The talent challenge — finding, engaging and keeping qualified employees for skilled positions — remains the No. 1 priority for U.S. employers, according to a recent Harris Poll.
Problems in this area can cause organizations to miss market opportunities, delay or cancel key strategic initiatives and fail to meet growth goals and innovate effectively.
There are no easy solutions to talent challenges in the U.S. or other highly developed economies. There are a few measures, however, that companies can implement to alleviate them.
First, it is imperative to understand the forces involved. Increased workforce mobility is a large factor. Today’s employees not only change jobs two to three times before they turn 25, but also tend to look for opportunities outside of their home country.
The fact that the proverbial talent wars rage on means that not only are companies poaching talented employees with large sign-on bonuses and promises of quick promotions, but employees are actively looking for new jobs.
Astoundingly, between 70 and 84 percent of employees are currently hunting for new opportunities. Some start looking just one month into a new position. This is a very disturbing and serious issue.
Finally, employees appear to be gaining more power than ever before. The total devotion to an employer that existed 15 to 20 years ago no longer exists. Employees may still feel a commitment to their profession and their co-workers, but definitely not to their organizations. In addition, according to BI Worldwide, the employers no longer define the workplace.
It is up to the employees to decide what their future jobs will look like based on their priorities.
Once you understand the reasons for talent challenges, you can implement the best practices to deal with them.
Among the most popular and useful approaches is making work more meaningful and challenging so that the employees involved feel valued, important and useful to their organizations.
Another popular tool is direct supervisors and other organization leaders providing support for talented employees.
Some companies successfully use formal mentorship programs. Some do it on a more informal, ad hoc basis. No matter how you show your support, it has to be genuine so that employees believe their organization is interested in their professional growth.
Establishing a clear and meaningful development program is expensive and time-consuming, but it is one of the best and most reliable retention tools employers have in their arsenal.
It is much more expensive to lose an employee and spend time and effort recruiting, hiring and training a replacement, who will most likely leave once he or she is offered a job with development opportunities.
Providing authentic recognition to all employees is another good practice. This is definitely not about year-end bonuses for everyone, given out just because the company has some extra cash toward the end of the year. Authentic recognition is about celebrating excellent performance with meaningful rewards and, at the same time, not rewarding those whose performance was below company expectations.
Rewarding the latter cohort, as I have seen happen too many times in my practice as a consultant, not only creates more complacency but also causes talented and hardworking employees to disengage.
Lastly, it is critical to tweak the organizational culture to establish and maintain an environment that links individual and team performance to the company’s mission, vision and core values. A powerful connection has proven to be an effective tool for attracting and retaining top talent.
Whichever practices you choose to employ, they must match your strategic objectives to be successful.
• Vlad Vaiman is associate dean and a professor of international management in the California Lutheran University School of Management.