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A Tax Trap for Small professional service companies - BA Review

The trending word within economics around the world today is retention. In this article Ziglinde de Jager focusses attention on the role of leadership in retaining top talent employees.

The retention of top talent is more than just a buzzword in the current economic market – it is a necessity for business strategy and leadership today. Most top employees have spent the past five years going through company restructuring, office re-designs, company plan changes and budget cuts, as companies were trying to keep up with all the worldwide economic changes. The hard truth is that people leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave their companies or jobs. For leaders, the ability to retain their employees has become a skill they really can’t do without. Managers should be proactively making changes within their companies, for the cost of implementing retention strategies is far less than the cost of replacing top performers.

How do companies retain their top talent?

It is easy to try a few tactics like offering employees a competitive benefits package that fits their needs, providing some small perks or using contests and incentives to help keep workers motivated and feeling rewarded, but in the end, the culture differs from business to business, and companies should each have their own strategy. Businesses make the mistake in only performing exit interviews after employees have resigned, when they should turn their focus on instead understanding why employees stay, and build their retention strategies based on this information.

More importantly, senior management shouldn’t assume that they know what is going on in the mind of their top talent employees and should certainly not make choices on their behalf that might actually hinder their development. According to research, one in every four employees intends to leave their employment within the year, one in three admits that they are not putting all his/her effort into the job and one in five believes his/her personal ambitions are quite different from what the company has planned for them. This mostly happens because the top talent employees’ expectations of the company are too high and because they have too many alternatives. These employees also often expect to be treated differently, because they work so much harder than their peers. When the company is struggling – as so many are these days – the top talents will be the first to experience disappointment. If companies remain passive and just assume their top talents are doing fine, and even expect them to “tough it out” in crisis times, they will be shocked to learn that many of the top talents would rather walk away and invest their contributions elsewhere.

In these pressing times, management should actually double up their efforts to keep their top talents engaged in their companies, without sacrificing company values to keep them around.

The following are strategies to help retain top talents:

1 Make your top talent employees feel important

When employees receive recognition and their hard work is rewarded, they feel enabled, empowered and confident in their ability to do their job. This will also create goodwill and loyalty towards the company. It is important that they feel appreciated, respected, worthwhile and that their contributions towards the business are important. Top talent employees will see straight through motives and know the difference between truthful appreciation and platitudes, so recognition should be sincere. The younger crop of employees will especially want regular feedback, and the older ones would want to be acknowledged every once in a while, so by creating a consistent culture of feedback, managers will retain their employees.

2 Care about them – and their passions

Many studies have shown that pay cheques are not the most important reason people go to work. If leadership don’t care about employees on a personal level, they will leave regardless of how much they get paid. There are many ways in which to address this, and many companies are now focussing on training programmes that better evaluate the skills, abilities and gifts of their employees so that hidden talents can be discovered and fostered. Employees will feel cared for by your efforts to help them find their way and allowing them to grow. The passions of employees should be aligned with their corporate pursuits and their time and energy should be focussed on projects they enjoy. Employees should never be placed in boxes, but managers should rather spend some time and effort freeing their top talent from boxes, allowing them to grow and innovate.

3 Give them space and flexibility

Offering employees an environment where they can work from home and having a flexible attitude towards work hours will be an instrumental way of hiring and retaining top talent. Research shows that more than 79% of full-time workers want to work from home at least a portion of the time. The focus should be kept on productivity and what is actually accomplished by the employee, rather than on whether or not they are in the office. Most employees feel valued and respected when they are trusted to work from home, without sacrificing the vision of the company.

4 Give them a voice

Top talent employees always have good thoughts, insights, ideas and observations, but if an employer doesn’t listen, they will quickly disengage and find another company that will. They are built to change, innovate and leave their fingerprints behind. Leadership should create an open and honest work environment where employees can speak up, and never allow chance meetings in hallways to take the place of organised face-to-face discussions. Top talent employees should be informed about what is happening inside the company so that rumours won’t take root. Managers should create a culture where all employees can speak frankly without the fear of repercussion.

5 Acknowledge that leadership styles are changing

Every four seconds another employee is being added to the Baby Boomer exodus as this generation is rapidly retiring. And instead of the next generation taking over leadership roles, these young generation leaders are jumping  through hoops. These ‘millennials’, as they are called, are born entrepreneurs and want to be challenged in their workplace. They also want to challenge the systems of old. Employers can’t use the same management methods, because they need a completely different guidance approach. For example, coaching and mentoring them towards greatness should replace corporate training of the past. There is an overall transition occurring, and according to Nick Petrie from the Centre for Creative Leadership, leadership will no longer reside in one person or role, but will become a collective process that is spread throughout networks of people.

6 Engage their minds and allow them to grow

Employers should not allow employees to feel bored, and should keep their work challenging and interesting to engage their minds. No matter how smart or talented an employee might seem, there is always room for growth, development and continued maturation. Employers should therefore provide opportunities where employees can grow and learn, and also give them the opportunity to learn new job skills. Or, offer tuition reimbursement to help further their education. These learning opportunities are normally the first to go when budgets are cut, but when looking at the current state of motivation within employees, it should be vital to keep implementing and encouraging development.

7 Let them feel safe within the company

It is important that management creates an environment where employees feel  they are an asset and not an overhead. If they feel secure in their job, and their managers acknowledge who they are and what they bring into the company, they will stay because of loyalty.

Managers should also deliberately clarify the expectations and goals of the company, especially when it comes to career development and earning potential, so that employees know what is going on and feel secure about their future within the company. If employees are not sure what their managers need from them, they can’t perform up to standard, and eventually their morale will go down.

8 Lead them well

In most cases employees leave, not because of the business, the product, the project or the team, but because of the leader who was unable to lead them well. The way people lead may differ, but most of business life consists of promises and commitments, and if leaders can’t keep their promises, they will break and lose the trust of the ones they were meant to lead. Managers should be involved in not only managing their employees and showing them how to do their work, but also in coaching them. Retention strategies might cost time and temporary loss of production, but the gain will far exceed the loss – every single time.

The bottom line is still that time spent on retention strategies won’t be necessary if enough time was spent on understanding employees, investing in their passions, caring for them and leading them well. If these things are done well at the outset, retention of top talent employees within a company will happen organically.