Understanding How to Improve Talent Retention (Strategy Brief)

Less than one-third of organizations describe their efforts to retain top talent as successful, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Retaining Your Top Talent. It’s not surprising, therefore, that less than four in ten employers (38%) say they have a strong understanding of what their employees want or expect from their employment. 

It is difficult to retain an optimal percentage of your talent if you don’t understand what employees value — and don’t value — in your organization and in their jobs. 

At a time when technology can create an array of connections across large and dispersed enterprises, a majority of organizations still use annual employee engagement surveys to understand what employees want or need from their employment. 

Close to half of organizations use employee resource groups and employee focus groups to understand workforce needs, which is important. But a program of continuous listening — featuring multiple methods and leveraging technology and analytics whenever possible — is critical to keep up with evolving workforce dynamics. 

Organizations believe there are many areas to shore up in order to improve talent retention, ranging from career development to compensation, leadership, employee recognition, work/life balance and more. Many of these areas are interrelated and should not be looked at individually. For example, managers and leaders are integral to career development, employee recognition, the success of hybrid work policies and creation of learning opportunities. 

How can employers improve their understanding of employees and what they value and want from their employment in order to increase talent retention? 

Here are four high-level strategies to enable leaders to have a strong positive impact on talent retention: 

  1. View Talent Retention as an Outcome of Employee Experiences 

Talent retention is not one thing, as the name suggests. It is important to remember that talent retention is not a strategy, but an outcome of how employees value their experiences with an organization and how those experiences relate to their aspirations. 

Therefore, employers must have a deep understanding of what employees want, need and value. This is a difficult proposition — especially in larger organizations — because a workforce has many personas based on age, gender, race, location, function, level and many other factors. 

2. Assess Employees’ Experiences Through Their Eyes 

Most organizations view employee experience through the lens of the business. To truly understand what it takes to keep employees highly engaged and committed to pursuing a career with the organization, employers must view experiences from their employees’ perspectives. Brandon Hall Group research organizes employee experience into six categories: 

Wellness/well-being, which includes psychological safety 
Sense of belonging 
Feeling valued 
Learning and development
Career advancement
Alignment with the mission, vision and goals of the organization

3. Listen Continuously and Listen Well 

Feedback from employees is imperative to understand their experiences, but their perspectives can shift frequently. Most employers operate in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Therefore, relying on annual or periodic engagement surveys to understand the needs of employees means the company will always lag in its understanding of workforce trends and issues. 

Our research shows that progressive organizations employ strategies of continuous listening, including frequent online surveys on specific topics, sentiment analysis, focus groups, employee resource groups and stay interviews. Technology is a great enabler for collecting different types of data and analyzing them to provide important insights, not just on the workforce as a whole but on specific employee groups or personas. 

4. Build Talent Strategies from What You Hear 

Through these insights from employees — as well as other internal and external developments — employers are in a better position to proactively create value for employees in alignment with business needs. The goal is to be proactive whenever possible in understanding what the workforce needs to be successful and feel valued. A company’s ability to proactively engage different segments of the workforce determines its ability to retain talent. 

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