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Rick Blabolil

Want to Keep Your Top Employees? Train and Reward

Today’s business environment is a good news, bad news story. The good news is that the economy continues to muscle its way to new job creation (adjusted jobs for August was 136,000). The bad news is that 35 percent of surveyed employers report a rise in turnover. Translation: if you aren’t focused on employee retention, you could be losing some good people, especially from the ranks of your top talent.

If you need to be persuaded about the talent crunch, consider these findings from a 2014 global survey by Towers Watson:

  • Nearly half of surveyed employers had an uptick in hiring
  • Two-thirds of respondents had difficulty attracting top talent
  • Retaining high-potential employees was difficult for more than half of all respondents

Attracting and retaining top talent is in your hands. How you do it depends on your organization’s culture and its commitment of time and resources to workforce development. Based on our more than 35 years’ experience collaborating with organizations of all sizes and in various industries, we suggest several effective talent retention strategies:

Champion careers. Your best employees don’t want a job, they want a career. More than 40 percent of employees in the Towers Watson survey said they’d leave their current employer “…in order to advance their careers.” Take the time to map out a career path for all employees, and especially your top talent. Assign high-achieving mentors to high-potential talent. Encourage professional development opportunities outside of the organization. And meet with your rock stars regularly to see if their career in your organization is taking them where they want to go. If it is, “where they go” won’t be out the door.

Train your managers. It’s a truism of workplace turnover that employees don’t leave organizations, they leave their managers. Is your mid-level management team trained to address employee concerns before they become workplace problems? Do they know how to give on-the-spot coaching or acknowledgement of a job well done? Are they fostering a collaborative environment? At the top level, do you have inspirational c-suite leaders who serve as role models or even mentors?

Modify the annual review. The annual review is becoming a relic of the past and it has little, if any, impact on turnover. Instead, consider quarterly face-to-face sit-downs that are real discussions. You might start the conversation by asking what that employee feels they’ve achieved in the past few months. What obstacles have they encountered? How can the organization clear—or minimize—those obstacles? What kind of training or coursework would help them advance their career? What kind of acknowledgement means the most to them? Seeking and acting on your employees’ feedback deepens their engagement with, and commitment to, your organization.

Make rewards matter. Effective rewards and recognition programs are personal. Making rewards personal means offering a variety of rewards that resonates with the widely diverse lifestyle and life-stage needs of your multi-generational workforce. It also means giving recognition in a way that is meaningful to the individual. Some want their achievement broadcast on social. Others value a reward accompanied by a handwritten note. Take the time to find out.

As competition for top performers increases, your organization’s success depends on attracting and retaining its core employee talent. Are you ready to deepen engagement and move your recognition program to the next level? Start a conversation with a Marketing Innovators specialist to explore the many options that can get you there, from spot recognition to a full-blown, scalable program.


Towers Watson, “Balancing Employer and Employee Priorities, Insights from the 2014 Global Workforce and Global Talent Management and Rewards Study,” July 2014.