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Retaining your top talent in 2015

Alison Coleman

Alison Coleman on why and how managers can retain their talented team members in 2015

An upbeat recruitment market, fuelled by economic recovery and job creation, is boosting confidence levels among employees looking for fresh career opportunities. New research from the Institute of Leadership and Management has found that 37% of people plan to changes jobs in 2015.

As a result, retaining skilled and experienced employees will be a top priority for organisations. Not surprisingly, many are investing more money in talent retention. The question is could they achieve better outcomes by investing more leadership time?

It is an area where leaders have been lacking, says Kate Russell, managing director of Russell HR Consulting. She says: “While companies are meeting the needs of their employees in terms of on-the-job workplace development, where they fall down is in the provision of formal development, such as training, mentoring and coaching. There are all sorts of reasons for this; we are all so busy that we don’t find the time, some talent exercises are carried out but not acted upon…it’s just not good enough.” 

Simply hiring a talent manager, which some organisations do, may not be a solution, as it effectively compartmentalises the role. Real engagement, that underpins retention, is driven by interaction with the most senior levels of the organisation, says Tim Taylor, director of leadership development firm Making Great Leaders. Yet, he feels that many leaders still undervalue the impact of listening and sharing ideas with their blossoming talent, and empowering them to share their own opinions and ideas about the business.

He says: “If these are the future business leaders of their company then rather than seeing this as a task, the leader should view the giving of their time as a crucial investment. It might mean spending a day with their 'rising talent' on the shop floor, or attending pitches with them. Whatever it takes. No training can solve this. The time spent on the bonding between senior executives and the rising talent will make a significant impact on retention.”

Time-poor leaders and managers do need to have systems in place in order to play an effective role in talent management and retention. At Russell HR, for example, there is a development plan for each member of the team which is structured to allow for detailed technical learning as well as informal weekly tool box talks, lunchtime learning, and a variety of experiential on and off job learning. “The bar rises with each achievement and the mix of formal and informal development keeps the team keen,” says Russell. 

Staff incentives can be effective retention tools. However, leadership time given as a reward can be a more valuable investment than the money spent on traditional monetary or gift related rewards.

That has certainly been the case for recruitment firm Your World Healthcare, which recently changed its employee rewards strategy. Director Greg Wood said: “In our month-end awards, the nominated employee received vouchers. Now they are taken out for lunch by our managing director, who is able to mentor, support and build up the personal relationship. We believe that an hour spent with the business leader is far more valuable than a £100 gift voucher."

Nevertheless, most leaders will maintain that time is their scarcest resource, and that they simply don’t have enough of it to devote to developing talent. However, Simon Cooper, partner at The Chemistry Group, argues that if they are sincere in valuing their people as their most important asset, then that is where their time should be spent. He says: “We recently worked with a leading insurer and discovered that their leaders and managers spent only 4% of their time on their people. In fact, that is very common among the organisations we work with. The reason, according to managers, is not enough time.

“We helped them firstly to believe that there is enough time. If you start every day by deciding to spend more time on talent, measuring how you spend your time and constantly being asked by your boss and peers if you spent enough time on it; believe me, you will. After six months, managers were spending over 26% of their time on selecting, developing and supporting their people.”

The effect on the workforce was profound; 88% of employees reported seeing a significant shift in the leadership style of their manager, which ultimately turned into an impact on their customers, with the Net Promoter Score, a measure of customer loyalty, increasing by 30%. “If you believe that people are your organisation's most important asset, then act like it," adds Cooper.

Kate Russell added: “If you have found it hard to recruit and retain good people – and I’d be very surprised if you haven’t – it’s essential to take the personal time to manage and develop your talent. It should be your number one workplace New Year’s resolution."




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