2012-04-18

Winning the talent war in turbulent times

Drake Editorial Team

No industry is immune to the influence of economic slowdowns. The pace of change can throw many organizations into knee-jerk reactions. From consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions, to re-engineering profit centers, creating new product lines and calming a variety of stakeholders, managers are faced with turbulent situations.


Responding to such pressures requires both a level head as well as the realization that it’s still true that the business of building a business, whether within a new or old economy, still requires sound management, good marketing, and most importantly, good people.


Jettisoning employees in financial tough times can very well result in losing industrious producers, top talent, long-time workers, and top managers. Such short-sightedness can be costly on many fronts. The cost of recruiting talented workers typically runs 70- 200% of their annual salaries. A loss of sales personnel can hurt a company’s bottom line. Lose front-line customer service people, and the customer might be penalized. A company doesn’t make profits. People do.


And because people DO make the profits, keeping solid employees has never been more critical. Lose the war NOW in talent, have your best folks jump ship to the competition, or cut too far, and you’ll be scrambling for the brainpower necessary when the economy turns around.


How do you win the talent war in times like these? The good news is that “show me the money” is not the primary reason people stay. A recent study of 4000 professional and clerical workers found that job satisfaction keeps more workers than pay levels alone. The survey found that only 6% of people who were satisfied with their jobs but unhappy with their pay plan to quit. The percentage jumps to 27% when they were dissatisfied with their jobs but happy with their pay! If they were unhappy with their pay as well as their job situation, the percentage of those ready to bail jumped to 41%!


The challenge: what makes for satisfaction? What do valued employees want? A two-year study by Dr. Beverly Kaye, author of Love’Em or Lose’Em, said what employees valued most is: career growth, learning and development; exciting work with consistent performance expectations, accountability and challenge; meaningful work (making a contribution), great people, being part of a team, good boss, recognition for a job well done, fun on the job, autonomy over work, work/life balance, and flexibility in areas such as work hours.


It’s easier to put the burden of retention on pay. Pay is easier and quicker. But investing money without investing in the relationship with employees garners little true commitment. Creating a culture for satisfaction takes time, prompts internal analysis, and leaves long-term positive results on the bottom line.


A manager’s style has much to do with retention. This skill set involves informal as well as formal recognition practices, interpersonal skill development between a manager and the employee, sharing power, and self-awareness of behaviours that disenfranchise employees.


An environmental focus for retention means that managers explore practices that encourage information sharing, alignment of values, and the creation of a workplace where laughter and joy are present. Turn a light on your management practices and see if you’re winning the talent war. Retool, retrain and you will retain!


Since 1980, Hall of Fame speaker Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies and individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter. Visit www.eileenmcdargh.com for more information.

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