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How talent retention acts as a driver for growth

People join companies and leave people, which is why investing in your management team is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

It’s the last minute of a match. The scores are tied, and there are only seconds remaining. Who do you put your money on: the team with one star player, or the team of stars?

Most people would tip the highly skilled team to outperform an individual, and this is especially true when times are toughest. This is not only true in a sporting context, it is also exceedingly true in the business world.

With business conditions and the economy providing little help for many leaders, the companies who are currently flourishing are typically those with a strong management team. While the vision and tactics of the CEO are still vital, for business goals to truly be realised, a strong leadership team is a necessity.

But how, in a hotly contested labour market, can businesses continue to retain their most talented staff? One thing that is clear is that in the current economy, lavish remuneration strategies might not be the most practical, or even effective way, to keep your key staff engaged and loyal to your company. So what are the driving employment considerations in the current climate?

Should I stay or should I go?

Employment studies continue to show that engagement is one of the major factors motivating employees to leave a company. Every year, SEEK commissions the Australian Employee Satisfaction & Motivation Study, with the latest research highlighting that two thirds of all employees admit to looking for a new role. A high percentage of respondents also admitted that feeling underappreciated or not properly involved in a business were key reasons in looking elsewhere for employment.

Interestingly, in times of economic uncertainty where many businesses would expect employees to feel appreciative of keeping their job, many instead feel anxious and underappreciated due to large scale corporate job losses.

While this is a discouraging statistic for any company, it is especially worrisome when those feeling disenfranchised are members of the senior management team. Not only will this have a marked impact on productivity levels, it will also dramatically impact their propensity to leave your company.

Companies looking to thrive in these conditions need to develop ways to keep key staff engaged with all aspects of an organisation. Those companies who have identified high achieving members of staff should consider ways to involve them in areas of strategic business importance. This can be achieved in many different ways, from involving staff in target setting or business review procedures, to assigning projects of direct importance to these employees.

A master at engaging employees, Former CEO of Campbell’s Food Company Douglas Conant, was also skilled at identifying and involving staff who he believed to be the future of the company. Along with sending over 30,000 individual notes to employees throughout his tenure, high achieving employees were also encouraged to take on further responsibilities and provided with specific tasks which directly affected business goals.

Conant realised that employees who are personally invested in achieving broader business goals are usually far more engaged in the workplace, and it’s this engagement which helps keep key employees with companies.

Keep moving forward…

All employees want to progress their career, and employers who overlook this often end up with high turnover rates. This is especially true amongst high performing staff, who often place an increased importance on feeling valued within a company and building their skill set. Everyone wants to move forward – and if there is no clear goal to strive toward, employees will start to look elsewhere.

Career progression however does not have to mean promotion. While there does need to be a plan in place, an increasing number of senior staff recognise the importance of learning and developing new skills. This is good news, as not only does it add to the resumes of employees, but it also makes them more valuable to your company.

For this reason, training and development programs are becoming increasingly important for key senior staff. While these programs were traditionally viewed solely as a means of increasing an employee’s skill set, many successful companies recognise now the effect these programs have on keeping employees engaged and productive.

Engaging your key staff in a development program lets them know the business values their continuous improvement and is willing to invest in their success. Not only does this prove to workers that a company is committed to developing their career, but it also helps build the knowledge base of your most important employees.

In the current business environment, the pace of change is relentless and it’s important for your key staff to be up to speed with the newest technologies and strategies. The senior leadership team is your most important business asset, and exposing them to the latest corporate thinking will, in itself, have a huge impact on your business.

Let the benefits flow

To return to a sporting analogy, a team is only as good as its senior players. This sentiment again holds true in business, where employees gain much of their motivation and education from their direct manager. Ultimately, this means much of what occurs in your business is the result of the senior leadership team.

It’s true that people join companies, but leave people. It is also true that good talent breeds new talent.

Investing in development programs for your key staff not only helps create a positive culture from the top down, but for businesses wanting to run smoothly, it is vital that those reporting to the business leader are invested in first.

This will have the biggest impact in creating the team you want for your company. In these tough and unpredictable economic conditions, it is important that business owners not only cultivate the right team, but find ways to retain them.

Professional development programs can have a significant impact in both developing and holding on to the services of your senior staff. This is especially important in the tough times, as engagement and corporate loyalty can start to wane.

In business, like on the sporting field, your success depends on the team you have around you. When considering how to best improve your business, all leaders should consider investing in the development and retention of senior and key staff, as this will have the greatest impact on the entire team.

Diana Terrones

Diana Terrones

Diana Terrones is head of Sales & Marketing, The Executive Connection, Australia’s largest peer advisory and leadership organisation.

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