In 2021, the volume of talent leaving the workforce voluntarily to take on opportunities as entrepreneurs or in other fields rose to such a level that it became known as the Great Resignation.
While there is a lot of focus on what talent needs, wants and how to retain them for the long haul, there is not enough discussion around what actions can be taken at the highest levels of the organization to drive talent’s desire to stay on.
Employees view leadership as a key component in organizational stability and understanding the mission of the company and the teams they work on. With everyone from the C-suite to the executive diversity council to investors worried about stabilizing the ship around talent, let’s take a look at some actions that drive retention and engagement across the board.
Accessibility of senior executives and board members is one way to create a more human connection with employees. When people feel they can speak openly and develop relationships with their leaders, they’re more likely to feel heard and invested in. Mentor programs are a great way to do this and help a company’s leadership become directly involved in the development and progression of a person’s career. This initiative is important for both new and current employees.
Identify and Invest in Long Term Talent
Certain employees will stand out. Whether it’s their work ethic, the quality of their work or how they interact with other teams, some talent doesn’t take long to stand out and prove their value to the business. Others may be just as valuable but play roles that are not as obvious in how they benefit the company.
Companies that want to be inclusive and effectively promote high performers invested in the organization’s success will need to develop metrics that help them analyze the impact of different roles and remove bias from the talent management process. Prioritizing equitable pay also makes a big difference as it builds trust in the employer and makes employees feel valued equally.
We talk a lot about the Great Resignation, but more attention is starting to be paid to the critical reskilling that needs to happen as part of the “future of work” movement. Employers need to upskill people to fill roles that will become more prevalent as technology permeates the workplace and continues impacting the evolution of how we work.
Employees want training, too. When people acquire new skills, keep up to date with the latest training in their field and are challenged through education, they tend to feel as though the company is more invested in them. More importantly, they are better positioned to proactively collaborate and prepare for the long-term view of their careers.
While there are fears in some corporate cultures that training actually improves the market value of their people and makes them susceptible to being poached, a study from The International Journal of Human Resources highlights that the overall effect of training remains positive for retention and productivity alike.
Remain Human and Flexible
If the COVID-19 era of work has highlighted anything, it’s that the human piece of the organization has been overlooked. In the last couple of years, organizations have become more aware of their people’s mental health and the importance of psychological safety. People now go out of their way to work for companies that accept their needs and are flexible enough to work with them, whether that’s through flexible work hours, better Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or prioritization of work/life balance.
Many people on the move are going in search of companies where flexibility is prioritized. At this point, you can’t have a conversation about flexibility and taking a human-centric approach to workforce design and workplace experience without analyzing your work from home and regular work hour policies. If you need evidence, look no further than Owl Labs’ annual “State of Remote Work” survey in 2021, in which roughly half of workers in the U.S. said they would take a 5% pay cut to continue working remotely, at least part-time.
Make Clear Succession Plans
One effective way to consciously promote diverse people and set them up for success is to create succession plans and groom people for a role. This strategy also provides more time to consciously prioritize DEI ahead of any potential departures rather than being reactive and moving hastily to promote people who struggle to fill their predecessor’s shoes or hire new people who require a settling-in period.
A separate study from The International Journal of Human Resources concluded that succession planning and employee retention were mutually reinforcing, meaning that ineffective succession planning leads to turnover, thus making any existing succession plan useless.
The training that will go along with the development of employees for future roles also makes them feel engaged, invested in and better prepared for the challenge of the new responsibilities once they take them over. This tactic eases their transition and creates more stability from an operational perspective, helping everyone see leadership’s investment in their teams and work.
Prioritize Wellness and Recognition
COVID-19 has also created an environment where wellness and mental health are top of mind for everyone. The stigma that once existed around talking about mental health has, thankfully, started to disappear. As part of this, companies can improve the way they support employees by building out their wellness offerings and communicating clearly about their EAP programs that help with mental health treatment.
Part of what employees value in their work experience is not only the flexibility and prioritization of their wellbeing but the feeling of being seen. Recognition and reward for hard work go a long way to keeping people on board and feeling satisfied in their work. When someone feels valued, they feel a sense of belonging and the comfort that goes with that. It’s not something people often leave behind.
Evolve Talent Management Practices
Talent management is quickly evolving as we embrace the era of remote work, and it’s something most companies should look to analyze and possibly overhaul in the coming years. Making your talent management practices transparent, inclusive and equitable will drive employee engagement with the process and help people understand their path forward and place in the organization.
Learning how to tie technology into processes to make it simpler, data-driven and available for real-time monitoring of goals improves how employees perceive the promotion process. Examine your resources for talent management and make sure that managers are trained on best practices when it comes to check-ins, feedback and coaching, assessment documentation and goal setting.