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Today's Talent Challenge...Engagement!
 Beverly Kaye
 

Is it possible to create a culture, in today’s climate, that engages and retains talent? Can you foster loyalty and commitment in your workplace?

Career Systems International addressed these critical questions with 25 global talent leaders, at their annual Retention Convention. After a day of discussion, debating, benchmarking and brainstorming, this group collectively recognized that the challenge today is not just about retaining talented people, but more importantly, about fully engaging them. It is about capturing their minds and hearts at each stage of their work lives. To be fully engaged requires emotional involvement in the work. This leads to increased productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and greater profits. Engaged employees bring value to organizations and improve the organization’s competitive position. In turn they reap personal rewards from the work they do. Their engagement, commitment and loyalty are a result of being challenged, developed, appreciated, heard and respected.

All agreed that the term employee retention has acquired new meaning or, perhaps, new importance during recent economic turmoil. They saw the disengaged employee as a psychological casualty of talent mismanagement. Employees who leave are the physical casualties. Both drain the organization of the brainpower and commitment that is vital to ensuring productivity and profitability.

So, How to Keep Them?

The findings from Career Systems International’s ongoing Retention Driver Survey supports what the talent leaders themselves have found: there is no real mystery about what keeps good people in their organizations. The key factors include: challenge, exciting work, career growth, development, a good boss, working with great people and, surprisingly at a lower priority, fair pay. The mystery lies in how to apply this knowledge in today’s fast-paced, competitive work environments. It was interesting to note that these retention drivers had not substantially changed between 1998 and 2002, despite drastic U.S. economic and labor market shifts.

Key Findings and Best Practices

Once the current realities were discussed and both engagement and retention defined, these talent leaders shared key findings and best practices, some of which are listed below:

·         Reciprocity is key. Employees are investors in the company and expect a return on investment.

·        Retention must be part of the organization’s DNA. Successful organizations have woven retention and engagement deeply into their structure.

·         Loyalty is never a given. Loyalty must be earned; even satisfied employees sometimes leave.

·         Organizations must be seen as employers of choice. You have to compete on compensation and benefits, but WIN on culture, learning and development.

·         Mergers, downsizing and bankruptcies. require leaders to re-motivate employees, both during and after the crisis.

·         Stars include more than just the top 10% -- or 1%! Stars are people at any level who bring value to the organization.

·         High-potentials must be carefully managed. It’s not uncommon to watch high flyers become willing victims of talent theft.

·         A recovering economy spells choice. As the economy recovers, talented people will be even more in demand and will have greater choices. Talent will become harder to find, and even harder to engage.

·         Each generation has different reasons for staying. For the first time in modern history, there are four generations working side-by-side in most companies. Generational differences continue to pose new challenges to today’s employers.

·        Make diversity an engagement and retention opportunity. One organization chose to weave key Love ‘Em strategies into their diversity initiative.

·         Mentor widely and in both directions. Build learning relationships in all directions and hold all partners responsible for the success.

·         Train intelligently. Provide on-going retention training in manageable bites – make it a continuous effort and find ways to size the retention plan to the specific demographics of the organization.

·         Create a development culture. “Career development is the right thing for the organization (identifying and developing future leaders), the right thing for the employee (creating a development environment), and a key retention component.”

·         Recognize managers who keep employees. Meaningful recognition remains a potent energizer for employees and managers alike.

·         Create the internal headhunter profile. When employers integrate retention efforts into the culture, headhunters have a difficult time prying talent out of the organization.

Conclusion

Today’s leaders must manage the scarce commodity called talent to sustain their competitive edge. Brainpower remains a key differentiator in today’s competitive markets. The organizations with the best talent win. In the midst of a slow economy and a take-no-prisoners stock market, attracting, recruiting, hiring, retaining and engaging top talent can make or break any organization. With a labor shortage expected to hit 10 million workers by 2010, and 43% of our labor force eligible to retire in the next decade, the demand for talent is expected to outweigh supply by 20% through 2005. Talent management remains one of management’s highest priorities.

 

 Beverly Kaye is founder and CEO of Career Systems International, a leader in talent management solutions. She is located in Sherman Oaks, CA.