MANAGING PEOPLE : Staff who stick – Top tips for talent retention

Employees begin to disengage and think about leaving an organisation when one or more of four fundamental human needs are not being met. These are the need for:
•trust;
•hope;
•a sense of worth; and
•feelings of competence.
So says Ian Taylor, director and partner of executive search and selection firm Sheffield New Zealand, whose local anecdotal observations come backed by worldwide research by global talent strategists Development Dimensions International (DDI) and for whom Sheffield holds the New Zealand licence.
In many cases, Taylor believes, these four triggers for disengagement are part and parcel of wider generational issue.
“Gens X and Y need to feel strong alignment between what drives them as individuals and what they value, and what drives the company that they work for.”
Employers, though, need to dump the notion that it’s only the young thrusters who crave more meaningful work experiences.
New Zealanders in general are becoming more aware of wanting to work for organisations of which they can be proud. This slowly firming shift in thinking and behaviour centres around values. “Whether it’s sustainability and environmental issues or whether it’s to do with community responsibility, there’s greater understanding of an organisation’s worth and of the extent to which people will want to align themselves to it,” notes Taylor.
One perceivable outcome is that the due diligence that people do around work now is far more in-depth than it was 10 to 15 years ago. Before signing on the dotted line, candidates are looking carefully at an employment brand, scouring websites, probing for details on what companies are doing in the community, and demanding to know their stances around sustainability and environmental issues.
Workers are, says Taylor, making their decisions on much more holistic basis as opposed to focusing narrowly on job specifications, salary and benefits packages.
While dollars due will always play role in attracting and retaining staff, they are no longer the prime driver. “People need to feel they are fairly rewarded for their work,” notes Taylor, “but reward needs to be carefully balanced around bunch of wider considerations. It is very much package.”
Likewise changing attitudes towards prospects for moving forward once ensconced in role. “People now make decisions much more quickly around trust being broken,” warns Taylor. “All sorts of promises can be made at the time of employment around the development that people can look forward to, their career prospects and training initiatives that will be poured into them. If those aren’t delivered on, people become disillusioned far more quickly and are far less compromising than they were 10-15 years ago.”
As employees vote with their feet, smart companies are cottoning on to the need to follow through on promises made during the recruitment process.
“The asset valuation of their house isn’t the only wealth that people look to accumulate nowadays,” says Taylor. “They look to accumulate intellectual capital and they realise that in talent-short market their intellectual capital is commodity that can be traded quite easily.”
This global talent shortage is compounded locally by the intimate and personal nature of communications here. It’s business environment in which employees manipulate word of mouth to their own advantage, ferreting out information on prospective employers through combination of personal networks, an increasingly powerful internet, and even the Official Information Act.
This rigorous due diligence is matched by increased demands at interview stage. “In the past,” says Taylor, “interviews tended to tip in favour of the organisation. Now we’re talking about market that favours the candidate. Some companies are being forced to reveal more during the recruitment process to satisfy demand for information and knowledge.”
Most specifically, candidates’ questions centre primarily around values, strategy, sustainability, community action and responsibility. Yet while values are important, notes Taylor, people also want to know where the company is going both locally and globally and are making the connection about what it will mean for their own career prospects.
The end result of successful placement, Taylor believes, is productive and mutually dependent two-way street as stakeholder interest ripples throughout the organisation. “There are more and more CEOs who understand that the dynamics of modern leadership centre around clear vision, mission and values formulated in cooperation with the board, other members of the senior team and, to an extent, from consultation with other employees. They also understand that if strategy is derived on cooperative basis then it has to be implemented on cooperative basis as well.”
Which means the great leaders these days are great faciliatators. They’re great motivators of individuals and groups.
People, says Taylor, are looking for team membership because they realise they learn from others. They also recognise that business today is so complex that everyone needs to be working on it and to be highly task focused. “Having no opportunity for input and contribution is not looked upon as positive thing nowadays – and quite rightly. Business now moves so fast that people need to engage on so many more levels now than was the case in the past.”
How much progress have we made over the past 10 to 15 years on identifying and working on these retention drivers? Taylor reckons the drivers are far better understood than they were. “People won’t hang around if you break either one or number of them. There’s always somewhere else to move on to. The consequences of not understanding this are better known and this, to degree, has elevated strategic HR on the board and management agenda because people are more appreciated as making key difference now than was the case in the past.”
Among our nation’s leading businesses, people alignment, development and support have risen to now sit squarely as top priorities. “But if you take business as whole there are still glaring examples of them not being heeded,” says Taylor. “Overall, we’ve become little wiser but we’ve still got some way to go.”



TOP TEN RETENTION DRIVERS

•Opportunity for development, to make difference and succeed
•Feedback and recognition on performance and contribution
•Regular communication, ‘feeling part of things’ or involved
•Leadership that is trusted and provides necessary support
•Work that is meaningful and worth striving for
•Challenging, yet achievable, goals
•Appropriate compensation (market-related and fair)
•Good work-life balance
•Cooperative relationships and teamwork
•Good ‘fit’ with role and organisation including values.

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