Retaining and Engaging Top Talent: 2 Things We Don't Talk About

March 9, 2020

Google the phrase 'how to retain and engage top talent' and you will find tons of articles listing dozens of different tips for keeping your workforce intact. Those tips include things like doing regular performance reviews, asking for employee input, and offering competitive pay and benefits. All of those things do matter, but they do not get to the core of the issue. They don't address why people are more willing to switch jobs today than they were in the past.

There are two issues employers and recruiters do not like to talk about. Yet these two issues, when addressed, completely change the engagement and retention dynamic. What are the two issues? Career development and employer loyalty.

Careers, Not Jobs

It was not so long ago that people would search for a job in their chosen field with the intention of staying in that job for their entire careers. Indeed, many of today's retiring baby boomers have held a single job throughout their working lives. Younger workers don't have the same experience today. Yet that doesn't mean they don't want the experience.

Younger workers switch jobs because they feel like they have to. They do not want to. What they want are careers rather than jobs. As such, they also want to work for employers interested in helping them develop their careers. They don't want to work for companies that see them only as bodies filling open positions.

A 2019 report from Gallup encapsulates this issue perfectly with just two statistics:

The data clearly shows that workers prefer to work for companies that are interested in helping them develop their careers. But it gets better. Gallup data also shows that companies willing to invest in the careers of their employees are twice as likely to retain those employees. They are also 11% more profitable.

Loyalty is a Two-Way Street

Many of the blog posts and articles discussing employee engagement and retention look at the issue from the perspective of building loyalty by doing certain things for employees. The suggestions contained in those posts are all good. Yet they are missing something. They are missing the fact that loyalty is a two-way street.

A 2017 survey cited by Inc. revealed that 75% of American employees consider themselves loyal to their companies. Only 54% said their employers are loyal in return. The mismatch is unsustainable. An employee who feels as though his company is not loyal to him is less likely to find a reason to stick around when other opportunities come up.

Unfortunately, far too many employers believe that showing loyalty is a matter of offering good pay and an excellent benefits package. Good pay and benefits do help with recruiting, but they have very little to do with loyalty after the fact.

Employer loyalty involves things like going to bat for mistreated employees. Employers show loyalty by respecting the fact that employees have lives outside of work. It is all the little things that demonstrate employers genuinely care about their workers as human beings rather than human resources.

All of the tips you find online for engaging and retaining top talent are well worth considering. But none of them will be as effective as they otherwise would be if employers do not pay attention to career development and employer loyalty. Without these two key components, engagement and retention will remain fleeting.

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