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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

One of the key differentiators of a successful company is its ability to attract and retain high performance employees. This task is especially difficult in sectors suffering from acute skill shortages, such as in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Staff retention is a critical issue for businesses. Lower productivity, disruption of business functions, lost intellectual capital, dissatisfied customers, and hiring costs can all have a negative impact on a company's bottom line. It's a simple truth that it costs more to recruit, hire and train a new employee than to keep an existing one. So if you find a good one, make sure you hold onto them.

However, the traditional approaches to talent management are failing. We live in a world where employees no longer expect or desire a job for life. Today's workplace is a dynamic, changing environment, without rigid roles or work hours. In short, it requires employees to be adaptable, agile and open to change. In turn, those employees crave the same fluidity in their careers, making it even more difficult for companies to hold on to the best and brightest.

Here are some tips to help you manage and retain your most valuable employees:

Encourage open, two-way communications

Modern company management is far removed from the command-and-control structures of the past. If you have hired the best, you need to spend time listening to what they have to say. Unfortunately many companies prefer to hide behind a reactive "open door policy" rather than spending time proactively communicating with employees.

Organizations that encourage open, two-way communication and provide a shared forum where innovative ideas can blossom, often see the benefit on the balance sheet. It may surprise you where that next big idea comes from in your company, and it is worth creating a process that encourages this type of dialogue between employees and senior management. For employees, the feeling of involvement can be hugely motivating.

Provide opportunities for growth and development

Young professionals often consider their career choices as an extension of their education, seeking out employers that provide a learning environment in an effort to hone their existing capabilities. Even though many employees join companies having already completed various diplomas or degrees, they are still likely seeking development opportunities through their employer.

On-the-job training and development focuses on areas that take employees out of their comfort zone, challenge their existing levels of knowledge and help them to become more well-rounded and complete members of the company.

By providing experiences that stretch employees' capabilities, such as opportunities in other roles or business units, you allow them to look beyond their existing roles, realize their potential and pursue advancement within the organization.

A culture of ownership

If people are truly a company's greatest assets, why do so many organizations fail at employee retention? Unfortunately, many companies continue to use traditional tactics, such as salary increases, in an effort to keep their employees satisfied. Although compensation is important, it typically is not the No. 1 source of motivation or job satisfaction.

Creating a good culture is worth the investment. While satisfied employees do their job, engaged employees work with passion, are truly willing to work above and beyond expectations and are committed to taking the company to the next level. A good retention culture begins with top management and filters down through the levels of an organization, providing a foundation upon which true employee engagement can grow.

Create brand pride

Finally, high performers see the company they work for as an extension of themselves and believe that the brand they work for says a lot about who they are – and not just their professional career. Your company should promote a clear vision, something that stands out from the competition and builds pride in your brand, both with customers and employees alike.

Akhilesh Tripathi (@akhilesht) is vice-president and head of the Canadian division of TCS (@TCS_News), a multinational information and technology service, consulting and business solutions company.