These days, a big part of the human resources community’s focus is on how to attract, retain, and develop talent. This preoccupation is reflected in the literature: Much research has focused on the topic of what talent wants and needs when it comes to a working environment that enables them to develop and thrive.
What is talent?
Finding a universal definition for talent appears to be challenging. What makes talent talent depends on what is valued by a particular organization. The only crucial factor is that the organization has a common and well-known definition of talent so every employee knows what to aspire to.
However, we can assume that when speaking about talent, we mean those who excel—the crème de la crème of employees.
Why do we focus on talents’ needs?
Our focus is twofold: First, we want our talent to feel and be at their best. Second, we want them to stay and continue working for us. Let’s assume we have attracted some talent that gets things rolling. It makes sense that we are afraid of losing their unique qualities and the consequences of the loss.
The fear of loss has only increased over the last years. One of the reasons is that we lack qualified candidates, especially in tech roles. Thus, the real talent in the market are now more and more conscious of their value and they know that they have the power to choose a role that fits them best. Therefore, whenever they feel that their needs are not being completely satisfied, they simply pack up and leave.
According to a recent Forbes’ article, having employees leave the organization significantly harms its productivity. Additionally, when we speak of actual talent leaving, it is obvious that their unique characteristics and skill sets are leaving with them.
Engagement and turnover
Many organizations report increasing employee turnover rates. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, an employee’s average tenure was 4.2 years. Today, depending on the line of work, it is significantly shorter. Currently in the Silicon Valley, the average job tenure is around 14 months.
If job tenure is that short, we must ask ourselves what it is that employees are looking for if it’s no longer stability.
It is not news that employees today are driven by meaning and purpose at work. While incentives and external rewards can be motivating in the short run, they cannot be the only incentive to continue working for one organization.
As HR professionals, we need to be aware of shortening tenures and act instead of reacting. Smart preplanning can help achieve retention goals.
Making sure no one is indispensable: Succession planning
One useful preparation for leaving talent is succession planning.
Bersin by Deloitte in “The Guide to Succession Management Technology 2015” writes this about succession management:
“As a strategic process, succession management is designed to minimize leadership gaps for critical positions. The main goal is to ensure business continuity through the identification and development of employees—to provide quality leadership in the future. Integral to the business strategy, succession planning is a future-focused activity, often directed at specific roles (such as executive leadership or critical positions on which the business depends) within the organization.”
Thus, with the help of future-focused planning, the organization can quickly anticipate a potential loss and fill the gap with another capable and well-prepared candidate.
A new approach to succession: Workplace mentoring
Workplace mentoring has gained significance in recent years. Among other benefits, successful mentorship programs are correlated with reduced turnover rates, and they offer a way to more easily acquire leadership and managerial skills.
With mentor and mentee belonging to different lines of business, collaboration across departments gets enforced. Therefore, the likelihood to create “functional silos,” or a “silo mentality” decreases. According to the Business Dictionary, silo mentality is a state in which departments within an organization are not willing to share knowledge and learning with other departments.
Thus, mentoring programs can offer a twofold advantage to assist with talent leaving. First, even if leaders resign, they might have been able to pass their unique knowledge on to their mentees. Second, increasing cooperation between departments leads to organizational knowledge being shared. If everyone is well-informed, the mentee can more easily fill in for their leaving colleagues.
Moving forward: Talent acquisition
Another practice to tackle organizational turnover is talent acquisition. As we anticipate our talents to eventually leave, we must be familiar with the best talent acquisition techniques.
Realistic job profiles
Recruitment practices strongly influence turnover. Research shows that presenting applicants with a realistic job profile during the recruitment process has a positive effect on a new hire’s retention. If potential employees know what they are getting into, they can better evaluate if they are a good fit and are able to adapt their expectations accordingly.
Internal hiring and mobility
Another approach worth mentioning is internal hiring and mobility. Mobility to change positions within the organization offers employees the opportunity to grow a substantial skillset. Moreover, job rotation can improve employees’ knowledge of the organization and its business functions. It builds talent that does not simply belong to one manager, but to the whole organization.
Research has shown that offering employees new challenges increases engagement, productivity, and teamwork. Feeling engaged and well-connected at work is likely to decrease the chance that an employee will leave the organization.
As mentioned above, in the Silicon Valley, job tenure has dropped to 14 months. What if we automatically moved an employee to a new position after exactly 14 months? This way, we can make sure the employee stays engaged, and they might stick around a bit longer. In addition, many employees will have the skills needed to perform a certain job. They can smoothly fill in for a leaving talent. Consequently, no talent becomes irreplaceable.
If considering the unique organization, building and advertising an organizational culture of advancement should be a key part of any talent acquisition strategy.
Dealing with resignation
It can be frustrating to see valuable talent resigning and moving on to his or her next challenge. Some bosses might perceive the resignation as a form of personal rejection. HR’s challenge during the departure process is to continue to provide sufficient employee support. Up to this point, talent has significantly contributed to the organization. It is crucial to show appreciation and neither express contempt nor hurt pride. If they are treated well until the very end, the employee might even return.
Summing it up
It seems like today, more than ever, we’re seeing a huge struggle for talent—all organizations are trying to retain their best candidates. To survive in such a competitive environment, one of the most important strategies is to understand that people are your most important asset. Appreciating as well as engaging your employees causes them to feel like a crucial part of the organization. This, in turn, reduces their willingness to move on to a different workplace.
However, even employees who are satisfied and engaged will likely leave at some point. Thus, it is important to be prepared and to act instead of react. Succession planning, as well as internal hiring and mobility, ensure readiness for the inevitable. With the help of these practices, key roles can be filled with ready talent in no time.
For more on insight hiring and employee retention in today’s work environment, see Beyond The Jetsons: What Are The Skills Of The Future?