Poaching is a reality of doing business, but it’s of particular concern during times when job openings outnumber candidates. Managers can’t afford to wait to take steps to keep their employees satisfied and engaged. The author offers four ways to be proactive in working to keep your best employees. First, make sure your compensation and benefits are on par with other companies. Second, acknowledge your company’s flaws to your employees. Third, create career plans for your employees so they have long-term goals to work toward. Finally, provide employees with professional development and learning opportunities.
In a hot job market, especially in sectors where the number of jobs exceeds the number of skilled workers, there’s a high probability that other organizations are trying to poach your employees. Not just your superstars. Everyone.
If you wait until you find out that an employee is being recruited to respond, you’re waiting too long. Here are four ways to be proactive in working to keep your best employees.
Make sure your compensation is fair
First and foremost, you need to address compensation. Keep an eye on the market rates for talent in your area. Find ways to give raises to folks who are significantly underpaid relative to the market. If you’re aware of the inequities, chances are your employees are as well. On top of that, find out what benefits your competitors are offering and make sure you’re on a par with them. Good pay isn’t the only thing your employees care about, but low pay and poor benefits can get people looking for the exit.
Acknowledge your flaws and highlight your strengths
When employees consider leaving your firm for another, it creates a comparative mindset. As a result, they start to focus on the benefits of working for the company recruiting them while also thinking about the biggest frustrations they have working for you. That means you need to be aware of your employees’ most significant complaints. Listen to their gripes. Understand the aspects of your workplace that annoy people.
You may identify some things that are easy to fix. For example, a friend told me that her employees were frustrated that professional development had stopped during the pandemic. She immediately did a survey of topics people were most interested in and scheduled experts to come talk about them. It’s worth looking into these relatively simple problems rather than losing an employee because of an unforced error.
That said, there are likely to be many things that make it hard to work at your organization that are simply part of the culture or so deeply embedded in core work processes that it would be prohibitively expensive to fix them. When you meet with employees, acknowledge some of those shortcomings so they know you’re aware of them. Just knowing that everyone realizes a particular aspect of work is imperfect can help minimize the sting of some problems.
At the same time, think about some of the less-obvious benefits of working at your company. A common reason why staff at universities leave, for example, is that the pay scale is lower than it is for equivalent jobs in for-profit companies. On the other hand, the workload often follows the academic schedule, so there’s a familiar ebb and flow to the year that employees often miss when they leave. Generally speaking, when people move from one organization to another, they trade one set of problems for another. While the new job probably has some advantages, the old job likely has benefits whose value won’t be recognized until they’re gone. Reminding people about the positive aspects of their work environment can keep some of those factors in view when people are contemplating leaving.
Create a career plan
One thing that can reduce employees’ temptation to take an outside offer is the prospect that they’re on a path to achieving their career goals. It can be difficult for people to walk away from a goal that they’re working toward and haven’t yet completed. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t make it clear to employees where their opportunities lie.
The yearly HR evaluation process should have a development component in it from the start. Managers should know what their team members hope to achieve in their careers, and there should be specific steps built into the workflow to support them on that path throughout the year. In addition, be realistic with them about the time frame in which particular promotions or other forms of advancement are likely.
Having a clear path won’t prevent employees from getting recruited by other firms, but it will enable them to ask clearer questions about career progression at a new one. It’s often hard for recruiters to give a specific path or timeline to a prospective employee. The better the job you do of helping employees know the path they’re on at your company, the more you’ll make leaving feel like a leap into the unknown. That can only help you retain your best employees.
Ramp up training
A common strategy for recruiters is to try to reduce employees’ attachment to their current company. They focus on getting people to think about ways that they’re not currently supported or situations in which their organizational structure makes it hard to have the impact they might like to have in their current job. That is, they’re trying to make employees feel less like they’re part of a neighborhood and more like they and their employer are strangers. The more people feel disengaged from their workplace, the more taking a new job feels like a straightforward transaction. That means employers need to invest in being a partner in employees’ success so they feel like they owe part of their achievement to their company’s engagement.
Training and mentoring is a great way to create that long-term partnership. At a minimum, firms should provide a yearly education benefit to employees that can be used for classes and certification programs from continuing and professional education providers. Better still, many of these providers will work with your organization to provide training programs customized to the needs of your employees.
Map out employees’ training plans for the year during your career path discussions with them. This kind of continuous learning benefits people’s job performance in the moment, because the skills they acquire can be applied in the workplace. More importantly (at least from the perspective of keeping your best employees), it creates a tighter bond that makes it harder for an employee to leave when another offer comes along.
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Poaching is a reality of doing business, but it’s of particular concern during times when job openings outnumber candidates. Managers can’t afford to wait to take steps to keep their employees satisfied and engaged.