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Retaining High-Flyers

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Economic prosperity, as many HR professionals will attest, has its downside. It creates tight labour markets and shifts the balance of power in the employer:employee relationship.

In years gone by it was the employer who dictated the recruitment process. But with the concept of the job for life consigned to the history books, organisations can no longer afford to ignore the demands of the job seeker. Indeed, in the current war for talent it’s often the candidates who hold the cards.

And it’s not just recruitment that’s proving difficult. Retention is becoming a major issue too. The loss of a high performer can have serious business consequences. The costs involved in failing to keep current employees happy can include: lost intellectual property and resources, lost development opportunities, the cost of training and development, and up to 33% of an appointee’s first year salary to use a search and selection firm.

To both attract and retain the right people, companies need to rebrand, to make themselves more exciting and interesting to both new recruits and existing employees.

A recent study by Towers Perrin indicated that people join companies initially for pay, challenging work, work climate and personal development. However, people stay with companies for personal development, challenging work, work climate and pay in that order.

Research by Drake Beam Morin found that people tend to stay in jobs where they feel valued as individuals. Fitting in with the company culture, and being able to balance work and home life mattered more to the people interviewed than the amount of money they received.

To many, this shift from jobs driven by money to careers anchored by a set of values will seem perplexing and frightening. It is not easy for organisations to suddenly become recognised as centres of excellence for training and development, or achieve recognition for having an infrastructure which cultivates and recognises the unique characteristics of individual employees.

However, there are steps all employers can take which will demonstrate that they are in tune with their employees values and needs. The introduction of hiring and orientation practices that promote cultural fit will help ensure that new recruits not only possess the skills that are needed but also demonstrate the attitudes, personality traits, and behaviours that ensure organisational fit and promote commitment.

Ensuring that development programmes align employee interests with company goals sends a strong message that an organisation cares about its staff – viewing them as individuals rather than numbers on a balance sheet.

Finally, employers must recognise the need for compensation plans that help employees balance work and family life. With so many companies willing to match competitors’ financial offerings, the value of money, and indeed share options, as a recruitment and retention tool is diminishing. To be truly effective, packages must combine financial reward with opportunities to promote feelings of achievement, ownership and involvement.


Marie Fimrite is a consultant with Drake Beam Morin, the world’s leading career management consultancy

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