Retain Your Talent Not By Financial Incentives But Through Trust

Dear Mr. Manager: “If You Don’t Have a Turnover Problem Now, You Are Going to Have One Soon”.

Now it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that employees, especially top talent, are getting restless in today’s economy. Organizations, hammered by the recession, have found numerous ways to cut costs through salary reductions, staff layoffs, plant closing, slashing budgets, etc.

While all this is happening, top talent is stewing and waiting for the first opening to “pursue other opportunities”. They’ve seen good staff leave, financial incentives dry up, promotional opportunities disappear, budgets being cut and training and education being put on hold. All are leading them to question why they stick around. Aside from the need to eat, they don’t have much incentive to be loyal to you.

trust image work effectsAn article entitled Avoiding the Turnover Tsunami”, written by Gene Tange, president of PearlHPS, appeared mid-year in and included a couple of interesting quotes on the oncoming talent exodus. Research studies have found that “7 out of 10 companies expressed concern about the ability to attract top talent” (Business Week) and “retention and talent in general rose in importance from being ‘not on the radar screen six months ago to [being] one of the pressing issues keeping them up at night’" (CEO Roundtable).

Now Mr Tange’s article is thoughtful and well-researched by showing ways that talent retention isn’t working (primarily financial incentives), and ways that it is (engagement programs), he doesn’t talk about the underpinnings of why top talent leaves: trust.

You can have the greatest incentive programs in the world with lattes and car washes, but if employees don’t trust you it’s all hot air. It’s window dressing. Your top talent wants to see that their professional future is bright and that they will grow within your organization. They want to become better leaders and receive all the trappings that come with success. Cutting training incentives and slashing leadership development budgets isn’t going to make them happy and sends the wrong message.

Soon, they’ll see the writing on the wall. The organization doesn’t care about its employees. It doesn’t see the value in its top talent. It is willing to see its leaders walk out the door and go to the competition. Even if that isn’t completely true, the perception is just the opposite and once you’ve lost the trust of your top talent it is very difficult to get it back. It can’t be bought with financial incentives.

As a leader in trust-based performance management and leadership development, Work Effects has found that the most valuable employees are your current leaders and if they start to lose trust with their employer, organizational trust, and subsequently, organizational capacity declines. With declining organizational capacity comes declining performance, declining revenues, declining profits and ship-jumpers. Not a good situation to be faced with, especially in today’s global economy.

One place to begin to rebuild trust is looking through the eyes of your top talent. What kind of messages are your sending that would make them start to not trust you? What is getting in the way of their success and subsequently, your organization’s success?

Once you’ve started to answer these questions, you can build programs to keep top talent around. Focusing on leadership training and development is a start. Another area to look at is assessments like the Work Effect Revolution 360TM for your top leaders to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses and the Work Effects Trust & CapacityTM survey that looks at organizational trust. Each of these tools tries to get to the heart of what is causing your leaders to start to question if you’ve really “got their back”.

Trust goes a long way to mending fences and keeping your top talent. As Gene Lange aptly stated the “turnover tsunami” could be just off your coast. Stop it before it comes on shore.

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