You don’t need us to tell you that an organisation’s most valuable asset is its people – but many who attract top talent frequently fail to retain it. What’s more, the majority of people leave for avoidable reasons. Here are some of the main culprits for losing your best performers, and some advice on how sound HR practices can mitigate them in your workplace.
1. No clear vision
Vision and values are often taken for granted, but without a clear mission and a united workforce, most companies will simply not thrive. If an organisation is unable to articulate and communicate its goals, employees can’t feel driven in their roles. Your top performers will most likely be people who want to achieve and deliver – both of which are impossible without a vision (supported by a realistic operational plan). According to Denise Dudley, author of ‘Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted’, the number one reason people leave a company is a lack of personal buy-in with the vision and values. Of course, you can have the best vision and values in the world, but if you don’t communicate them effectively and appropriately with your staff, they’re pretty useless – but more on communication in our next point…
2. Poor leadership and an unhealthy company culture
Ineffective leadership and a negative working culture are right up there for the biggest reasons a company might lose its best workers. Sometimes this might be because the right people aren’t in leadership roles, sometimes it might be because there is a breakdown in communication coming from senior teams, or sometimes there might just be a culture of 'misrepresentation' – i.e. they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. A toxic work environment might be easy to hide in job adverts and interviews, but the truth will always out – if you know from exit interviews, employee feedback or personal experience that culture is a problem, it needs to be addressed head on. It is the leadership team’s responsibility, supported by HR, to instil faith and confidence in their workforce – if leadership and its resulting company culture makes employees focus more on how not to do a bad job than how to do a good one, then you have an urgent problem. Your best employees won’t stick around for long.
3. Employees feel undervalued
People want (and need) to feel appreciated and valued and that their efforts are recognised and worthwhile. Theoretically, this is easy to achieve – but there is often a mismatch between what a company’s leadership believe is showing value and appreciation and how an employee experiences it. Prescriptive, archaic annual performance reviews should long be a thing of the past in favour of more regular, personal communication with line managers – with a strong focus on acknowledgement and appreciation (especially for your best performers). But it’s not just about managerial recognition – an organisation shows appreciation through paying a decent salary, keeping promises, showing respect and trust, offering perks and benefits, etc. Companies best at retaining good staff make sure they know how to pledge and deliver on appreciation.
4. Bad line management
Effective line managers are your Ace card and it’s always worth investing in training for them. A good manager will inspire, support, cheerlead, challenge, empower and appreciate. When people have a line manager they respect and can learn from, it is a huge motivation to stay with the company. Good managers are good communicators. They constantly solicit the opinions of their staff and are open to giving and receiving feedback. This isn't just good management; it's also good personal conduct that shows people you care about them. Good management is also about setting an example – if a line manager regularly works longer than contracted hours, is stressed or overwhelmed by their work, or has no perceivable work/life balance, they will inadvertently create a damaging expectation among their direct reports. Leadership and management should demonstrate healthy workplace attitudes and habits so your company culture promotes good mental health and wellbeing.
5. Mismatching of talent to tasks
One of the best ways to keep good people in their roles is to ensure they enjoy what they’re doing – easy, right? You do this by assigning them to tasks and projects that match their skills, interests and goals. If you slot people into tasks based on availability or job title, you’ll get bored, underutilised and dissatisfied employees. Part of the ongoing dialogue managers need to have with their direct reports is on where both parties feel their talents are being (or could be) put to best use for everyone involved. It’s one of the reasons I dislike the term ‘Human Resources’ so much – it reduces a workforce to commodities. If you treat a person like a product or service, you’re unlikely to keep your best workers.
6. Limited or no opportunities for career advancement
Some companies with strong leadership and enviable salaries believe they’re offering employees everything they need to retain them, but your top performers will always have an eye on the next step – if there isn’t an obvious one (or even a subtle one), that’s when you run the risk of losing them. This can be especially tricky for smaller companies, but organisations of all sizes often stumble here. If you have a great employee who has expressed an interest in progressing their career with the company, you need to make sure you have some solid steps in place that serve you both. This might be a timescale to promotion (whether to an existing role or a new one), or it might be making an investment (both in terms of time and money) in their training and achievement of professional qualifications. Showing an employee that the company is invested in their growth will allow her/him to see a potential future with the organisation and provide a sense of job security. Without these efforts, companies will continue to lose good employees to competitors.
What does this mean for you?
Obviously, some of these issues are easier to address than others, but if you recognise your organisation in any of them, you have an excellent opportunity to reduce the attrition of your best talent. Even putting just one or two new measures in place could make all the difference.
If we can help in the recruitment of your next top hires, please give us a shout – we’re on 01932 355000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out what it’s like to work with us on our website. We even have live chat if you want to ping us a quick message that way!