2014 will shortly be upon us, along with the time honoured tradition of setting our New Year’s resolutions. Get fitter, lose weight, stop smoking, learn a language, take up an extreme sport – the list of possible goals is endless. Unsurprisingly, one that frequently appears as we reflect on our achievements over the past 12 months is ‘find new job’.
With economists predicting that the recent growth in the economy will continue during 2014, those who have previously sat tight may now look to the New Year as an opportunity to take that step – bolstered by a degree of optimism. For employers this is worrying, especially if those employers have individuals identified as ‘talent’ amongst those looking to leave. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics annual “Quit Rate” report, which tracks the rate at which employees voluntarily leave their employers, quit rates have been steadily increasing since 2009 and look set to continue to increase further with many economies – and subsequently job markets – showing signs of improvement. We’re starting to see similar trends emerging in the UK too.
This leaves an organisation in a potential predicament: how can you encourage those thinking about leaving your organisation to stay? A few things, not revolutionary but founded on good employee engagement strategies, spring to mind here. Firstly, and most importantly, all organisations should already have identified who their top talent is and should have plans in place for developing and retaining them. Unfortunately if a talented team member has made the decision to leave, and already found a new position, then there is little an employer can do to change their mind. That said it is never too late to effect a change, to minimise the exodus of others.
Identify your talent
Employers’ first need to identify who their talent is, both in terms of the now and also those that possess the skills or have the aptitude for learning the skills the organisation will need in the future. There are various ways to do this. Once identified it is far easier to have conversations with employees around their futures in relation to the organisation and more importantly the value the organisation sees in them. This is clearly straightforward advice, however many individuals and organisations still don’t invest enough time or effort in these basic developmental conversations.
Know why people leave
People leave their jobs for a number of reasons. According to Leigh Branham’s The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, 89% of employers believed that the their employees quit because of money – but in reality 88% of employees quit for a different reason. Not feeling valued, insufficient opportunity for personal career growth or development and an ineffective manager were just some of the common reasons given by those surveyed, as part of the research on which the book is based.
Exit interviews provide a wealth of useful information, allowing organisations, business units and managers to make sometimes simple improvements that can have beneficial consequences. For HR, making sure that the business and in particular, managers, have sight of, but more importantly, act upon this information becomes a key business function. In our digitally connected world, it’s also worth having one eye on the net in order to track the ‘online chatter’ that could reference your business. Numerous sites now give employees the opportunity to rank corporate culture, leadership or career options and, whilst caution should be exercised with regard to the content, issues that end up being flagged by multiple users are worth further investigation.
Effective career conversations
Unsurprisingly, the three reasons for leaving a job listed above are all interlinked and form the basis of good talent management and effective line manager career conversations. Having identified its talent, the next step for any organisation should be for them to have honest discussions with the employee about the value the company sees in them and the important role they have to play in its future. This needs line managers who are skilled in holding effective conversations. Good line managers will use these to help individuals to think about and identify opportunities for them to develop, helping them to set evaluate their skills and identify opportunities within the organisation, both now and in the future. These types of conversations should not happen in isolation or simply as a stand-alone aspect of performance management.
Effectively managing talent is a commitment that every organisation should make. It should be an ongoing consideration and one that is embedded in the company’s DNA. Trying to convince someone who has decided to leave to stay can be difficult and there are arguments that suggest even if an employer is successful, for example by simply offering a salary increase without understanding the real underlying issues, it will only be a matter of time before that employee does chose to move on. A better suggestion is to make sure that your organisation is doing everything it can to limit these cases.
Let us not forget that talent management is a two way process; employees have just as an important role to play. Employees have to take responsibility for their own careers. If there are elements of their role that they are unhappy with, or if they feel that their skills are not being utilised to the fullest, then they have to speak up and allow their employer the opportunity to change things. If they don’t, they could find themselves making the same New Year’s resolution again in a few years’ time. Importantly though, it’s the organisations responsibility to provide the framework for this to happen. After all the cost of replacing talent is expensive, and preventing the loss of valuable team members who make a significant contribution to a business should always be a priority for business leaders.