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Lessons on growing people and retaining talent for business development

Written by Lungile Langa (Organizational Psychologist and Group HR Director – Servest)

The world of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Several factors have contributed to the changes we are seeing in that world – shifts in workplace demands, increased competition leading to long working hours and subsequent burnout, which the World Health Organization (WHO) calls an “occupational phenomenon” and considers a disease, as well as new trends emerging in the structure of work, the emergence of technology, robotisation and machines replacing humans in production.

For the first time we are seeing a new pattern emerging in the working world. We have workplaces comprising of four generations at the same time – the baby boomers, Gen Xers (Gen X), Millennials, and Gen Zers (Gen Z). These trends are placing pressure on businesses to rethink their employee retention strategies and consistently explore new ways to keep employees satisfied across the generation spectrum.

Furthermore, the impact of COVID-19 has also contributed to a number of changes in the workplace. But perhaps instead of looking at the negative implications of these changes, and the impact of COVID-19 in our work environment, we ought to look closely at how we can leverage these opportunities to extract learnings to improve our workplaces for the future, without breaking the bank.

Research shows that effective talent retention requires that companies build “great places to work” and ensure a good work/life balance; have a strong company culture; show empathy and that they value employee wellness; provide opportunities for growth and meaningful work. Research shows that these are the biggest contributors to talent retention.

Some strategies to ensure effective talent retention now and post-COVID-19 include the following:

  • Recruit the right people in the right roles
  • Provide ongoing education and clear paths for advancement
  • Offer a compelling Employee Value Proposition
  • Communicate openly and transparently
  • Leverage technology to provide a flexible work environment
  • Manage productivity and recognise good performance.

Beyond the COVID-19 period, businesses will be required to deal with many aspects of their workplaces, and perhaps re-evaluate their approach and response to the crisis. Importantly, they must:

  • Improve recruitment and onboarding processes
  • Provide training/coaching/mentoring to help employees develop their skills and abilities and discover new talents
  • Invest in their employee wellbeing, including mental health, physical and financial wellness
  • Support employees in their growth path
  • Review their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and offer compelling EVPs
  • Innovate ways to incentivise virtual workspaces
  • Provide development and advancement opportunities  
  • Re-engage current talented individuals to ensure that they don’t lose them to competitors.

Smaller businesses have an innate intimacy and flexibility that functions in their favour to create an appealing work environment. There is opportunity for them to leverage their strengths to attract and retain skilled employees. This can be done by:

  • Offering flexible work environments
  • Providing opportunities for advancement that align with employees’ strengths and values
  • Creating a positive work culture that fosters a tight-knit team of passionate employees
  • Respecting and caring for employees and showing their value as human beings
  • Understanding and supporting individual employee goals
  • Engaging through transparent communication
  • Creating and encouraging opportunities for growth
  • Establishing mechanisms to make it easier for them to do their jobs by providing the tools they need to work seamlessly.

While the biggest challenge with small businesses is that they want to know how to grow and retain great teams without paying hefty salary packages, a number of options can be explored, including:

  • Designing and implementing transparent compensation strategies
  • Implementing salary ranges, as this can show employees where they are starting on the range, and illustrate how they can grow to the next salary range
  • Replacing annual performance reviews and offering employees more frequent informal reviews. This may lead to quarterly rewards based on performance, including e.g. a day off, or reduced work week. Such incentives do not have to be costly, but rewarding for the team member.

A total reward strategy that includes benchmarked salary, benefits, profit sharing, etc, can all be helpful for retaining your star performers. However, it is not only be about money, but a strategic approach should also be considered, such as: 

  • Flexible work schedules and remote work options
  • Better vacation and sick leave
  • Health and wellness benefits
  • Exceptional work culture and environment
  • Company perks like discounts
  • Company social gatherings or trips
  • Learning and development opportunities.

No doubt, planting and nurturing a good seed will results in a good harvest. In a similar vein, investments in talent, will lead to business development, growth and sustainability.

Servest is a proud Partner of the NSBC