Sick of seeing your employees flee to your rivals? Then start paying attention to retention.


TO PARAPHRASE YOUR LOCAL ESTATE AGENT: Retention, retention, retention.

Smart recruitment is important, of course, but bringing the best candidates on board is useless without a robust retention strategy in place to keep them. As with every other aspect of business management, retention is changing at a breakneck pace while more and more burgeoning stars elect to join the gig economy. Can your business compete? Yes … but only if you give retention more attention, time, and resources than you ever have before. Master these five crucial concepts — some surprising, some as old as time — and you’ll hold onto the best talent in your organisation in 2018 and beyond.



Approximately 70 percent of us are passive job seekers, per a recent Market Insights study conducted by GCS Recruitment. This means we aren’t actively engaging in job searches at the moment, but would seriously contemplate a new offer if one is presented. The survey also shows that people are most influenced to consider a role change by job location, the role itself, and the working environment. They’re hungry for skills development, flexible hours, and a diverse team of coworkers. In other words, if you can’t deliver the goods, your employees are ready and waiting for someone else to come and pluck them away. Your mission is to make them feel like they’re challenged on a regular basis, they’re an important part of the organisation’s success, and they have plenty of opportunities to learn valuable new skills.



If you want to retain your most talented employees, there’s the small matter of actually knowing who they are. That starts with using Pareto’s Law to identify your organisation’s “vital few.” Coined by Dr. Joseph Juran in the 1940s, the law states that in any situation, approximately 20 percent of the inputs and activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes and results. In terms of talent, Pareto’s Law suggests that 20 percent of a company’s work-force accounts for 80 percent of the out-put, and it’s these 20 percent of talented employees who must be retained at all costs. So how do you go about identifying your own vital few? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D., the CEO of Hogan Assessments, suggests that when measuring and identifying talent, you must ask two key questions on behalf of your organisation: What should we assess? And how should we do it?


Talent Analytics - Talent Retention
Don’t let your key talent desert you.



Let’s start with the first question. Identifying talent from scratch involves defining value creation and analysing who is actively doing it. Each organisation will have its own specifically curated definition of what constitutes value, and therefore talent. But most unsuccessful practices stem from people in the same organisation who can’t agree on exactly what the value is. Hiring new people must involve knowing what should be measured in order to accurately predict value contribution. Despite the billions of jobs available and the millions of possible employers out there, it’s generally thought that individuals who are more likely to be part of the vital few are interpersonal, technically qualified, and motivated. If you’re looking to define what to assess, these three factors are a hell of a place to start.

As for that second question — how can your organisation accurately assess its vital few? — it helps to get out of your own way. Ask 100 managers how they define talent, and 99 will say some version of “I know it when I see it.” This method of identifying talent is almost always plagued by biases. People tend not to share or remember the instances when they screwed up; their win-loss ratio is skewed favourably when they remember and report their track record. So here’s a better alternative to going with your gut: Use well-established, valid, and reliable talent identification tools like interviews, assessment centres, cognitive ability tests, and personality assessments, all of which allow for much greater accuracy when assessing — and ultimately selecting — candidates.

The catch? Such methods require considerable resources, which is why many organisations usually opt for the cheapest tools, use them quickly, and end up shocked by their lack of results. If you don’t put in the time, effort, and money to assess, of course you’re bound for disappointment. One of the most effective tools at a manager’s disposal is the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), which predicts the extent to which someone is likely to use a strength to excess — when confidence becomes arrogance. This instrument is extremely accurate and can provide invaluable insights into the more unhelpful and risky parts of someone’s personality, but it’s also complex and requires an expert eye to use it.



Studies show there’s a positive correlation between employee engagement and organisational outcome. This emotional attachment has a very real effect on the individual’s wellbeing and productivity and the health of the business. So enhancing engagement isn’t just a simple matter of finding the right people with the right skills for the right role; it’s also about ensuring that the values and interests of the employee can be fulfilled by the organisation.

How, then, do we make time for employee engagement? With managers hounded by persistent emails, quarterly reporting, steering committees, and PowerPoint decks, it often feels impossible to carve out enough time to tend to direct reports, let alone tap into their motivations and career aspirations. Sometimes the answer is as simple as hiring a professional for some extra help. Even a part-time HR manager can make all the difference in helping you understand and take care of your employees.



The myriad managers who “know talent when they see it” still pick promotions for leadership positions by relying on their intuition. Not only is this inherently flawed, but in a practical sense, it often means the right people routinely get overlooked. The best candidates might have the qualities that make for good leaders — teamwork, good judgement, and a strong work ethic — but they may not be as adept at networking and self-promotion as their peers. Turns out the people who are great at talking themselves up can be terrible at leading a team. As Chamorro-Premuzic says, talent is personality in the right place. If you find people with winning personalities, you can absolutely help them develop the talents you’re seeking. And here’s the best part: When you promote employees with nascent leadership skills, you simultaneously boost your retention efforts. A new leader who feels engaged, fulfilled, and proud of his or her role can rub off on the rest of the team, motivating and inspiring other employees to feel hopeful about their future with the firm. Confidence is contagious. Spread it.


Read more about how Black Isle Group uses Talent Analytics to help you with key talent retention.


This article appears in this quarter’s Talent Quarterly magazine.

Talent Quarterly Magazine

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