Don’t just buy-in talent, invest in it!

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Jayne Halperin advice, future proofing, talent acquisition...

There are several rainforests worth of serious (often pseudo) academic papers devoted to the subject of “talent acquisition.”  People get very serious indeed about this subject. Rightly so. Now we have an obvious interest, given that it’s the raison d’etre of Cedar, but, as we all know, not only is the UK virtually at full employment, the recruitment market is also bedevilled with challenges and skill shortages that can make this acquisition of talent very hard indeed.


Given these skill shortages, it therefore makes sense to try to retain your talent once you’ve got them.  We all know those pesky skill shortages are not going away any day soon, so you can be sure that competitors will soon have their beady eyes fixed covetously on your new colleagues.


With that in mind, I did some research into the key question, viz, “how do I retain talent in my company?” The answers were as many and varied as the skills shortages, but there were a few constant themes that caught my attention. In no particular order, these were the ones that I think can make a difference.


First, live up to your promises. Today’s recruitment market is a two-way street, especially for millennials, with potential employees not simply wanting money and a career but also demanding to know your ethical stance on tax avoidance, the environment and a myriad of social issues.  If this is what you’ve told them to expect, you’d better deliver it or they will not stay.


Secondly, realise that new employees can make a huge difference, fired as they (generally) are with zeal and a desire to hit the ground running. These people want to do things! And if you don’t offer them the opportunity, others will. In the USA, research by EY suggests that nearly 70% of professionals would leave their company for another that they thought was a leader in innovation. Their conclusion, shared by other studies, is that new staff must be empowered to innovate. This, in turn, creates competitive advantage that drives the business forward, leads to rewards for that individual and helps keep her or him onboard for the long-term.


Thirdly, the ways to do this (empower to innovate), and thus retain your new talent, are not difficult to identify.  Encourage creativity, give everyone a voice, invest in training and up-skilling, create a flexible work environment, give people space to think and encourage risk taking (that’s a difficult one, but very important) and insist on collaboration (two heads are often better than one): do all these and you’re not going to go too far wrong. Above all, and this was one that none of the articles I found picked up on, so it’s just my personal observation based on many years in business – make sure you employ the very best people you can; ideally people who are better than you.


Finally, realise that if you do these things you are also developing your future managers and directors.  Yes, people will still leave, but in nothing like the quantities they will if you haven’t made any attempt to keep them.  It’s not rocket science.  A simple, but rigorous strategy of empowerment and investment in your new starts should make a big difference to your staff turnover, and by reducing your need to read all those academic papers might even save a bit of those rainforests.