Our research into the Future of Work revealed that employees are your most valuable asset. But unlike tangible assets, people get fed up with office politics. They get annoyed with inefficient bosses and frustrated with processes that prevent them from doing their best. Your most valuable asset can easily leave. They leave for better salaries, flexibility, career opportunity. For their part, most companies try to create the conditions for their people to grow but they can’t offer a great deal of job security like they once did. Rapidly changing business cycles, dramatically elevated levels of competition, and pressures placed on the firm’s profitability by the share markets and other stakeholders prevent companies from being able to ensure long-term job security.

In response, many employees now treat themselves as free agents, looking to gain experience in one place, then moving to a new company when they find a good opportunity. In fact, according to a 2016 LinkedIn study, the number of companies people worked for in the five years after they graduated has nearly doubled over the last 20 years. Or they may opt for a high degree of autonomy and choose to work independently. Independent work is a growing trend and is rapidly evolving as digital platforms create large-scale, efficient marketplaces—welcome to the gig economy.

While the idea of keeping an entire work team together forever sounds great, these days it’s just not realistic. However, you can help create win-win situations by making your company attractive to the new talent you need; while making a good effort to keep the talent you already have. Some of these ideas will be obvious; others, not as much.

1. Get a clear picture of what’s needed and wanted
Success as a company depends on understanding the types of skills needed to fulfil the company’s mission. Develop a workforce plan based on current and future business needs and determine what it will take to keep your valued employees.

For instance, a global life sciences company sought help from Korn Ferry with strategic workforce planning for its mission-critical regulatory affairs staff in Europe. It decided to develop roles to work across all phases of the product life cycle, reducing the company’s reliance on specialists in individual areas.

2. Develop human resource programs that can motivate each segment of the employee population
It’s likely that new people coming into a company have differing demographics, backgrounds, career objectives and personal goals. This will challenge the ’one size fits all‘ type of HR found in many companies, so consider some options tailored to different groups.

For example, offer elective training in lieu of a portion of the company bonus program. Let those employees for whom development is more important than money decide for themselves what rewards they want. This notion is similar to the flexible work arrangements offered by 80% of companies surveyed in a 2015 study by WorldatWork and FlexJobs.

3. Build realistic and transparent excitement around the brand and company
CEOs and other company leaders shouldn’t try to build unquestioning employee loyalty and assume long-term tenure. Instead, talk about the company’s mission and accomplishments and emphasise the role that people play while they’re employed with the company. In fact, purpose-driven organisations generate superior performance, greater stakeholder satisfaction, and increased sustainability.

According to a recent Korn Ferry study, such organisations in the Consumer sector achieved a compound annual growth rate of 9.85% compared to their peers’ rate of 2.4% in the S&P 500 Consumer Sector from 2011 to 2015. Engage employees with mission and purpose, and recognise that they will stay with you as long as it makes sense for them.

4. Offer career counselling to employees that go beyond their current employer
This idea is a little more subtle. Managers are encouraged today to have development planning discussions with their team members. Rather than beat around the bush, talk openly about the probability that the subordinate may leave the company at some point. Then, reverse engineer the discussion: what can the current company offer, by way of training or on the job development, that’s good for the employee’s future and good for the company? In other words, structure a realistic win-win scenario versus an uncomfortable discussion involving hidden, even competing, agendas.

In the 21st Century, companies are having trouble hanging on to their best people so­­ winning teams will never stay entirely the same from year to year. Let’s recognise this, adapt and build more wins for all involved.

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About Contributor

Bevan Gray is the Product Sales Leader for Germany, Austria, Switzerland at Korn Ferry. He works with directors, CEOs and senior management teams at the intersection of strategy, organisation, and leadership to enhance team culture and performance.

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