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Keeping and Retaining Talent Key in 2011

Source: Towers Watson

Posted on 31 Jan 2011

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Global Professional services company Towers Watson says companies could soon face a challenge they haven't experienced in a few years -- retaining the talented employees they need to move from recovery to growth -- now that the U.S. is beginning to show signs that hiring activity is on the upswing.

Retaining key employees is one of the greatest challenges companies will address this year for them to grow and succeed, according to quarterly trends in employee opinion tracked in Towers Watson's global employee opinion database. In fact, fewer than half of employees (48%) surveyed in late 2010 say that their employers do a good job retaining top talent, the lowest level since the end of 2008. In addition, employees' intentions to leave their current organization are on the rise, climbing back to pre-recession levels.

"Retention could become a real challenge this year for many companies, since it appears that more employees are willing to consider jumping ship," said Max Caldwell, a managing director at Towers Watson. "Smart managers would do well to pay extra attention to their talent, especially top performers and those with hot skills, and make sure they feel so appreciated and engaged that they won't be tempted by 'greener grass' on the other side."

Drawing on research into the current drivers of retention, here are five resolutions from Towers Watson consultants to help managers retain their workers and keep them focused and productive for 2011:

    •    Help Employees Chart Their Careers. According to Towers Watson research, more than three out of four employees (78%) who plan to remain with their employer believe their employer offers long-term career opportunities for them, while only one-fourth (26%) of those employees who plan to leave feel this way. Additionally, three-fourths of those who plan to stay say they have a reasonably good idea of their career paths at their employer, while just 37% of those who plan to leave feel this way.
    •    Recognize Good Performers. While eight in 10 workers who plan to remain with their employer believe their job performance is evaluated fairly, only 44% of those planning to leave think that's the case. Additionally, three times as many workers who are staying with their employer (60%) are satisfied with how they are recognized versus only 20% who are planning to leave.
    •    Communicate More. About two-thirds of workers (63%) who plan to remain with their employer say management does a good job of communicating with people, compared to less than one-third of those planning to leave.
    •    Help Employees Balance Work and Life. More than two-thirds (69%) of workers who plan to stay with their employer feel management generally understands the problems they face in their jobs, and that the company culture supports their need to balance work and life. Conversely, only one out of three workers who are planning to leave has a similar feeling.
    •    Survey the Workforce. Three in four workers (75%) who plan to remain with their employer feel sufficient effort is made to obtain the opinions and thinking of employees, while just 40% of those planning to leave think this way. Obtaining employees' ongoing feedback is especially critical for retaining top talent, who as a group are often very critical of the organization's leadership and desire greater involvement in driving the business forward.

"Retaining top performers will clearly be a significant talent management priority for this year," said Patrick Kulesa, global research director in Towers Watson's organizational survey group. "Yet our employee research data seem to indicate that retention levels will continue to slide. As the new year begins, we believe companies that pursue these and other initiatives will be in a much stronger position to enhance their market share and fuel business growth."