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Employee Retention: 5 Ways Management Can Protect Their Top Talent

According to a 2017 study conducted by Wow Agency, the average UK digital creative agency loses 17% of its employees on a yearly basis. With the average agency size somewhere between 10-15 employees at present, this would equate to the employment of 2-3 new team members per year.

Retaining top-level talent is one of the fundamental ways for an organisation to maintain high team performance, and high levels of customer satisfaction. But how can line management and organisation stakeholders come together, and feed into a workplace environment that motivates their employees? How do they ensure that their top talent gain a sense of fulfillment from their role?

Here are five key reasons for employee dissatisfaction, and what I think an organisation’s management structure should be doing to combat them:

1) Little, or no personal development opportunities

True professionals are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to grow and evolve their skillset. Your top talent will be hesitant to stick around if they don’t feel like they have the potential to elevate themselves. It is important to remember that not all of your employees will be interested in climbing the career ladder right to the top, some of your top talent may be more concerned with a ‘horizontal’ career path.

What can management do? Many high-potential employees are quite content to remain at the same organisation as long as they are provided with opportunities to progress as an individual. Offer regular training courses for staff that want to add new strings to their bow, and afford them more responsibility within their current role so they can develop as a result. Help them realise their potential.

2) Unsettled at work

Employees may become unsettled due to clashes and rivalries within their teams. Top talent may also feel unsettled as a result of poor communication from senior members of staff. In some instances, employees may feel precarious about the role they have been given.

What can management do? Cultivating the right working conditions for an employee to thrive, and ultimately work to their potential, has to be central. Retaining not only good members of staff, but good people, helps to create a positive office environment for each individual to perform to the best of their ability. Actively get involved with team projects and work to build employee relationships. Recognise which colleagues’ work styles compliment each other and encourage more interaction between these pairings / groups.

3) Lack of strong leadership


Poor leadership can have a disastrous effect on a company’s ability to retain employees. Weak leadership can come in many different forms; bad people skills, unclear communication and micromanaging staff are all negative traits that can lead to the frustration of your talent.

What can management do? Hopefully you’ve found yourself in a management position because you’ve developed the natural skills to succeed in this role. Perhaps you’re still finding your feet, and in this case, it may pay to take a step back and assess the qualities that make a good leader. Remember, a good manager isn’t necessarily a good leader. Leadership is part of the overall management skill set, so it might be a case of working on this side of your profession. While good managers are able to successfully allocate workloads and fight fires for their team, a greater leader will provide them with the skills they need to problem solve for themselves – they inspire their team to move forward in whatever capacity that may be.

4) Lack of motivation and impetus

Plenty of top-performers require consistent motivation to bring out their best work, and it’s the responsibility of leaders to introduce strategies that breed encouragement. Every employee will draw motivation from certain goals, activities or incentives and without them you run the risk of a stagnant working environment. There’s no right way to motivate someone, figure out what works for them.

What can management do? Why not reward performance based on meeting goals rather than KPIs? This is a proven motivator for employees and incentivises a high level of performance, as opposed to rewarding the end achievement. Include your employees in big decisions and have them contribute to the direction the company takes. Not only does this fuel motivation but it can also increase the sense of pride and loyalty that employees have for the company. Remember, what motivates one person can have the reverse effect on another. Many managers, without even comprehending it, can actually contribute to a high turnover rate simply by using the wrong motivation strategies for the wrong people.

5) Failure to recognise good work

An OfficeTeam survey of 915 workers returned with more than half stating they would consider leaving if they felt their work wasn’t appreciated by management. Employees want to see recognition, and this goes beyond the incentives and bonuses mentioned in the previous point. This is about showing your staff that you truly value their input which stems from good communication. As a manager, leaving your high-performers feeling undervalued by failing to acknowledge their high-performance will duly lead to them looking elsewhere for work.

What can management do? Recognition has to be more than a simple bonus structure, and leaders need to understand that regular verbal praise can be just as valuable as an extra sum of money on top of a salary. The regularity is a key point here, go above and beyond the annual review system. Tie your recognition directly to a specific action that the employee has made, so they know exactly what is being praised.

While managers do not have the overall responsibility for the retention of staff, they do play a critical role in cultivating a workplace atmosphere that employees want to be a part of. In order to improve retention rates, especially amongst the high-performing talent in an organisation, company stakeholders must come together with line management to develop means of motivation and recognition that are personable to each member of staff.

In summary:

  • Encourage and praise new ideas from staff members
  • Discourage harmful office politics
  • Create new and exciting personal development opportunities
  • Allow degrees of freedom and responsibility
  • Allow an involvement in key decisions
  • Assess and strengthen your own leadership capabilities
  • Freshen up office routines to avoid stagnancy

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