  

What to do if you find yourself in a bad culture? 

You may be cynical and believe that millennials only want to be paid a ton of money and do no work, but if someone is given the option to earn a lot of money or to be in a great work culture where they feel they are respected and are making an impact you’d be surprised at how many want to do the latter.  

But want can you do to improve a culture when you find yourself in a bad one? First break any habits that you do that are contributing to the negative culture. Once you feel confident that you are not contributing to the problem then seek to understand before being understood. Ask your team members what they are interested and what they like / dislike about the organization. If you’re open minded enough you’ll get the feedback. Don’t make judgements about or equivocate feedback given. Just listen and document the discussion.

Then, see if you find any patterns in the feedback if you can find a systemic issue. Prioritize such issues to resolve. From there break the issue into it’s constituent parts and identify stakeholders to support each. Take action and work iteratively on the change. 

As you progress towards improving the issues then ask for feedback from those that gave you it to assess if it has improved.

Here’s some problems that you may be having: 
Employees don’t feel a strong identity to the organization and consequently are easily pulled away to other companies 
Systems don’t work so admin takes away from productive work and may lead to employees working longer hours than needed
People don’t do what they say they will do so employees figure why bother doing it themselves.
Market gives better compensation options than what they currently get and managers tell them to not worry about it – it just comes.

These are just a handful of examples to work on but are problems that you may have as well. 

This may be more difficult if you are not at a high level of decision making authority or influence but be persistent and manage up where possible. 

Give yourself a due date to resolve such issues and if you are unable to feel satisfactory progress then move onto another organization or even better – form your own! There are many great people and cultures out there – you just have to find the one that works for you. 

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