How to Retain Key Talent When Turnover Rates Are High

Some employee contributions and institutional knowledge are nearly irreplaceable. Oftentimes a need to retain key talent can become obvious.

Team leaders bear a lot of responsibility, and when resignations are on the rise, the stakes are even higher. While teams are made up of many dynamic individuals, some employees’ contributions and institutional knowledge are nearly irreplaceable. The need to retain key talent can become obvious.

The risk of losing key talent is more than just a knowledge and productivity loss — their departure can also slash morale. When a high performer leaves, it may as well be a bat signal for others to pursue other opportunities, too.

Professionals have job search tools at their fingertips like never before and access to unfiltered employee ratings and reviews. In just a few clicks, they can set an alert for their dream job or indicate a willingness to chat with recruiters. Plus, with remote work becoming more common, your office superstar could soon shine nationwide. To avoid losing your best contributors to other employers, take the following steps.

1. Clearly define team member expectations and priorities.

When you see a job posting, it’s reasonable to expect the reality of the day-to-day to be a close match.

However, “other duties as assigned” can easily balloon, leaving employees overwhelmed and looking toward greener pastures. When roles become unfocused, it can lead to frustration, mental overload, and disengagement. Even as teams manage high expectations amidst staffing constraints, there are things leaders can do to provide vital clarity.

One management tactic can be the saving grace for overwhelmed teams — one-on-one meetings.

These regularly scheduled meetings between a team member and supervisor provide much-needed face time and personalized management. If it’s a new-to-you concept or one you’ve not employed recently, use a one-on-one meeting template as a guide. Share the agenda with your direct reports before you meet so they can come to the meeting prepared.

During the one-on-one, follow the agenda but allot time for open conversation, questions, and ideas. Aim to cultivate trust with your team members over time by following up on concerns quickly. Provide clear directions, assignments, and expectations for your direct reports’ workload.

If you’re managing competing priorities as you experience staff turnover, use this time to provide clarity on what’s most important to help retain talent. Doing so can help your team members focus on the essentials, leaving opportunistic projects for another time.

2. Design personal growth and development plans for every team member.

Dissatisfaction at work can be attributed to many things — unrealistic expectations, lackluster support, and lagging compensation, to name a few. But one often overlooked but valuable endeavor is to design personal growth and development plans for each team member.

Usually, these plans cost no more than your time and attention to create, and they can often improve retention and satisfaction. A growth and development plan is more than just a career track outline — it’s a customized curriculum to fuel an employee’s growth.

First, discuss the employee’s career goals during a one-on-one meeting to learn what’s important and interesting to them. If they don’t have a clear idea, don’t worry — not everyone has their lifetime career mapped out. Instead, dig into what about their role gets them excited and what problems they gravitate toward solving.

Leverage the tools your organization makes available to support your team member’s growth goals. Learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning are often available through your employer’s subscription. Free or reasonably priced courses can also be accessed through online learning platforms like Coursera and Udacity. Some of these offer students certification for completion.

Beyond traditional courses, identify on-the-job growth opportunities that expose employees to new teams and projects. Plot out a schedule and equip team members with the time, financial resources, and support needed along the way.

3. Offer flexibility that allows team members to perform at their best.

Flexibility is more than just a buzzword — it’s an essential component for the modern workplace. Technology advances released workers from their cubicles, making going back to the old way of work nearly impossible. Furthermore, the autonomy gained while many employees worked from home during the pandemic is now practically a requirement.

Yet not all organizations are set up for remote or even hybrid work, making retaining key talent difficult. Customer-facing workers, on-site producers, and those working in secure settings present a unique challenge for offering flexibility.

When work location isn’t flexible, you’ll have to find other ways to give your employees space to breathe. Update your time-off policy to eliminate the need to use vacation hours for doctor’s appointments or sick days. Allocate work time for employees to network, learn, and explore new ideas. Upgrade in-office amenities that make coming to work pleasant and supportive of the type of work your company does.

Next, ensure that your policies and practices are in alignment with upgrades and amenities so employees use them with confidence. For example, if you offer an onsite gym, include usage guidelines to your employees, reinforced by managers. Encourage supervisors to lead by example, by working out during lunch or taking a creativity-fueled walking meeting on tandem treadmills.

Employee Feedback: Understanding What Matters Most and What to Change

In the war to retain talent, there’s no room for making assumptions about what your team values most. Instead of guessing, focus on cultivating an open dialogue about what’s working and what isn’t. This information may be gathered during one-on-one meetings, team discussions, or formal surveys. As you implement changes, check in often to see whether they’re yielding the engagement and retention-driving dividends you’d hoped.

Log your findings and aim to acknowledge them immediately. Even if you aren’t able to address or implement requested changes, letting your team know they’re heard is essential. Elevate concerns and opportunities to the rest of your leadership team, advocating for the well-being of your employees.

A nimble, employee-centric, responsive organization is often one that earns the most loyalty from its employees. Prioritize the needs of your team members, and you just may boost retention rates, morale, and satisfaction across your organization.

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