Companies Walk a Tightrope in Talent Retention

Julie Shenkman
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Every human resources department carries out a regular balancing act of hiring and retaining the best employees while moving low performers out of the company. This tightrope act starts by knowing the difference between the two types of workers. Comprehensive talent management includes programs for recognizing the best employees with talent retention and development strategies – and weeding out the worst.

The best talent retention policies reward great employees while encouraging others to improve. High performance bonuses for top performers need to be balanced by appropriate bonuses for workers who demonstrate regular improvement. If only the best and brightest are rewarded, average workers have no incentive to do their best.

Although every employee appreciates raises and bonuses, some top talent is looking for more from their jobs. Interesting opportunities, skill development and the chance to be a part of important projects should be included as part of any talent retention plan. Let your best employees know where they can go, and encourage them to set their sights high. Watch for special aptitudes, and put them to use. Everyone likes to be recognized for their skills and talents, and confident, competent employees tend to stay for the long term.

An increase in company perks is another way to recognize and reward your best and brightest. Although there is still value in traditional perks, such as the corner office or the best parking place, modern perks run the gamut from conferences in exotic locales to the latest smartphone technology. Formal recognition of top performers is another option for increasing talent retention. Consider a quarterly ceremony where top performers receive plaques, or a yearly dinner for the best and their spouses.

On the other side, it is equally important to manage employee turnover. Before writing off low-performing workers, offer retraining options to try to improve their output. Have your high producers mentor your low producers for the benefit of both groups as a part of the talent retention process. Pay attention to the areas in which low performers are successful, and if necessary, try to find new positions or departments that are a better fit. Hiring a new employee is usually more expensive that providing a less productive employee with the training and tools necessary for him to do an adequate job. Write up a time-sensitive improvement plan to provide regular feedback, and consider termination a last option.

Occasionally, you do need to let an employee go. Always handle terminations with professionalism. Let the employee know you care, even if the relationship did not work out. Provide the employee with information about continuing benefits, local employment counseling services, job training programs and small business development organizations. Listen to his concerns, and carry out an exit interview immediately. Remember that you are representing your company, and make sure the former employee remembers you as caring and concerned.

The talent management tightrope requires a balance between rewarding top performers, providing incentives for more ordinary workers and retraining the lowest performers to meet expectations. Termination occurs only after retraining and mentoring programs fail and when there are no other positions in line with the workers aptitudes and skills. Talent retention is an art worth learning to keep your workforce happy and growing.


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