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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

At this time of year, many executives find themselves evaluating the past year and forecasting for the year ahead, hopefully with a fresh perspective informed by the successes, failures and lessons learned in 2014.

To ensure a successful start in 2015, two of the most important questions employers need to ask before they close the year are:

1. What is the current state of my team at the end of 2014?

Evaluate this question by taking a look at employee morale, gaps in skill levels and productivity.

2. What can I do to retain my top talent in 2015?

When you've got it right, a talented team is hands down your most valuable and profitable asset. Happy and engaged employees are often the most motivated to contribute to the company's business objectives.

However, making the wrong hire – or worse yet – losing a good employee, can negatively affect morale and have an impact on the skill level of your team, ultimately putting a dent in productivity and profitability.

In the recent Thinkopolis VI report, our research team found that only 11.5 per cent of career advancements happen within an organization. That leaves the remaining 88 per cent of Canadians with job-hopping as the only avenue to climb the ranks. Should the trend continue, employers will need to be prepared for a much higher turnover rate, with staff moving on every two to three years, individually racking up about 15 different jobs over the course of their careers.

This will ultimately mean more of your time and resources will be invested in talent scouting, managing staff shortages and training new hires. On average it could cost a company about 20 per cent of the exit candidate's salary to replace them.

On the other side, it is generally true that promotions will lead to employee loyalty. People who do advance to a higher level at a company will stay with that organization for an average of 7.5 years, or 200 per cent longer than the majority of people who do not receive promotions.

The lesson learned here is that if a company cannot offer its employees opportunities for career growth, they're going to go find it for themselves elsewhere.

Make retaining your top talent a high priority in 2015 with the following three tips.

Remove bias and the 'new is always better' approach

The majority of employers Workopolis surveyed told us that they do not have a succession plan in place, and that if a key manager or director were to leave, they would have to hire externally. The most common reason, cited by 40 per cent of employers, was that "there's no one qualified currently at my company."

Managers judge people they know and have worked with for years much more harshly than someone they have just met. This is why employers will often hire someone they've met only once or twice for a job interview over someone currently employed at their company.

This style of hiring inevitably leads to poor office morale, with those overlooked actively searching for a new position at a different company.

In 2015, take an objective look at your eligible employees and invite them, at the very least, to interview for the role alongside external candidates. Don't let your preconceived notions cloud your judgment and base your decision on whether they have the hard and soft skills required to execute the role.

The plus side to internal hiring is that your existing employee most likely has a solid understanding of the company and role, allowing you to reduce the time you spend on training and increase the time you spend on your day-to-day duties.

Be nimble and open to new career paths

It might be time to dust off your 'org chart' and identify new career paths within your organization that previously didn't exist. The reality is that in five or 10 years, some job titles will cease to exist, while others will have just been created.

To get ahead of the curve, take a step back, evaluate where your industry is heading and identify the shifts, the gaps and the opportunities available to you and your staff.

For example, if you have a team member who is more creatively-inclined than others, there may be an opportunity to groom those skills for a new position in your company that currently doesn't exist. In a previous Thinkopolis report, our research team identified jobs that didn't even exist 10 years ago, such as social media managers, sustainability experts and search engine optimization (SEO) specialists. These roles are now in high demand and continue to increase in prominence. Challenge yourself to identify what will be relevant for you in the next five to 10 years and start planning for it now.

Invest in new skill training and wellness programs

Perhaps the best tip to retaining staff in 2015 is to create a positive environment that invests in their well-being, both professionally and personally.

Of the top five factors that trigger a job search, a poor working environment ranks very important at No. 2, while low compensation comes in last at No. 5. (For the record, laid off/quit/lose their job, is No. 1).

Similarly, on a top five list of reasons why candidates accept a job offer, working environment comes in on top, followed by opportunities for advancement, work-life balance, location, and finally, compensation.

Your staff are adaptable, flexible and willing to invest their energy into the organization, but they need to see leadership make a vested invest in their growth and well-being as well.

Ensure you have a training or mentorship program in place that benefits each and every employee and will help them grow on their personal career path.

In terms of wellness programs, they can range from big to small, but they speak volumes to your existing staff. Consider flexible work hours, gym subsidies or even in-house nutrition or wellness lunch and learn programs. Implementing such programs can also lower employee absenteeism and boost morale and retention, so it is a win-win for all involved.

Tara Talbot is the vice-president of Human Resources for Workopolis (@Workopolis), Canada's leading online career management resource. Her responsibilities include creating and driving Workopolis' employee acquisition and retention strategies, as well as establishing the employee engagement best-practices.

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