Employee Experience

How to Keep Your Best People

REFFIND’s CEO Rob van Es offers three strategies for minimising the risk of losing the people you can least afford to.

Most leaders know who their best people are… They’re the revenue generators, customer delighters, knowledge holders and goal kickers. They may be the go-to people, the innovators, the team motivators and those who extend themselves well beyond their position description. They are passionate, knowledgeable and outcomes focussed. Often they are invigorated by challenges and have earned a reputation for finding innovative solutions.

The best people are not always the most senior in the organisation, but they go the extra mile. They’re the people that we can’t afford to lose.

Even with higher unemployment rates, competition for the best talent is always fierce, as top performers give the organisations they commit to a genuine edge. Great leadership, culture and work environments are difficult to replicate, so they provide a considerable competitive advantage. You cannot ever afford to become complacent about your retention strategy for these employees. Top talent is a true commodity, a rarefied and extremely valuable resource.

In my own career experience, the ‘best people’ are essential for success… without them, start-ups will never start up and innovation within larger organisations will never be achieved. As a result, I’ve defined three critical strategies that have helped me retain, engage and maximise the return from my best people – and I trust will help you too.

1. Engage your employees

The benefits of an engaged workforce cannot be underestimated; there’s simply no better way to achieve such strong financial returns from as little financial investment.

Gallup’s research, conducted with over 10 million employees and customers worldwide, indicates that organisations which successfully engage their employees can expect to experience a 240% increase, on average, in performance-related business outcomes. Unfortunately, this research also indicates that only around 24% of employees across Australia and New Zealand are actively engaged at work.

Engaged employees rarely seek another position and are often initially resistant to offers by other organisations. Instead, they relentlessly focus their time and effort on achieving organisational objectives that they have personalised as their own goals. They care deeply about delivering outcomes and can be extremely difficult to dislodge from positions, projects and organisations that they feel deeply connected with.

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2. Minimise the triggers for re-evaluation

Customers will continue to buy the same thing or use the same service until something triggers them to re-evaluate their options. But, once a question has been raised (the trigger), they may then consider the available alternatives. In this respect, employees are like customers: both are costly to acquire and the best ones are costly to lose.

Employee engagement acts as your first line of defence, but several factors can introduce doubt, dis-incentivise or trigger re-evaluation. The most common include:

  • Unresolved conflict. Research by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development indicates that almost two thirds of escalating or unresolved workplace conflict leads to absence from work, and 28% of respondents have left a job as a direct result of conflict. The top causes of conflict were identified as clashing egos and interpersonal conflicts (44%) and poor leadership (30%). Other causes of conflict included heavy workloads, bullying and workplace harassment.
  • Inequity or unfairness. Preferential treatment, bullying and harassment or any seemingly unfair treatment of an employee can disengage not only that particular employee, but their team mates and colleagues and, eventually through the grapevine, employees across the entire organisation. Adverse action and unfair dismissal claims are also on the rise across Australia.
  • External influences including advice from friends and family, or active head hunting. Introducing flexible work practices and taking all reasonable steps to ensure that your employment arrangements are a genuine win-win are essential to position the organisation for retention in circumstances beyond the organisation’s control.
  • Poorly managed change processes. This is a leading cause of employee anxiety, resistance, demotivation, disengagement and turnover.
  • Ineffective leadership. Channelling the enthusiasm and focus of engaged employees into opportunities that add real value to the bottom line and provide fulfilment and benefit for the employee, is the art of smart leadership. Done well, this can be a true game changer. According to 2015 research by Gallup, only 10% of the workforce currently has the skills to effectively lead and manage. Smart leaders seek to understand the employee experience and keep their finger on the pulse, connect with the workforce, and encourage ideas and feedback in real time.

3. Refine the Employee Value Proposition

Every component of the employee experience contributes to an employee’s decision to dedicate themselves and identify as a part of your team. While you can never eliminate every trigger for re-evaluation, understand the most likely evaluation criteria that most employees use – AKA, the employee value proposition (EVP) – to ensure your offering is right up there.

Ask yourself whether your EVP delivers:

  • Advancement, promotion and career development opportunities? Lack of promotion or career growth opportunities remains a leading driver of employee turnover.
  • Well-designed roles? Meaningful and appropriately challenging projects, tasks and objectives also strongly correlate with employee turnover.
  • Effective leadership? Despite the abundance of leadership development programs, Gallup finds that, at some point in their working career, 50% of employees will leave a job to get away from their manager.
  • Market-consistent compensation in salary and benefits? Triggers are rarely financial for truly engaged employees, but inequity can be a factor.
  • High involvement work practices? They’re shown to positively influence the workplace experiences which engage and retain employees.
  • Effective recognition activities and rewards?
  • Identification and management of key talent at all levels? Organisations that do this can have greater confidence in retention.

Rather than trying to continually sell employees on your organisation, take an employee-centric approach and focus instead on helping your best people achieve their own goals within your organisation. This should ensure a mutually rewarding and true win-win.