December 26, 2012

Retaining your top talent isn’t a new issue and this certainly isn’t the first blog post written about it. The IT industry is growing quickly and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT jobs in the U.S. are expected to increase by 22% by 2020. This means that there will be plenty of jobs and your top talent will have many opportunities to seek employment with other companies if necessary. 

The cost of losing your best employees can be staggering. It has been said that it can cost about 2 to 3 times an employee’s salary to replace them. Some simple math for you: If you lose an employee that makes $80,000 a year, it is quite likely that you could spend $240,000 trying to replace them. Those numbers are pretty serious, and so is the damage sustained when you lose your top talent.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal which brought up an excellent point by relating Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to the needs of top talent.  If you are not familiar with his theory, here is a brief synopsis: After a person has successfully fulfilled their needs in the physiological, safety, love, and esteem categories, they are left with the pursuit of self-actualization.

Self-actualization is the desire to reach one’s full potentialand to become the best version of one’s self. Unfortunately, Maslow stated that he believed only 1% of people will ever truly achieve self-actualization. I’m not sure about your thoughts on this percentage, but I think it is entirely too low.

There are multiple factors that can contribute to a person’s inability to reach their full potential. But, as an employer, it is necessary to evaluate your current policies and practices to see if they aid an employee in their development or if they hinder them.  You need your top performers and they need to feel that they are reaching their full potential professionally. Here are 10 ways to keep your most talented employees and aid them on their path to self-actualization:

  1. Ignite Their Passions. Do your employees feel that they are being challenged by their work? Do they enjoy their work? Do you know the answers to these questions? If not, have a conversation with them in order to ascertain where their interests lie and what type of projects excite and engage them.
  2. Make Them Part of The Decision Making. If they are your top performers, then they probably have valuable ideas. Encourage them to share their thoughts and provide feedback.  Also, be sure to update them on what was discussed in meetings they were not invited to attend. Don’t keep them in the dark, especially when it comes to decisions that may affect their job.
  3. Recognize Their Accomplishments. Give them the praise that they deserve and let others know of their achievements. It is your job to make sure that even YOUR superiors know that this person is contributing to the success of the company.
  4. Acknowledge the Need for Work-Life Balance. Work is important, but it is not everything. Give your employees flexible work hours when necessary. Burnt out employees will be stressed and this may compromise the quality of their work. They need time to develop other parts of their life like spending time with friends and family, and pursuing their passions outside of work. So, keep the 60-hour work weeks to a minimum.
  5. Communicate Your Performance Expectations. Your best employees want to know what is expected of them and how to make you happy. Do you have a deadline in mind for a project? Are there critical findings you want them to include in their report? Let them know. They are (probably) not mind readers.
  6. Be Willing to Pay for Added Responsibilities. If you plan to promote an individual or even if you find yourself consistently asking them to take on additional responsibilities, you need to pay them accordingly. Money is surprisingly a very low priority on the job satisfaction scale; however, it is necessary to pay your employees fairly. If the work is piling on and they are not receiving additional compensation for it, they will look for another job that pays them what they deserve. If it is a serious matter of budget, then you will need to have a conversation with them to thoroughly explain that you want to give them more money and will, but can’t afford to do so at this time.
  7. Do Not Make Them Compensate for Poor Performers. When your top performers constantly need to pick up the slack for unmotivated or unskilled workers, they will resent you and eventually leave. It is necessary to address issues of poor performance sooner rather than later. Your top talent likes to be around other talented people for whom they have don’t have to compensate.
  8. Provide Career Development Opportunities. According to a Forbes article, more than 60% of the people they interviewed said that they didn’t feel that their career goals aligned with the plans their employers had for them. Sit down and discuss your employee’s short-term and long-term goals. Discover what they are interested in and see if your can provide opportunities for them to explore their interests, whether it is outside training or taking on new projects.
  9. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Maybe this is an obvious one, but it is a must to treat everyone with respect, top performer or otherwise. Treat everyone as you want to be treated and remember that they are not just your employees, they are people too.  Keep in mind the saying that “Employees don’t quit working for companies; they quit working for their bosses.”
  10. Give Feedback. Your top performers want to know what you really think and they want your feedback on what they can do to improve. This also provides you with the opportunity to see how they feel that they are progressing and what interests them. If you refrain from doing so, your employees are likely to think that you are not interested in their development or their future with the organization.

Regardless of your opinion of Maslow’s theory, I think we can agree that most of us are trying to be the best we can be! Your top IT performers, especially, have many options and will look elsewhere if they feel that you and your company are not aiding them on their path to fulfillment.  

What are your suggestions for how to retain your best employees? Share them below! 

Posted By: Briana Perrino

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