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4 Ways To Engage And Retain Top Talent

In today’s tight labour market, retaining top talent is the top concern for most leaders. After all, these high-achieving individuals have an enormous impact on business results – be it conceptualising strategic initiatives, overseeing revenue growth or leading employees.

With globalisation and the rise of artificial intelligence, coupled with the new generation of employees that desire more dynamic work environments, organisations are forced to rethink their approach towards talent management and acquisition.

Promises of competitive pay and lucrative employee perks are often used to compete for top talent. Today, cash is no longer king. Research from PayScale revealed that while a quarter of employees leave their organisation for higher pay, most of the respondents indicated that the main thing that attracted them when choosing a role at a new organisation is the opportunity to do more meaningful work.

While the most obvious solution is to design more effective training and development programs, and providing employees with more “meaningful” opportunities, many of these programs are not targeted with the employee in mind.

Here are some better ways to engage and retain top talent:

Ask more questions

Start off by asking questions to gain more insights on employees. In order to understand what employees need to give them ideal learning opportunities, managers need to start asking questions. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand their current workload, any challenges that they face during work, what skills they are most comfortable and which they would like to develop.

During these sessions, practice active listening and try to approach these sessions with genuine curiosity rather than judgement. This means setting laptops aside and listening via the old-fashioned way of pen and paper. It is also helpful to repeat what employees mention during these meetings in own words to emphasize understanding of their concerns.

Create more “on the job” opportunities

Once you have identified the skills your employees want to learn, look for opportunities to help them develop these skills. While classroom training is a common method, it can lose its effectiveness if not applied properly. “Learning moments”, such as shadowing a senior employee, mentoring junior team members, or collaborating with other teams on a project can help to engage employees and challenge them to step out of their comfort zones.

Create an environment that allows employees to be aware that every challenge they face is an opportunity for practice and growth. It is crucial to create a culture in which employees believe they are valued enough to be provided with time and opportunities to flourish. Concurrently, this provides managers the chance to help their employees upskill on a case-by-case basis instead of relying on formal trainings.

Vary learning experiences

Organisations need to create talent strategies that engage all generations within their workforce. With the multi-generational workforce today, it is imperative to tailor learning opportunities based on an employees’ experience level, seniority, as well as adaptability. For instance, smaller opportunities such as participation in a project whereby an individual can rely on more experienced peers for support can benefit those who are unfamiliar or newer to a crucial skill. Bigger opportunities that require employees to take risks and step out of their comfort zones may be more suited to those who have prior experience carrying out certain tasks and wish to expand on their skill sets.

Similarly, the level of control that managers should have over employees’ learning experiences should also vary. A more experienced employee might be encouraged to seek out his or her own opportunities for growth independently while a less experienced employee might require a more structured learning environment that targets key learning areas. Either way, employees should be allowed full autonomy in deciding their career advancement objectives. Mistakes may be made, but it is only through trial and error that one truly learns.

Provide regular feedback and rewards

Providing feedback is perhaps the most crucial aspect of engaging talent. This starts off with communicating clear expectations to employees. As employees continue to carry out their on-the-job opportunities, set clear goals for them to strive towards. Provide regular feedback on where they are doing well and areas for improvement.

Concurrently, ensure that employees are recognised for the efforts that they have put in. Benefits and perks go a long way in keeping employees engaged and motivated. Besides competitive pay, comprehensive healthcare coverage and learning opportunities, other perks such as flexible work arrangements or even stock options can help employees feel they are valued well beyond what they contribution at the workplace.

Talented employees can go a long way creating meaningful impacts across the business. However, when talent is misidentified, unchallenged, or unrewarded, these individuals take a toll on the overall business performance. This leads to disengagement which may have a detrimental effect on leadership succession and employee retention across the firm.

Responsibility for high potentials’ development must be shared between leaders, managers and employees themselves. Talent management strategies must cultivate and nurture rising talents, not merely celebrating today’s high achievers.


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