Retention with Intent

Best intentions may not retain the cream of your team. Brendan Byrne looks to local and overseas trends for effective methods of retention.

We’ve all seen a rising star leaving the business too soon. It hurt, and more than just financially. It takes time to build a pipeline of talent. You want it to pay off, with the benefits of delegation giving you more time to focus strategically, and retaining the IP in your business. The risk of whether they will stick around can leave you second-guessing your retention efforts. So how do other businesses in New Zealand see their leadership pipelines?

“86% of business and HR leaders believe they don’t have an adequate leadership pipeline.”

– Deloitte 2015

Confidence in Europe and the US is 30 percent higher, so we will look at what has been successful, and why.

Identify rising stars

Executive search firm Egon Zehnder International analysed the way companies assess and manage their rising stars. The first step for companies like Shell and GE was defining how to identify a candidate. Some firms chose a compliance approach; all managers were required to identify a candidate for their leadership programme every year. This resulted in a subjective choice of rising stars, with many leaving the programme within a year.

A more strategic approach identified potential candidates in areas ranging from the difficult to change (motives) to easily teachable (skills). Motives helped predict consistent patterns of behaviour over time, based on the triggers that cause people to become highly engaged. Do they gain satisfaction from seeing others succeed? Candidates who aligned with the strategy of their business group also flourished. If your markets are very fluid, look for the person with a history of adapting quickly to new environments.

Develop them

If you want to negate risk over time, measure the progress of your stars regularly. Performance appraisals are a proven way to objectively measure the individual. Structuring your development plan across more than just L&D courses will give objective data in other forms. Mentoring relationships help your star to engage in the big picture of their career, offering another measure of progress. Mentoring also supports engagement, with the opportunity seen by the star as a thoughtful and customised personal reward from the company.

“The ROI for companies investing in coaching is 7 times the initial investment.”

– Price Waterhouse Coopers 2011.

Coaching is the glue between all aspects of your leadership development programme. Inconsistent use of coaching can be seen as a beat-up tool. Consistent and specific praise reinforces new behaviour, while regular corrective feedback builds a resilient leader who embraces process improvement. Bersin & Associates Research reported in 2011 that organisations with excellent cultural support for coaching had thirteen percent stronger business results.

If we want leaders who make balanced judgements, our culture should reflect a balance. Many companies are asking for more awareness tools on unconscious bias, the automatic assessments we make of others based on our own background. An increasing number of parents seek flexible working hours, with many workplaces  embracing the challenges and benefits of an increase in diversity.

What’s next

A retention plan does require dedicated time and resource, so what’s the risk if you don’t? Financially, it often takes the first six months of a new hire to make your money back. There’s disruption to your customers. And disruption to the team picking up the slack, who may become disengaged and decide to leave.

If you would like resource to help with your retention plan, we would be happy to help. If you’d like to discuss options, or courses on mentoring and coaching skills.  The Institute of Management New Zealand has a range of over 40 courses to attend, or we can tailor training to your organisation and deliver it at your premises. IMNZ helps New Zealanders to step up into relevant training and keep skill current in a changing market. If you’d like to know more on our courses or how to deliver your own training, send us an email at [email protected] or give us a call on 0800 800 694.

Brendan Byrne is IMNZ’s“ Wellington-based learning and leadership facilitator – helping New Zealanders step up and lead since 1946.

References (cited online March 2015) Why Companies Fail to Engage today’s workforce. Forbes. (cited online October 2011) How to Hang on to Your High Potentials. Harvard Business Review. (cited online January 2016) Retention Management and Metrics. Nobscot Corporation.


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