February 19, 2013

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Forty under 40

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Restless Legs

The Pending Talent Shakeup and What Your Business Can Do About It

Gaylen Webb | Illustrated by David Habben

February 19, 2013

Employees, he notes, generally fit into four categories: highly engaged, somewhat engaged, somewhat disengaged and disengaged.

The highly engaged employees are your top 10 percent. They will always be your top performers, Olsen says. Nonetheless, just because they are your top performers doesn’t mean you can assume they will stay forever. “Your top performers are always looking for bigger and better and they will leave when the economy improves, because bigger and better is out there—unless you do things as a company to retain them,” he cautions. “It is primarily your top talent that will be motivated to find a better job.”

Others will leave as well. During a good economy, when there are more job opportunities, if your employees are not finding what they are looking for in your company, you can expect to see attrition from the somewhat disengaged and the somewhat engaged as well, Olsen adds.

It’s only the bottom 10 percent—the completely disengaged employees—who aren’t motivated to leave. “Your disengaged employees want to retire in their same positions. They don’t aspire to anything bigger or better…and that’s tough because they are only holding on by the skin of their teeth, but they don’t want to leave,” he says. “They will be disengaged no matter how much focus you place on them.”

Hence, from a productivity standpoint, Olsen says the people you need to focus on are your somewhat engaged and your somewhat disengaged employees. “When you focus on them, they’ll improve the most, and once fully engaged they will be able to manage themselves and be successful, which will improve your productivity, your culture, your revenues and your customer interaction. You will make your business a lot stronger because you have increased the number of engaged employees you have,” he explains.

Environment and Culture

In order to retain your top talent, it is important to understand why people change jobs. According to Olsen, there are generally three reasons employees leave: compensation and benefits, company culture, and work/life balance.

“From my experience, compensation is a part of it. Or, if they don’t like their manager or their boss, they could leave. Another reason is if they feel they are just being over-worked and not able to spend time with their families,” he explains. “Those are really the three top things that would cause someone to say, ‘You know, this really isn’t worth it,’ and they will jump ship.”

To keep your top talent from looking elsewhere, Olsen says you must focus on engagement and culture.

“Not every business can afford lavish facilities with indoor gymnasiums, but they don’t need to. And you don’t have to feed your employees candy bars every day, or pay for gym memberships,” he says. “You just need a culture where the employees are able to see the outcome of the work they do, where they can think outside the box and be innovative, where they are engaged in the things they want to do and where they are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. You can retain your employees for a long time by creating that type of an environment and culture.”

And the best thing to do, says Olsen, is ask employees about their satisfaction with the company culture.

“Hold a monthly ‘touch base’ session regarding what’s working well, what’s not working well—just don’t wait to ask those questions when someone is leaving. Ask them while they are still employed with you, and then you’ll find out what they are looking for and you can make things happen to retain your top talent,” he advises.

Hazen notes that attrition within a company, big or small, isn’t always about losing top talent to a more plentiful job market. Often, it’s about career development and the gap between the support employees expect to receive from their employers and the support they actually receive in the areas of cross training, coaching, mentoring and the opportunity to collaborate more often with other divisions of the company.

To prevent a talent shakeup, she explains, businesses need to regularly monitor the marketplace for compensation and benefit changes, but they also need to seek the underlying principles that people look for in a company. “Your top talent wants more than a job, they want to be on a winning team,” she says.

Olsen says that ultimately, a company’s culture must take center stage all of the time. “If not, you will lose your top talent and before long the somewhat engaged and somewhat disengaged will leave as well. The challenge in keeping your top talent is in finding ways to push them to do their best while allowing them to stretch themselves and find fulfillment in their work.” 


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