Retaining (Not Revolving) Talent

Staff retention is a topic that is heavily on my mind most days in my role as a coach and mentor to young executives in the non-profit world. It seems that the talent pool grows thinner by the week and finding sharp, smart emerging leaders willing to work long hours for lesser pay is already challenging enough. Retaining those executives that are able to excel is a key strategy for any organization to accelerate growth. What tactics can be put in place to constantly and consistently develop young talent and develop critical mass?

Invest the time to teach and coach new staff on the fundamentals of your business and also about being a professional. The resumes you’re sifting through today are largely made up of individuals who have been in school for the last 18-20 years. The job you offer them may very well be the first that they have ever held. This requires a commitment to not only give them the basics, but also to take them under your wing and develop them as a professional and perhaps into adulthood. Replicating the type of “onboarding” that I, and many of you, received when we started out will only serve to feed the doom loop… and keep the doors revolving.

Be willing to extend trust and friendship from the very beginning. I have long disliked the clichés “they don’t have to like me, but they will respect me” and “trust has to be earned”. While there are elements of truth in those statements, they wholly miss the mark with the emerging millennial leaders in today’s talent pool. You will earn trust with them if you extend it first, and with that trust will come the deeply needed feelings of support and compassion that are musts for them to stay. While you may have some difficulty relating completely to them, finding common ground to connect and be friends will pay huge dividends over time. Please don’t connect on social media and call it good – in fact, you may want to avoid doing that altogether. Be compassionate, get to know them, ask how they’re doing, listen to the answers… Everyone, not just millennials, wants to feel valued by the company and the people they work for. Don’t just make them feel valued – actually value them.

Delivering early wins and quick advancement will make it hard for your team to ever walk away. The younger the talent, the greater the need they have to succeed and move up. Give them projects that are high impact, and have a high likelihood of success. Then support them fully through the process giving them all the credit for the win. Once they’ve tasted that success, they will go out and replicate it. Be prepared to advance them in your organization every two years. That’s a big departure in expectation for many of us, but it is the nature of the new workforce. It will require us to redesign our organization charts, create new positions, and give greater responsibility incrementally.

These ideas and tactics are not guaranteed to work – some people are going to move on from your organization no matter what you do. A willingness to adapt and be flexible in how you approach onboarding and supporting talent is guaranteed to slow the revolving door and increase retention of top talent.

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