Retaining Top Talent

I have often said that companies are made up of both products and people.  Too often all the emphasis seems to be on developing products and the people are taken for granted.  Oh, companies do a good job recruiting top talent and even financially rewarding them but retaining talent is often difficult.  Too much emphasis is placed on financial rewards and money is money no matter where it comes from.  It can easily be replaced by another company.  In today’s environment it is critical to put in place non-monetary policies and practices that will continue to attract top talent to the workplace years after they first arrived.

Take a look at this Harvard Business Review blog that discusses this very important issue of retaining top talent.  They talk about three major areas where a company can motivate their talent without paying a penny extra.  The first area has to do with providing flexible work hours and perhaps even allowing work at home as an option.  Recognition is the second area and taking breaks is the third.  Let’s take a look at each of these.

Perhaps the best way to retain talent is to provide as much workplace flexibility as possible.  There are so many creative things that can be done in this regard and the more that is done the tougher it will be for somebody to find a similar situation elsewhere.  Many companies do half-day Fridays especially in the summer and some even enforce it.  With cell phones, computers and e-mail people are in contact with the company something like 18 hours a day so there is no reason that everyone needs to be in the office 60 hours a week.  The advantage of being able to do work rather than commuting is incredible.  If time in the office is required perhaps it could be during off-peak commuting hours such as 10-6 or 7-3, or better yet 10-4!  Flexibility is important, but the key may be how strongly the boss encourages and models the behavior.

Recognition is so easy and yet so rare.  How tough is it to say well done or nice job?  Perhaps the most powerful thing a boss can do is just thank someone for working at the company.  This gives a clear message that the boss recognizes talented people can work anywhere and that they truly appreciate what the employee brings to the company.  This should be as personal as possible as the boss is often the key factor as to whether somebody stays at a company or goes somewhere else.

Finally, breaks need to be encouraged.  Lunch should not be eaten in the office.  People should be encouraged to take walks during the day either outside or just around the building.  Time should be spent sitting around and just talking.  One of the reason people work in offices is so they can network and coordinate work and learnings with others.  This can only be done if people get out of their offices and cubicles.

Talent is so important to the success of a company.  Creativity is needed to help make the work environment, whether that is in the office or at home, as conducive to growth and as productive as possible.  Those companies that differentiate themselves from other companies will attract and keep the best talent.  So much of this is about attitude.  If these things are treated as part of the culture and as proven ways to do better than competitors then they will be huge motivators.  The more this is driven by the top of the organization the more impact it will have.  This is a huge area where leaders can be true leaders.

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