Five Ways to Retain Top Talent in The New Workplace

Five Ways to Retain Top Talent in The New Workplace

Table of Contents

It’s a lot of work to recruit and retain top talent. How do you keep your star performers? You have some excellent people. But will they stay? Retaining employees especially key talent can be disconcerting when you look at some of the employee turnover rates these days:

  • 81% of CFOs are somewhat or very concerned about turnover indefinitely remaining and impacting revenue growth
  • A survey summary of 5,010 employees, aged 18+ across Canada, the U.S., UK, Australia, and New Zealand, recently tabled by Neilsen, found 35% of respondents are considering making a move when asked how they feel about staying with their current employer
  • In the U.S. alone, 65% of employees surveyed in a PWC study said they were actively looking for a new job in August 2021 up from 36% four months earlier.  

Let’s face it–it’s difficult to keep talent, let alone your key employees. But it’s critical. Why? 

It Takes A Lot of Time and Money to Replace Star Performers

What if the few people you’re losing are actually your best and brightest, asks Harvard Business Review contributor, Margaret Rogers.  

The cost of employee turnover in the U.S. increased from $600 billion in 2018 to $680 billion by 2020 . Those are big numbers on a national level. On an organizational level, the numbers are just as gobsmacking. 

Fortune’s work and career reporter points to analysis from The Dream Collective, a diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy, that shows: “replacing high-potential talent can cost a business two to three times the outgoing worker’s annual salary.”  To put that in perspective, The Dream Collective suggests “replacing an employee earning $200,000, could cost up to $800,000.”  

If that’s not bad enough, high performers deliver approximately 400% more productivity than the average employee. Losing even a few of your star people can have an enormous impact on your bottom line. 

And depending on how long it takes to fill a vacated position,  you’re looking at instability within ongoing projects and deadlines, not to mention the demoralizing impact on other key talent shouldering heavier workloads in the interim. 

It Takes A Lot of Work to FIND Key Talent

Good employees are in high demand, and they’re by no means easy to lock down. 

With geographic boundaries blurred thanks to advances in technology and hybrid work environments, top talent is more mobile (and easier to poach) than in the past, and compensation for talent is on a fast climb.  

Candidates have incredible options, and they’re often targeted by multiple companies. This makes the hiring process more challenging. As you compete with other companies you may have to offer more than you were originally planning. Even still, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll succeed in hiring your top picks. 

It Takes A Lot of Work to RETAIN Key Talent 

Once you’ve done the hard work and secured excellent employees, the next challenge is to keep them engaged, growing, supported, and secure. Gone are the days of having an employee for life. 

To make a difficult situation even more challenging, today’s millennial mindset sees young employees changing jobs often and quickly. 

Millennials are the largest population of the U.S. workforce. To retain millennial talent, it’s not just about job satisfaction and loyalty. Studies report 18% of employees aged 18 to 34 resigned from their last job because they wished to expand their scope, while 17% left due to not feeling respected…. 

Fortunately, there’s a silver lining in some of these clouds.

While the 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the annual employee turnover rate in 2020 was 57.3 that figure drops to 25% when considering only voluntary turnover and just 3% when looking at only high-performers.  

Further, Neilsen’s 2021 report tells us one-third of respondents overall would make a lateral move or accept less pay if it was a growth opportunity.  

Even more encouraging is a recent LinkedIn study of 32 million user profiles that found employees who made lateral moves have a 62% chance of staying with their current company after three years.  

These are encouraging numbers–provided you’re doing your part and taking the right measures. 

Top Talent Retention is of Utmost Importance– But How Do We Do It?

What are the best ways to keep your employees connected and loyal? What are different approaches to reduce employee turnover? How do you retain top talent in the process 

1. Provide Learning and Career Development Opportunities

To retain talent you want to ensure people are learning and progressing and as an employer, you’re paving the way for your employees to move forward. Their success is your success. It makes a huge difference when your people know you care about their development.  

Millennials and GenZers, for instance, crave career and professional development, with several studies suggesting 80% or more would leave an organization that doesn’t offer personal development opportunities. 

Organizations that provide varied growth opportunities for employees will realize longer-term retention and higher levels of engagement.  

Some practical ways to do this are to offer resources, courses, connections, and mentorships. 

Ceridian CHRO, Susan Tohyama explains how work has evolved: “people are seeking experiences versus titles, and the ability to do something innovative and have more agency over their future opportunities. Looking to the future, it’s not about grooming people to rise to a certain title. The focus will be on skills-based and experience-based talent development.”  

