Engage and Retain: Six Tips for Developing Talent

With fierce competition for available talent, wise business leaders are learning that developing talent from within their current employee pool is the key to success.

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The acceleration of advanced technologies, continued digitalization, and the alarming impact of a global pandemic are major disruptions that have impacted almost every facet of work — and life — in the last few years. These changes have led many to re-evaluate and redefine their needs and wants.

Hence “The Great Resignation,” which has served as a global billboard for employee discontent and disillusionment — or, more optimistically, for their search for validation, meaning and purpose. Today’s employee simply wants more.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is 2.1 to 1, down from 2.6 to 1 in 2020, with expectations for declining engagement to continue.

Necessary alterations in business operating models and shifts in labor availability have created the need for a reset in how organizations recruit, retain and value their employees. With fierce competition for available talent, wise business leaders are learning that developing talent from within their current employee pool is the key to success.

What do employees want and need in order to value their position?

During the height of the pandemic, many in the labor force developed an appreciation for the comfort and convenience of a remote work style. Those who were laid off had time to explore the idea of new job fields that might hold more personal promise and growth. So, what are most employees seeking?

  • A more personalized experience — with improved work and life balance
  • Flexibility in their work schedule
  • Frequent communication with managers who support their ideas and autonomy
  • Feedback, recognition, and validation of their work
  • Learning and growth opportunities for advancement and job expansion
  • Connection to the organization’s common cause driving purposeful, meaningful work
  • Fair and equitable compensation policies

An organization that can offer an employee a development environment with these features will retain valuable talent and avoid the revolving door of retraining and replacement.

How do you engage and develop your current talent?

Let’s examine six key strategies that can create an environment promoting engagement and demonstrating appreciation for your employees at every level throughout the organization.

1) Support a remote/hybrid model – Create a culture where all employees, whether remote, at a customer, or in an office, have the tools and resources to do their job effectively and necessary. Ensure all employees have the same access to opportunities – whether for promotion or special projects. Schedule regular remote knowledge-sharing sessions with teams to maintain focus and project objectives and provide frequent remote check-ins with managers for personal feedback and support. Offer flexibility in work hours, days, and job-sharing options.

2) Create an open environment that promotes communication, feedback and validation – Facilitate communication between colleagues and managers for problem-solving, relationship building, and conflict resolution. Provide ongoing recognition and praise from leadership and peers for high-level performance. Expose employees to customer feedback through meetings or access to dashboard data so they can evaluate the impact of their work and develop adaptive measures.

3) Cultivate accountability and autonomy – Foster a focus on shared success by empowering employees to set project goals, commit to results and feel a sense of ownership over project details and outcomes. Extend greater choice over projects, team assignments and timeline schedules.

4) Build individualized development plans – Help each employee create a career roadmap with guidelines for progression and promotion. Managers can assist in identifying specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals and the challenges to overcome. Provide regular meetings to review and update the plan and give performance appraisals and feedback.  With this kind of personalized planning, employees will not feel underutilized or stuck.

5) Enable multiple learning and growth opportunities – Reskilling opportunities can train employees on a new set of skills to apply to different roles in the company. Upskilling measures can improve upon existing skills to deepen their abilities and positively impact their current area.  Coaching and mentoring with senior staff can develop future manager talent. Provide opportunities to work on different teams or departments to experience new ideas and learn from people with greater skill levels.

6) Connect employees to the organization’s mission and goals – Managers should frequently communicate how the employee is contributing to the larger mission of the company through their work. Through individual and team meetings, connect the daily tasks to the larger objectives to give deeper meaning, value and purpose to their work.

Investing in your employees will pay off

Dedicating resources to invest in the development of your skilled talent will pay off in the short- and long-term. Through these six strategies, along with incentives and promotions, an organization can create a culture where talent is valued, visibly recognized, engaged and motivated. Not only will you retain current talent, but you will attract individuals who are seeking the qualities you’ve developed.

An effective program of continuous talent development saves time and money, unlocks creativity, improves performance, and enables valuable collaboration and idea exchange. It actively nurtures the people-management skills of the current leadership while mentoring the managers of tomorrow. An organization that takes the time to understand the motivations, preferences and expectations of its employees and delivers employee-centric leadership will reap numerous benefits and a competitive edge.

Craig Davis

Craig Davis is Head of Cloud Success Services at SAP North America.

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Craig Davis
Craig Davis is Head of Cloud Success Services at SAP North America.