Attracting and keeping hold of your best talent has long been a top-level priority. But it likely slipped down the list in recent times as HR and talent leaders focussed on ensuring business continuity, worker productivity, and, of course, switching to remote work set-ups. It must now get back on the agenda. Because ignoring your retention now will have long-term ramifications for your organisation’s competitiveness and market position for years to come.
Before recent events, in January 2020, CEOs felt that retaining talent was their biggest concern. Given that 54% of workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs, this should come as little surprise. Especially because amongst 16-24 year olds, this percentage rises to 66%. The workers who could offer the greatest (and longest) career potential to your organisation, are the ones most likely to leave.
The cost of poor retention
Poor retention will cost your organisation a lot of wasted time, productivity, resources, and money. 65% of employers report turnover costs of between $10,000 - $30,000 per lost employee. Plus, at some point, you’ll have to re-hire someone to fulfil the role, often at a higher cost than retaining your original employee.
Yet, this has largely been forgotten in recent times as many organisations switched into survival mode. Often turning to a knee-jerk response of furloughing or making layoffs. GoAir, for instance, furloughed 90% of its workforce. Few industries have continued to hire, and both employers and people are nervous. So it’s a prime time to refresh your retention strategy and reassure employees that their careers (if not their roles) are secure at your organisation.
Becoming a stand-out employer
Job security has, for the first time in a decade, become a driving factor for candidates on the market. By offering almost guaranteed long employment, through future proofing an employee’s skills and career, employers can stand-out among recruits and attract the best talent. Plus, companies that treat their employees well during this time (by retaining them in some capacity) will be highlighted as a good, ethical employer.
Retaining, ready to pivot
Of course, people do understand that sometimes a company will have to make tough decisions to ensure survival. We’ve gotten through a few of these already, but more are on the horizon with recession and further market and political volatility. Although furlough and lay-offs may be unavoidable in some circumstances, they must be the last choice after all other avenues have been tried. In times of crisis, it’s your people and their unique skills that will help your organisation pivot and respond. You cannot effectively do this in later stages if you’ve already let your people go.
How to retain your talent
With all of this in mind, how can you retain your talent effectively in the current circumstances?
There are several tactics you can try:
Redeploy to in-demand areas
When a business area suddenly sees demand drop, or where an employee cannot fulfil their role because of legislation or public health restrictions, you can redeploy people into new, in-demand roles. Someone who used to work front-of-house in a retail location could, for example, be moved into packing e-commerce orders in a warehouse or answering inquiries in a contact center. Then, once the short-term need is reduced, they can move back into their original role.
This has an added benefit in building greater agility and cross-skilling in your workforce. Those front-of-house employees will gain a greater understanding of warehouses and contact centers, and develop transferable skills and knowledge that may help you adapt in the future.
However, to do this well, you must make deployment opportunities visible to your employees, based on their skills, experience, goals and interests. The biggest barrier to effective redeployment is the visibility of opportunities and matching employees to relevant roles.
Another option, if in-demand roles aren’t available, is to encourage your people to upskill. To use the time they otherwise would’ve been working to learn new skills and hone existing ones.
Make the most of your existing talent
This will be a major differentiator in the coming months as productivity and output must increase again. Due to uncertainty, many employers implemented hiring freezes which means they must achieve more with the existing talent and skills they have. Bengaluru-based food brand, iD Fresh Food, for example, is focusing on upskilling its existing talent to meet demand. As PC Musthafa, co-founder and CEO of iD Fresh explains, “The last two months have taught us valuable lessons in doing more with less.”
Although many leaders may see the immediate future as the highest priority, you should also prepare for longer term trends. Especially ones like digital transformation that have been accelerated because of the global shutdown. “It’s not enough to simply fill roles for today, it’s about attracting, retaining and engaging the right talent who will tackle workforce challenges for the next five to ten years,” advises Abdul Uddin, business lead, infrastructure and manufacturing, at Hay Group.
Making sure that everyone is used to their full potential will have a knock-on positive impact on retention. Wasting an employee’s skills, failing to understand their talents, and placing them in the wrong roles are some of the top drivers of attrition.
Be clear about goals, progression, and challenges
People value transparency, both when it comes to operations and how the business is handling a crisis, as well as their roles and career continuity. If someone must be furloughed or seconded for a short time, have clear indicators of what must happen for them to resume their original role. This might be a specific level of new business, or for certain public health restrictions to be lifted.
Moving forward, it’s worth having open dialogue about what an employee wants to achieve from their time with your company, what your organisation needs from them, and how you can help each other succeed. Employees want to feel part of the bigger plan. There’s a direct correlation between regular company-wide communication of the business strategy and goals, and job satisfaction.
Remember the value of your people
As the saying goes, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” and, as you face the challenges on the horizon, you will need the strength of your workforce behind you. Retaining and supporting your employees now, will build greater resilience in the long-term. We don’t know what lies ahead, and that makes retention all the more vital. It is your people’s skills, experience, and hard work that will drive your business forward and respond rapidly to what comes next.