What can you do to tempt your top talent to stay?

Here, Julia Wellbelove, senior consultant at Roffey Park, reviews their 2014 Management Agenda research and considers the reasons why managers are getting itchy feet and what you can do to tempt them to stay.

Nearly half of managers surveyed as part of the Roffey Park Management Agenda 2014 stated they’re considering a move in the near future. This finding is consistent with other research, which when taken together paint a clear picture that job-seeking intentions are rising. The reasons for considering a move are certainly broad ranging:

• No promotion prospects
• Poor management
• Lack of appreciation
• Insufficient financial rewards
• No opportunity to broaden skills
• No challenges
• Long hours
• Lack of responsibility
• Incompatible ethical aims
• No opportunity to travel

Opportunities for development

Today, talent movement does not appear to be primarily about money; insufficient financial rewards was given by only a third of managers as a reason for considering a move. Neither does lack of responsibility feature strongly as an issue affecting retention (18 per cent).

Lack of promotion prospects was the key reason given by half of managers for considering a leave in the near future, which suggests that perhaps as organisations become flatter and leaner that there are fewer opportunities for managers’ aspirations to be met. Therefore, organisations need to see the provision of development opportunities as a way to forestall the potential loss of talent.

Roffey Park’s research suggests that HR would benefit from developing a more sophisticated and segmented talent offer to reflect changes in the demographics of the workforce and differing aspirations of various multi-generational groups.

After all, younger workers crave individual responsibility, freedom to make decisions, opportunities to contribute early on, appreciate up-to-date technology, seek team-based, collaborative, socially-networked cultures, with accessible managers, providing high levels of feedback. Whereas older generations are looking for meaningful and varied work, responsibility including sharing knowledge and experience, opportunity to learn, congenial and respectful workplace, fair pay, adequate benefits, and flexible work arrangements .

Improving the quality of leadership

There are other factors affecting retention. The second and third highest reasons cited for considering a move confirm the old adage, ‘people leave managers, not organisations’. Just under half (48 per cent) gave poor management as their reason for considering a move, followed by lack of appreciation (43 per cent).

It appears that organisations are aware that more investment is required to improve leadership; 87 per cent of HR professionals selected ‘developing appropriate leadership and management styles’ as their top people challenge. But what constitutes a great leader – the type of leader that makes people want to stay? Roffey Park explored this with managers through in-depth interviews and their answers seem to revolve around five key themes:

• A clear vision and strategy
• Being approachable, supportive and trusting
• An empowering style
• Excellent communication skills, including that ability to listen well
• Possessing credibility bot in the eyes of direct reports and the wider organisation

A culture of long hours

Our research also found a consistent picture, that regardless of level of seniority lack of promotion prospects, poor management and lack of appreciation were still the top three reasons for holding an intention to leave, with the exception of Board Members for whom long hours feature strongly.

Managers seem conflicted on the matter of working hours. Whilst over 80 per cent of managers reported working longer than their contracted hours, only a fifth indicated this as a reason for considering a move. The key here may be in how positively managers view the balance between work and personal life, and the vast majority (71 per cent) report feeling happy with the balance.

Talent and the HR agenda

Our research questions whether the retention of talent is being given the prominence it needs? Our survey suggests talent should be high on HR’s agenda but indicates this may not be the case, with HR currently focusing on internal change and performance management and less on strategic talent management. Whilst HR managers report their key focus switching to retention and succession planning in five years’ time, there is a danger that this will be too little, too late.

The talent challenges are many, but they include a more competitive market for early career talent, the potential loss of experienced and knowledgeable older workers (our research found this to be a particular concern for manufacturing organisations) and the need for organisations to accommodate changing expectations and preferences (flexible working, reward and recognition) either due to an older workforce or due to talented individuals holding greater bargaining power.

The challenge of a global workforce

From in-depth interviews we identified a drive to identify talent with global mindsets and the need for greater global mobility in staff, in addition to developing their technical specialists to be leaders of the future. One Director of HR working in the healthcare sector described the dilemma of how to retain their global talent:

“Our people move all over the world. How do we recruit and retain the people who have a global role? What is the engagement, the psychological contract that will mean they will buy in and stay and work with us?”

Our research would indicate that organisations need to strive to build a culture which supports and challenges high performing staff, which places great importance on ethical behaviour and requires managers and leaders to act in a way which is congruent to the values of the organisation. These, alongside individualised development planning, could just tempt your talent to stay.

The Management Agenda 2014 is available to download free of charge from Roffey Park’s website. Visit www.roffeypark.com/agenda2014