Retention requires attention

When your organization has a goal, does it create a plan to meet that goal? Business news is full of employees with happy feet — those so tired of the stress from Covid-19 that they are ready to leave their current employers.

Employers that train their managers how to manage their employees and their other resources (budget, tools, software, etc.) tend to be the companies that retain top talent and attract other top talent.

Unfortunately, that leaves the other employers to be the supplier to the prepared company. Scary thought, huh? Particularly if your organization assumes that everyone is happy. They are not — sorry to break the news to you.

How do we plan for retention?

The planning begins at the executive level. Human resources is the administrator and training supplier. The executives must lead the retention program. Why? First, employee retention planning is a critical element of their responsibility. Look at companies that leak employees like sieves. What is the common denominator of most of those organizations? Generally, it is the lack of positive direction provided by the president/CEO.

Retention of employees, particularly the top talented employees, requires thought, planning and training.  So, yes, retention requires the budget to bring the planning to life.

What does the planning include? Most companies have some key employees. Generally, they are the top 10% of performers. Do you want to retain your top performers? How do you plan to retain them — high salary? (nice, but not necessarily enough to keep them) Interesting work? (nice, but other companies offer interesting work) Recognition? (nice, but it needs to be sincere and planned) Great manager? (now we are getting someplace) Unfortunately, without a plan to train managers to be great managers, they will do the best they can. Still, very few will naturally become great managers — and it takes too many years of trial and error to get the results needed now.

Successful companies use all the elements to engage their top talent. I keep hearing the word “equity” when discussing compensation. Unfortunately, equity is not easy to measure outside of sales. Employee retention is based on engagement, reward, a share in decision making, fair compensation, the environment and results.

A few years employed does not equity make.

Top employees do not want to wait for long wait times for decisions. If they are part of the decision-making, they’d better understand the elements that delay decisions. However, if it feels like a bureaucracy to those employees, your business will begin to lose employees who want an entrepreneurial environment.

What are our first steps?

My suggestion is to determine who are your key employees. Then let them know you value them as a top performer in the company.

Ask them how they value that recognition. It may be compensation. It may be vacation time. It may be fair compensation with longer vacations. Every person’s life and desires are different. Great managers learn how to plug into their direct reports’ needs and wishes. When working with software engineers, I found they have different work styles than other employees, such as accountants. They may become so engaged in solving a software problem, they work for 24 straight hours. Did they put their time in? Yes. Do they deserve some comp time? Yes.

Great managers work with their teams. They provide clear direction. They manage expectations up and down the decision tree when there is an anticipated delay. But most importantly, they protect their direct reports when they deserve protection from loose executives.

Now we are full circle

The executives, working with their management team, determine who are the top talent. Then together with the managers, they create a plan to engage the top talent and reward them when deserved. Then create a budget that mirrors their plans.

Is retention of the top talent important in your company? If so, retention requires attention.

Bill Humbert with Provocative Thinking Consulting, Inc. is a speaker, talent attraction consultant, career transition consultant and offers training contracts at