The UK is officially out of recession, as are most countries around the world. You couldn’t call it “bouyant” yet, but the recovery has started. Over the next few months and years, it will gain momentum. One of the unintended consequences of the recovery will be that many companies will lose their best staff. We have spoken about this before.

In reading an article from Deloittes again, I thought that it would be worth repeating the advice they gave for how to stop your best staff leaving in the next year.

When economic conditions improve, a certain amount of voluntary turnover is inevitable. But if addressed early and managed correctly, the turnover doesn’t have to be debilitating. Here are some small steps to consider taking now to avoid big problems later:

  • Take care of top performers and critical workforce segments. These employees are the heart and soul of your business. Their skills will enable them to succeed anywhere, which is why they are attractive targets for poachers – particularly when business conditions start to improve. Communicate one-on-one with these key people so they don’t even think about leaving. Let them know they will not be cut, and pre-empt competitive offers by providing them with valuable development opportunities that are worth more than money.
  • Hold managers accountable for retention. When times are tough, companies typically encourage leaders and managers to focus on short-term financial performance at the expense of everything else. In the process, people issues often get pushed to the back burner. To help avoid this problem, companies must make a deliberate effort to hold leaders and managers responsible for retention – and support them with the right tools and training. One of the main reasons talented people leave an organization is because they don’t like or don’t trust their immediate bosses. Tying managers’ performance and compensation to retention gives them a tangible incentive to keep their people both happy and productive.
  • Don’t kill survivors by drowning them with extra work. After a round of layoffs, it’s tempting to pile all of the old work on the few people who were “lucky” enough to keep their jobs. In many cases, the end result is that the talented people you wanted to keep burn out and leave anyway. To avoid this pitfall, you must accept the fact that some of the old work simply won’t get done. Set clear priorities, rather than trying to do it all with a fraction of the staff. Also, make sure people get the training they need to succeed with their new responsibilities.
  • Be careful about cutting compensation. These days, a growing number of companies are using across-the-board pay cuts as a way to share the burden and avoid lay-offs. Some workforces respond well to this “enlightened” and egalitarian approach. Others don’t, and wind up with a mass exodus of top talent. Think carefully about your company’s culture and how your people are likely to react. Discreetly talk to key employees to get their personal read on the situation. Organizations that emphasize teamwork and rely on contributions from people at every level tend to favor a shared approach. On the other hand, organizations that emphasize individual performance and personal heroics might actually prefer lay-offs.
  • Tell the truth. If you tip-toe around the truth, people will spend all of their time speculating and worrying about what is really going on. Also, your best people will start formulating exit strategies and contingency plans. You might get away with fibbing for awhile, but when you eventually get caught your credibility will be lost forever. At that point, even telling the truth won’t work. These pre-emptive actions can help companies hold onto their top talent and keep future turnover to a manageable level. That’s one of the keys to outmaneuvering your competitors and capitalizing on the recovery.

Good advice!

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