Industry September 2011

Retaining Your Best Talent

So you’ve secured the perfect candidate for the position and they start next week. Considering the time and money invested in recruitment, you will want the individual to remain engaged in a productive career with your firm for the long term. This is particularly important if they have bilingual skills, which in Japan are in extremely high demand and short supply.

Considering the career opportunities available for these professionals, it is crucial to have an effective retention strategy, otherwise you may find yourself looking for a replacement all too soon.

The key to retention is understanding what engages employees, gives them a sense of purpose at work, and keeps them motivated, committed and loyal. Based on feedback we receive regularly from job seekers, we advise our clients to adopt a core set of retention strategies, even as we recognise that employees favour incentives reflecting their individual preferences.

Structured induction process

During the initial few weeks, when new employees form important first impressions about their job, their colleagues and the firm, it is critical that they be helped to feel welcome and positive about their decision to join your firm. How do you achieve this?

Start with the basics and be thoroughly prepared for their arrival. For their first month, have a structured plan in place that outlines what the employees are expected to deliver, whom they will meet, and the training they will undertake. Encourage questions and schedule regular catch-up meetings to demonstrate your interest in their progress.

To help them understand the value of their contribution, take the time to explain how their work fits in with the bigger picture. Most important, be sure to help your starter develop relationships and contacts in the firm, to help accelerate a sense of belonging, which is crucial to retention during the early stages of employment.

Provide mentors

Creating a mentoring programme is an effective way to develop and retain your best performers. As well as gaining exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking, a mentor gives new employees greater visibility and recognition in the firm, as well as an opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge. Employees can develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses by following the guidance of a trusted mentor, and obtain advice on how best to advance their career in the firm. All of this ultimately leads to better performance and engagement in the workplace.

Career development opportunities

Our market research has consistently shown that the opportunity for career growth is the main reason an employee stays with a firm. Meanwhile, the main reason people leave a firm is to advance their careers and earning potential. Thus, were the current employer to facilitate attainment of these goals there would be far less reason to leave.

High achievers tend to be life-long learners and need continual personal and professional development to remain engaged. They want to invest their talent in a firm that can help their career develop and expand their existing skill set, so ongoing training is necessary ahead of their next promotion.

But remember: career development does not have to involve costly study grants and external training courses. You can challenge your employees with new responsibilities, allow them to lead projects whereby they can acquire new skills, or simply provide the opportunity to work in different business areas. Your employees always should be learning, to keep them stimulated, engaged and committed to growing within your firm.

Recognition and rewards

If employees are to be motivated and give their best, their efforts must be recognised and rewarded, so acknowledging achievements is a powerful employee retention strategy. The most fundamental way to recognise employees for their hard work is to provide appropriate monetary rewards, such as a salary increase or bonus. But not all rewards need to be financial. Saying a genuine “thank you” is an easy way to make people feel valued and encouraged to continue their efforts. Offering the opportunity to lead a new project is another way to reward positive results.

The key is to demonstrate awareness of your employees’ hard work and to reward their efforts in ways they find meaningful.

Talent insurance policy

Think of your investment in retention as an insurance policy on your most critical business asset—your people. All firms experience turnover and this can introduce fresh ideas and perspectives, but when it comes to your best talent, prevention is better than cure. It is far better to keep them engaged than to offer a salary increase to try to change their minds after they have resigned.