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Strategies for Retaining Top Talent in 2021 and Beyond (part 2)

Earlier this month we began a comprehensive look at retention strategies for 2021. We started part one with a premise that as more COVID-19 vaccines became available and re-openings became more widespread, the economy would rebound.

Just two weeks later, most of Southern California has returned to the red-tier and the economy does indeed appear to be recovering.

With the arrival of spring, our top employees may be looking for greener pastures. What are you doing to ensure your A-players stay as we collectively navigate towards a more robust economy? We continue the series with three additional retention strategies.

 

#3 The power of performance management during times of uncertainty and managing change

Times of uncertainty can create opportunity for greater clarity. Are your HR policies and procedures in need of updating? How are you measuring employee success? When managing change, how do employees know they are meeting performance expectations?

Ensure you have clearly established key performance indicators (KPIs) for each employee and that you have effectively communicated them. KPIs aren’t just broad company goals used to measure business success. They are also successful tools for managing — and empowering — employees who crave stability in times of crisis and uncertainty. KPIs provide both milestones and guidelines that help reduce gray area, ease anxiety and create opportunity for frequent check-ins.

Prior to COVID-19, traditional performance management was plagued with infrequent, irregular feedback and goalsetting that became irrelevant before the next annual review. The pandemic has exposed flaws in this system, and moving forward, people managers need training to deliver meaningful, frequent and more conversational performance evaluations. A good rule of thumb is establishing quarterly progress reviews that allow your employees and business to remain nimble in both achieving goals and meeting expectations as your business adapts and operates in times of uncertainty.

Pro-tip: KPIs will become increasingly important for companies that continue WFH and flexible options. They provide flexibility in performance management and include more frequent, informal coaching opportunities and feedback loops. While some managers fear the perception of micromanaging, studies suggest that employees appreciate more frequent coaching sessions. Gallup found that 47% of employees report receiving feedback from their manager a few times a year or less and 19% say they receive feedback once a year or less. Employees who experience “fly-in and fly-out” managers are often stressed because they don’t have clear expectations, support or coaching. Use KPIs to keep more meaningful connections regardless of your in-person interactions.  

 

#4 Invest in Training, Resources and Technology

Nothing says “I value you” more than investing in your employees, and upskilling is a lot less expensive than replacing talent. Professional development and learning opportunities increase employee engagement, productivity and quality — a win-win from all perspectives.

There are both online learning programs that empower employees to grow at their own pace on their own time, as well as group trainings that promote self-growth, company improvement and team building. Here are a few considerations in planning professional development:

  • For top performers, create a strategic plan, a career path and KPIs tied to clear objectives and goals. This serves twofold in keeping them engaged while emphasizing the company’s commitment to their development and long-term value to the organization.
  • Continuously improve technology to maintain employee productivity while driving effectiveness and efficiency. At ARG, one of the complaints we often hear from candidates involves companies that lag in technology and rely on antiquated systems, requiring overly laborious manual processes. Likewise, team members spend too much time generating mundane reports that could easily be automated.

Pro-tip: Create genuine opportunities for employee feedback on professional development and resources, and act on their suggestions. Ensure communications are a two-way street and strive to understand what employees need for individual as well as companywide success.

 

#5 Refocus on company purpose, mission, culture, core values and community impact

2020 reminded us how success is achieved through collaboration and teamwork. At ARG, we saw how companies pivoted to address challenges through creativity, inspiration and aspiration. Company culture improved when leadership became more active and shared through better communication of purpose, values and goals. We saw greater servant leadership and companies actively improving local, regional and global communities. As business leaders and HR professionals demonstrate a greater emphasis on culture, core values and community, employees will respect and take pride in the positive impact beyond office walls.

A recent Gensler article suggested: “Community impact is a key strategy in returning to the office”, and why your impact must be genuine and lasting.
Pro-tip: Provide opportunities for employees to invest more in the company through task forces, inter-department improvement teams and interest-based groups or clubs. Building inter- and intra-department networking and team-building events will strengthen company culture while inherently emphasizing company mission, vision and values.

 

Conclusion: In 2021 Put People First

While 2021 poses unique scenarios that may send employees searching for greener pastures, it’s equally important to understand what encourages talent to stay.
Satisfaction and retention increase when employees are engaged, experience holistic wellbeing and feel invested in their careers, professional development, company culture and peer network.

Companies can improve employee engagement by providing coaches or mentors, designing team-based projects and adding new learning opportunities. All of these can lead to greater career mobility and pay. But leaders must also be authentic in recognizing and appreciating their employees and communities, and empathetic in understanding the unique post-pandemic stressors and challenges impacting every aspect of life.

The Finance and Accounting sector will most likely support a hybrid workplace model this year that provides more flexibility in working remotely with leaders who exercise greater empathy and prioritize professional development, performance management and top technology.
The bottom line: It’s time to invest in our most valuable asset — our people.

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