The retention myth

    Sometimes in a turbulent economy, the myth abounds that there’s no need to worry about attrition. It’s assumed that concerns about the economy will keep employees safely in their seats.

    But just this past week, I read about companies that are hiring, and I know first-hand people who have recently changed companies. Regardless of external forces, top talent – the individuals you can least afford to lose – will always have choices.

    It’s important to avoid a false sense of “economic security.” As leaders, as human resources professionals and as managers, we need to step up our game to engage the talent that is critical to achieving our business goals, now more than ever.

    Companies focused on growth will always be trolling for those employees who bring something special, whether that’s subject matter expertise, strategic acumen or leadership vision.

    And while individuals change jobs for lots of reasons, of key consideration at this time is the desire for new challenges, and a lack of confidence in or knowledge about where a company is headed.


    Am I just treading water?

    One reason your top performers or future stars are at that level is their constant desire to learn, to grow and to achieve. Even if your situation dictates that the company proceed cautiously, you can’t slow down the engagement process. Are there larger projects, questions, or benchmarks that employees could be exploring? Is there cross-training or other learning opportunities that could occur? Lean projects that could be undertaken? It may be helpful to develop or pull out that “evergreen list” of projects or issues that have been deemed important, but are often passed over in the midst of breakneck production levels.


    Am I on a sinking ship?

    Everyone wants to be on a winning team. Communication and transparency are key to retention. Promises of “trust us” and general corporate cheerleading may last for a while if you’ve developed a track record of solid partnership with employees. But when the uncertainty and low-level anxiety become tangible, especially if it’s coming from your leaders, people get nervous. Communicate often and honestly, and relay what the corporate plan is – even if it contains a lot of variables. You may even wish to harness the intellectual horsepower of your top talent in helping you address key issues, thus reinforcing their criticality in the company. You want to show these and all your employees that your company is focused on the future and headed in the right direction. In a vacuum, employees will create their own stories.

    We count on the insights, innovation and drive of our corporate stars. Don’t assume that past projects and opportunities, coupled with economic uncertainty, will be enough to keep them on your team.

    Pay particular attention to keeping this key group engaged, and show them that they have a place in the ongoing success of your company. Your top performers will always have options. Ensure that your company is the option they select.

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