Varied internal growth opportunities and exposure to new experiences that cater to individual needs and goals show you’ve a vested interest in their progress. Rogers recommends a personalized way to develop and retain top talent is to: “Save the most significant opportunities for those who are ready. These have higher stakes — for the employee, the project, and the company at large; Smaller opportunities— say, participation in projects where the employee can rely on more experienced peers for support — are best when a team member is unfamiliar with or newer to a necessary skill.” 

2. Show Your Appreciation

Appreciation comes in many shades and styles. There isn’t one single method that does it all. It’s a variety of factors that make a difference. You want all of your employees to know you trust them, value them, and appreciate their hard work. Modern recognition and reward platforms make it easy.

Some small yet poignant ways to show appreciation are to: 

  • Recognize a job well done. If they completed a project that was fantastic, tell them. If they went above and beyond, give them a pat on the back. 
  • Pass along accolades. If a customer praises one of your team members for their performance or attentiveness, share it. Don’t hesitate to thank the person for what a great job they did, especially in front of others. 
  • Recognize the little things. The little things are what make up the big things. Even if it’s not a game changer in itself, bringing attention to  details well done will pave the way.  
  • Appreciate behind-the-scenes work. Perhaps one of your dedicated employees reached out to help a customer late in the evening or worked hard to mentor a newer team member. To help retain key talent like that, thank them. Let them know how great you think they are. 
  • Give glowing accolades on their LinkedIn profile. 

As Harvard Business Review points out: 

“Employees want to know they are respected and appreciated. As the saying goes, people may readily forget the things that you said, but they will always remember the way you made them feel.” 

So do everything you can to make your people feel amazing. 

3. Listen

Analyst Josh Berson stresses how continuous listening is business-critical in these times. Intelligent tools like goal and alignment platforms, and engagement and pulse surveys are helpful for managers and HR leaders to establish feedback loops and better understand and respond to employees. This timeless comment elaborates further: 

“Listen to employees and ask for their input as to what rewards might work best at your organization. Conduct meetings and surveys to enable employees to share their input. Most team members will work harder to carry out a decision that they’ve helped to influence.” – Leigh Branham, Strategic Planning Consultant 

Listening to your employees is key to appreciating and connecting with them. And retaining talent. When you encourage people to tell you what they need, to share their opinions, and when you allow them to influence decisions, a few wonderful things become evident: 

  • You gain their respect. They’ll appreciate you for appreciating them. 
  • Employees develop ownership and agency. They helped create this, and therefore will most likely be passionate and excited about it. 
  • They feel secure. When lines of communication are open, there are no negative assumptions. Everything is clear. 

How should you listen to your employees?

There are many ways. Sit down with employees for regularly scheduled 1-on-1 Sync-Ups. Organize group meetings. Conduct stay interviews. Send out easy and confidential surveys. Ask how people feel, how things are going, what they need.  

As  Forbes  shares: “If, as a manager, you don’t know how an employee would like to grow professionally, you can’t tailor opportunities to meet their needs, and you risk losing them.” 

That’s why communication is so important. Have fulsome discussions about career development with every employee, regardless of whether they’re star performers or not. Let your employees know you’re looking out for them and you’re committed to their success. Get to know who they are and where they want to go. Then help them get there. In return, you’ll retain not just top talent, but a broader loyal and enthusiastic team with immense potential. 

4. Compensate Competitively (And Not Just When Hiring)

“HR specialists say top talent expect to be rewarded for staying—and rightly so—and not feel like all the bonus pay is going only to new workers.” In an interview with, Red Hat’s vice president of enterprise applications advocates “regularly reviewing existing workers’ pay to make sure it’s fair and competitive as well as equitable….”  

Human capital management software company Ceridian also noted how “millennial and Gen Z workforces are assessing comparative salaries frequently–meaning they have a good idea of what makes for fair compensation.” Transparency around how compensation is structured and how pay decisions are made is fast becoming a priority for all organizations. 

5. Be Flexible

Retain your key talent by easing controls over their work arrangements. It’s a tough lesson we’ve all been forced to learn in the face of an unrelenting contagion. From a recruitment and retention perspective, providing increased flexibility for work hours and location of work help increase employee satisfaction, which leads to retention, along with increasing an employer’s competitiveness and attraction to land top talent.” says John Dooney, an HR knowledge advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). And we’ve all seen more than enough stats to know that flexibility and hybrid workplace environments really do impact talent retention

Invest in your employees, and they’ll invest in you

It’s a lot of work to retain top talent. But it’s even more work when your best people jump ship. So put in the effort, the time, the care, and the monetary resources.  

Most organizations have vast amounts of employee data. WorkTango can show you how to capture and use this information to track trends, expose patterns, identify problem areas, and take the kinds of actions that keep your people as committed to you as you are to them.