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Dear Workforce Amid a Recession, Why Should We Worry About Keeping Top Performers?

During the days of the 'war for talent' a few years back, many stressed-out companies boosted pay and bonuses to try to retain top talent. But that strategy is less appealing amid the global recession. We're in the same boat, and wonder: Which retention tools/methods could help us keep our best and brightest employees?
November 2, 2010
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Related Topics: Organizational Culture, Compensation Design and Communication, Corporate Culture, Candidate Sourcing, Retention, Workforce Planning, Dear Workforce, Compensation, Recruitment, Workplace Culture
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Dear Talent War No More:
Let's face it—money is great. Every employer has to get that issue right, more or less. It is the basic exchange of employment: I swap my skills and time in exchange for your money and your benefits (at least that's the deal at the recruitment stage). It is after the new recruit starts the job when money becomes less important compared with other attributes of work.

Are we saying that money doesn't matter? No way! It's a hugely important piece of the recruitment phase. But as a retention tool, money isn't as valuable as other attributes in persuading people to remain part of your workforce and perform at a high level.

Your workforce will have other expectations: flexible hours, challenging work, friendly colleagues, a boss from whom they learn and so on.

It is when those other desirable attributes aren't there that money becomes more important. The employee's sentiment becomes, " 'Well, you'd better pay me more to put up with this."

So put aside your checkbook and look at retention solutions that focus on giving employees more of those positive attributes. Here's a way forward that you might want to try.

First, identify your highest-risk/highest-value people first. Who are they: Salespeople? Your customer service team? Grads? Longer-tenured staff?

Find out what they want more of at work. Use a retention survey across all affected staff, or ask each high-value employee some key questions:

• What's important to you at work right now?
• What would you like the next six months to look like at work?
• As your manager, name one thing I can do more of to support you at work?

Suggest and agree on a plan to engage that person and make managers accountable for delivering on it.

Based on our 10 years of retention surveying, here are some common solutions that might be great for your workforce:

Introduce, widen or republicize the range of learning and development options you provide. Many key employees want continued challenge, variety and learning.
• Help your managers become retention agents by increasing their retention knowledge.
• Make sure your organization delivers on its recruitment promise by asking employees if their jobs align with expectations. We know of experiences in which "family-friendly" organizations schedule meetings for 6 p.m. or on Saturdays. Or 'world-class training organizations' that get too busy to release its staff for training. Do you deliver what you promise to employees?
• Reward your staff for recruiting future workers. Employee referral programs are win/win—they deliver candidates who are more likely to stay than candidates sourced through other means. And they can enable you to financially reward successful referrers, without compromising salary or bonus rules.

Too often, organizations focus on buying their way to retention success. Yet the ultimate aim isn't getting employees to stay, but giving them reasons to want to stay. This is achieved through ensuring that their work expectations are met. You'll be very surprised at the low-cost to no-cost solutions you can achieve through a tailored engagement approach.
SOURCE: Lisa Halloran, Retention Partners, Sydney, Australia
LEARN MORE: According to experts, financial rewards motivate employees only when their tasks are routine.
Workforce Management Online, November 2010 -- Register Now!
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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