Keeping Talent from Leaving

How do we keep our top performers from leaving for better-paid​ opportunities?

How do we keep our top performers from leaving? We can't compete with the salaries being offered by some of the MNCs and startups!!!

This is a problem that a couple of young leaders recently shared with me, and it's one that I've heard quite a few times before.

Well, before I share some ideas on what you can do to reduce people from leaving, lets be clear on one point... Money does not motivate people!

People are motivated by needs, and they range from our most basic needs for air, food, water and shelter up to growth (aka self-actualisation); recognising one's full potential.

Yes, money can help people to achieve some of their needs, it's just not what motivates them.

Maslow's Hierarchy

Here's the kicker...

Everyone is motivated by different needs at different times in their life!

What can we do to keep our top performers from leaving for better-paid opportunities? The truth is, you're never going to stop this from happening completely, but you can reduce the number. Here are 5 things you should consider:


1. Get to know your people

Who are they? Where do they come from? What do you know about their family? What's their personality type? Why did they join your organisation in the first place? How do they see themselves progressing in your organisation? What do they hope to accomplish within their lives? What interests them? What do they do for fun? What do they love about their job? If they could change one thing about their job, what would it be? What are their behavioural and technical strengths and weaknesses? What needs are driving them at this point? etc.

Only when you know the answer to these types of questions will you be in a position to:

  • Assign tasks that are of interest or perceived as enjoyable.
  • Identify behavioural and technical gaps for development.
  • Address areas that cause dissatisfaction.
  • Communicate in a manner suitable to their personality.
  • Align their expectations with that of the organisation.
  • Help them to achieve their career aspirations, etc.


2. Plan for individual development

Every single person in your organisation, from the janitor to the CEO should have a development plan, and that plan should be developed with them - not for them. The plan should have the following:

  • Clarity on their career aspirations.
  • Short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Specific development actions.
  • Clear and concise metrics to measure.

It should align with real opportunities for career advancement.

It should include regular check-ins against the plan, etc.


3. Build a culture of learning

To quote Peter Drucker; one of the greatest management gurus in the world, 'culture eats strategy for breakfast'. You see, there's a big difference from people wanting to learn and people having to learn, and the difference is often dependent on the culture of learning an organisation has.

Building a culture of learning requires a very deliberate effort to encourage, recognise and reward learning. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • There are learning opportunities all around us. Look for them!
  • Most learning happens on the job. OJT learning must be managed!
  • Have a clearly defined competency framework.
  • Let learner's lead the learning with regular sharing sessions.
  • Build an internal coaching bench for employees to call on.
  • Recognise and reward individuals for developing others, etc.


4. Make coming to work fun

Now I'm not suggesting having fancy 'startup-like' office with a fully stocked bar... I am however suggesting that you find ways to make coming to work enjoyable. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Turn meetings into exciting opportunities for people to contribute.
  • Introduce thematic days for special occasions or purposes.
  • Think of ways to celebrate special achievements.
  • Explore how to make mundane tasks fun.
  • Run competitions in and out of the office.
  • Use bright colours to spruce things up, etc.

One leader I work with organises a regular ten-pin bowling competition for her team. Another had a basketball hoop put up in the office, and team members are given opportunities to shoot hoops when they achieved certain objectives. Just look at how South West Airlines gave made coming to work fun for their cabin crew.

5. Build a proud workforce

Are your people proud of the organisation they work for? Do they share the organisation's values? Do they believe in its purpose? Do they feel a sense of belonging? Are they the best advocates for the organisation?

Pride is a very personal concept, and what makes one person proud doesn't necessarily make another proud. But when pride exists, individuals and teams feel inspired and tend to display extra-ordinary commitment. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Employ people that share the organisation's values.
  • Ensure that every individual knows why the organisation exists.
  • Ensure that every individual knows how they contribute to the overall purpose.
  • Recognise individuals and teams for their achievements.
  • Empower people to decide what CSR initiatives to support and drive them, etc.

In Conclusion

Everyone is motivated by different needs at different times in their life. Figuring out how to fulfil these needs may not stop top performers from leaving for better-paid opportunities, it will, however, make them think twice.

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Northpoint was founded on the belief that leaders have the power to ignite change and make a positive impact, and that everyone has the potential to make a difference.