Retaining Strong Talent in Rapidly Growing Organizations


People matter in business. We all agree and value each individual’s knowledge, experience and contributions to your business. Yet, do we consider the implications around how your people handle intellectual property, institutional memory and resources in the future? You need to retain great employees to best manage these fluid elements within your organization. How?

In a recently published transcript in BostonInno, two experts offer very different tactics to retain top talent. I call the first, ‘shut up and listen,’ and the second, ‘tell it like it is.’ While each theory shapes different firms with different cultures, the best retention practice demands a delicate balance drawing on qualities of both. Maintaining reliable communication channels, expressing willingness to listen and implementing mutually beneficial policies retain great employees and usher success into your board room.

To one extreme, “shut up and listen” says, “we ask what employees want [in benefits and compensation] to stay, we act on it and invest heavily to make that happen… Your retention plan is only as good as how it’s in line with what employees actually want.” This plan affords employees the opportunity to directly shape their experience at work. They control their path to success, whatever that means for them. Inviting people to express their hopes fosters a relationship premised on engagement and two-way communication.

‘Tell it like it is’ offers a security that liberates employees to focus on driving results. This plan alleviates employee stress associated with career planning. Organizations with senior experience guide employees in the context of a team. They implement strong programming to advance employees’ careers communicating goals every step of the way. Rather than sweat about the next promotion, raise or move, employees’ confidence in their contributions add value and spur their careers forward on a clearly defined path.

Businesses would do well to incorporate elements of both models into their retention strategy. Drawing on the symbiotic communication of the former and strong planning elements of the latter, organizations can excel with employees who want to thrive.

Now three elements that make a great retention plan:

First, sustained communication welcomes important stakeholders into the business conversation. Employees, in particular, become advocates for their employers when they feel empowered with valuable information. As decision makers, you should leverage digital, print, internal and external tools to transform ‘9-5 workers’ into ‘24/7 missionaries’ who proclaim the ways your business helps others succeed. You cannot fuel this change without information.

Your business suffers when you leave employees wanting more information. 68% of workers say the “frequency of communications by their employer directly affects job satisfaction” and 45% say that employers do “not do a sufficient job communicating information. You must achieve some balance because, while we strive for transparency, no one should expect you to give the ‘secret sauce’ away. What do I mean? Employees deserve to know the direction and long-term strategy of the company; however, they should not expect important, private assets within the organization. Communicate to include others into decision making within your organization when reasonably possible.

Second, as you communicate, express a willingness to listen to concerns, encouragement and feedback. You might not act on what you hear; however, including someone in a discussion rarely upsets anyone. Your opinion benefits from critical dissents and honest commentary. Affirm people’s passion around why you do what you do and encourage them to think courageously around challenges your organization faces.

Quick story on this point: I was at a company that moved an office from a metropolitan area to the suburbs. The moved caused many employees to leave the company as public transit did not reach the new space… It changed the culture and talent needs of the company. Thankfully, this company communicated really well and allowed its employees to make important and informed life decisions. Although, in some cases, employees could not accommodate the change, everyone moved forward with mutual professional respect.

What should we learn from this example? When organizations communicate well and listen to employees they strengthen the future prospects. While they cannot always retain their strong talent, these employees left the company grateful for a leadership team that clearly explained their intensions and timeline. That organization continues to succeed and increase their employee satisfaction long after this initially difficult move.

Third, policies need to make sense for everybody across and top to bottom in your organization. While ‘shut up and listen’ may lend to employees taking advantage of their workplace, ‘tell it like it is’ leaves no place for cooperation dictating workers future. Policies need to allow businesses to thrive including its employees. With various needs, employee accommodations liberate people to work harder and more productively. Common sense guides policy best.

Each of these tactics will allow your company to succeed by retaining the right talent. If you want to better understand your needs and improve your talent acquisition, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.


Timothy McGuirk serves as the Director of Marketing Communication at Marchon Partners. He studied public relations at Boston University’s College of Communication. Follow him on Twitter @mcguirkt and Intragram @timothymcguirk.

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