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How to keep the talent you've got and attract more

While the data suggests we will see some flux in employment in 2013, with more employees looking for work as the economy improves, there's no doubt that finding people with the right skills and experience is getting harder. So what can you do as an employer to retain your top talent and attract more?

Here are some tried and true, but sometimes overlooked talent management practices that can help.

Hold Exit Interviews - While many suggest that exit interviews don’t yield valuable data, it can depend on what you ask. Rather than ask the departing employee why they're leaving, try asking what things or areas they suggest the organization improve upon to be more competitive or more effective. You could even ask departing employees to rate the organization's performance on key competencies or key areas if you suspect they are behind employee departures.

In their HCS Certification Course, HCI suggests using a third party to contact employees 60 or 90 days after they've left, and then conduct exit interviews. That extra reflection time may be valuable in terms of helping departing employees provide frank feedback on why they decided to leave. Conversely, you may find it more difficult to schedule exit interviews after this timeframe since employees have essentially “moved on.”

Regardless of how you choose to "close the door" with departing employees, if you collect any information about their departures, make sure you review and analyze the data you have collected. Are there a significant number of departures in any one division, department or group? Are there more departures at a particular level in the organization? Are there any trends in the reasons given for leaving? Are you losing more top performers than low or average performers?

Be reviewing and analyzing exit interview data you collect, you may learn whether the questions you're asking are effective, if there are any common reasons for departures that you need to address, and whether you could improve your exit interview process. While you likely won't get any definitive answers, your exit interview data can give you some clues about why employees are leaving the organization. Investigate further and take actions as required to retain your solidly and high performing employees.

Hold Stay Interviews - HCI and other experts now recommend holding "stay interviews" with employees.

The purpose of a stay interview is to find out what the employee enjoys most about their work and the organization, what they enjoy least, and how the organization can help them achieve their career goals. By knowing what is important to your current employees, you can work to provide an optimal work environment and drive up employee engagement and retention.

While HCI recommends holding stay interviews with employees after the first six months of being in a job, others suggest managers conduct them annually, especially with solidly or high performing employees that you want to retain.

Create a Desirable Culture Using Competencies - We don't often think of core competencies as a tool for attracting and retaining high performers, but they can be. By capturing your workplace culture as core competencies, then intentionally cultivating these in your entire workforce, you help build a strong cohesive workplace culture. By further using your core competencies and culture to help attract, screen and hire candidates you can lessen turnover by ensuring you hire candidates who are a right fit for the organization.

As more employees consider their employers culture and mission when making decisions about employment, your organizational culture can be an important attraction tool.

Leverage What You've Learned - As part of your talent management programs, you collect all kinds of useful information about your workforce. But many HR teams and organizations never aggregate and analyze the information to help them better manage, engage and retain their staff.

Don't just look at performance ratings. Analyze your talent management data to do things like:

  • Ensure high potential employees are being groomed for career progression

  • Identify the unique job-specific competencies that lead to success and high performance so you can cultivate these in others

  • Ensure all employees are being given development opportunities

  • Verify that development activities are having a positive impact on performance

  • Ensure lower performing managers are being coached and developed to improve

  • Ensure the organization has adequate resources in key areas

  • Reward high performance so as to encourage more

  • Ensure all employees are getting regular feedback and coaching on their performance

  • Calibrate performance ratings and provide training where required to ensure fairness and consistency

Effectively aggregating and analyzing the information you collect from all your talent management processes can help you better manage your workforce and create a work environment that attracts and retains the best.

There are numerous factors that influence your organization's ability to attract and retain top talent. Make sure you are doing all you can to be an employer of choice, and don't forget to leverage your talent management practices in doing so.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software. He writes about recruiting, employee engagement and manager effectiveness for the Halogen Exploring talent management blog and other publications.

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