Organizations in every industry hope to retain top talent. HR professionals know well that the value in keeping excellent contributors, innovators, and thinkers is found not only in holding on to the financial investment you’ve made in them. Longstanding employees nurture and reinforce culture, become sources of organizational knowledge, and show newer team members paths they can follow.

We know the “why”, but the “how” can be elusive.

Within our organization, we successfully use a handful of tools as part of our talent management program that we consider vital to a fulfilling long-term employee experience. They provide what we know talent today is looking for beyond competitive pay.

Career Conversations

What do you want to do a year from now or five years from now? Do you have the skills to get there? These are questions managers ask their employees to determine how they feel about their current role and what they want to do next. These conversations are both opportunities to surface an individual’s aspirations and find where an existing employee can fill existing or anticipated gaps within an organization. It’s the ultimate way to meet in the middle while identifying how an employee can succeed and an employer can benefit from that employee’s success. However, these conversations need to move from talk to action to demonstrate commitment to employees and enable companies to take advantage of existing or emerging skills and knowledge.

Valuable Knowledge

What does your organization do that no other one does? Creating curricula around your priority processes and organizational knowledge is valuable to employees. We outsource training for basic, commodity skills like software usage. But we spend significant time developing dynamic learning modules around core elements of our sales and product training, which are unique to our organization and help employees perform their roles.

Attention Over Feedback

We find that feedback, while a gift, isn’t always valued. Attention is highly prized. Attention within our organization may take the form of a quick conversation, an email update, or an invitation to present current work. It’s anything that puts a warm spotlight on an individual, recognizing the value of what they’re doing without metrics or critiques. Managers ask employees questions to understand how they see themselves and their work progress. Asking questions that allow for self-examination often leads employees to find ways to improve that are self-envisioned and self-directed. The key is paying attention to the things employees excel at and coaching them to do more of them rather than correcting them.

Motivations Beyond Pay

Rewarding success within our organization is varied and caters to the interests of individual employees. We encourage our managers to explore the motivations of team members, and our incentives recognize achievement in ways that are meaningful to the recipients. That could be a spot bonus, a workspace enhancement, a new assignment, or a learning opportunity. While some employees prefer private acknowledgement, public rewards create a domino effect. When employees see what a colleague has achieved or earned, they often seek the same reward.

Customized Roles

Only some people are meant to manage other people. Within our organization, we like to provide management training experiences in a safe environment where leadership expectations are clear. I once led a training program where we discussed how leaders set goals with team members, checked in with them and coached them in improvement areas. Before we moved on to the next training phase, a participant spoke with me about their lack of interest in pursuing this type of management. Even though they had been nominated for the training program, they felt that they did not see leading people in their ideal career future. I congratulated them on their self-awareness and informed them of our coaching capabilities for those who want to become subject matter experts and individual contributors in certain areas.

“Longstanding employees nurture and reinforce culture, become sources of organizational knowledge, and show newer team members paths they can follow”

We offer a leadership training program with an executive coaching component for those who demonstrate people leadership qualities and want to travel that path. It guides the competencies we expect of our leaders, from reading a P&L to how to best work in team environments, from honing their authentic leadership style to developing their emotional quotient (EQ) to connect and communicate with others. This program has developed numerous leaders who move into managing partner or office leader roles. No matter the path, once talented team members are within the organization, and we like to put them where they will shine and want to stay and grow.

Purpose-Centred Communication

Once upon a time, only the younger generations entering the workforce were looking for their work to have a purpose. Now, all employees seek competitive pay, a title they are proud to hold, and the knowledge that the work they do has meaning.

Providing transparent updates about goals and progress, frequent references to our shared purpose and opportunities for employees to provide input and ideas about that purpose and its evolution are critical to their feelings of connectedness to the organization. We prioritize communication as an effective means of keeping talent engaged. By maintaining regular two-way communication, we can learn about employee concerns before they become a factor that leads to talent loss.

A talent management program is essential to keeping employees in your organization. They are ultimately looking for a career path versus just a job. Providing new opportunities, growth, and clear purpose can help employees want to stay, evolve, and change within your organization rather than moving on to do it elsewhere.