Attracting and retention of human talent

"Modern companies should be communities, not battlefields. At their heart lie covenants between executives and employees that rest on shared commitment to ideas, to issues, to values, to goals and to management processes."

Max De Pree, Chairman of Herman Miller, Inc.

A big challenge that several organizations face, both locally and globally, is the capacity building of organizations to attract and retain talented people. Much has been written on these areas and much has been said but application, weii, that's a different ball game

Consider a 'love marriage'. The man adopts his best-planned strategy to win the favour of the woman he loves, even leading into marriage. In the event that he depends upon that single strategy to continue with the smooth maintenance of his marriage, the union could possibly end in disaster, i.e., separation or divorce. Therefore he will require to adopt the second strategy to keep (maintain) his marriage. In the organization, too, management must learn to adopt two strategies, one for attracting talented people to the organisation and the second, to retain them in a fast-paced, challenging working environment.

Attracting Strategy

It is important for organizations to build up the necessary criteria /factors that make them appear attractive in the market place. Some of these factors would be -

  1. The establishment itself, i.e., the stability, number of years in business, number of staff employed, character of the organization and the Goodwill behind its name.
  2. Credibility, i.e., the delivery of the promise. To be seen as a dependable supplier of goods and/or services. Reliability and the assurance of not being turned back if a customer was to go back with a problem, even after a year or two of receiving a service.
  3. Type of product servtc-- i e., how long can such products and/or services exist ;r> a changing market place; the innovative and dynamic nature of the product or service offered. Do the products/services enjoy market leadership?
  4. The pay and benefits. Are the company remuneration packages and benefits in keeping with the industry/market average or higher. Pecuniary and non-pecuniary rewaids for superior performance, built into the working system of the organization so that people can earn as much as they deserve.
  5. Employer of good repute, i.e., what is the reputation that the company enjoys? Is the organization seen to be one that is concerned for people development and career prospects, ethical and upholding good values? Positive word-of-mouth reports from staff. This is where the employees sing praises about their organization in public and among their contacts and friends. The word will spread!
  6. Professionalism, i.e., is the company professionally run, adopting the stale-of-the art technology, processes and world-class management systems? Is the company non- discriminatory, considering just and equitable outcomes from corporate decisions.
  7. Corporate responsibility, i.e., is the company seen as one that respects social responsibility and the law of the land. Is the company contributing towards cleanliness in the environment. Have high regard for Environment, safety and health.

People Factor

Fostering enthusiasm and teamwork builds effective teams committed to organizational goals. It further encourages and empowers people to achieve, establishes challenging performance standards, creates enthusiasm, a feeling of investment and a desire to excel, fosters collaboration among team members and among teams.

People love to achieve when there is reward and celebration. Hence, organizations must recognize, reward and celebrate individual and team accomplishments. The way to go is to -

  • Acknowledge and celebrate team accomplishments
  • Reward people for good performance
  • Inspire people to excel
  • Let people know when they are performing well
  • Recognise the contributions of people from diverse backgrounds

Attract high caliber people

Attract and Develop Talent

Well-structured orientation programme

Timely specific feedback

Coaching / mentoring

Provide challenging assignments and opportunities

Build Relationships

Relate to people in an open, friendly manner Show sincere interest in others and their concerns Create an open and accepting environment

All strategies aimed at maintaining a delighted, enthused and committed workforce must be aimed at kindling the employee's mind and heart. This mechanism must be built into the company's performance management and development mechanism.

Development Strategy

The key three types of experiences that are especially important in development are -Q Hardships

Such as missed promotions, divorce or serious business mistakes.

  • Working with other people Good and bad, boss and subordinate
  • Job assignments

Especially those that stretch the person.

Job assignments are the single most important development experience. Turning point jobs involving financial and personal risk, are best. There are five basic types of job in this category:

  • Projects and task forces
  • These are discreet, temporary assignments on major problems facing an organization. They are typically taken on as short-term assignments in addition to one's current job. a Line-to-staff switches

    In these assignments, managers leave line jobs for a stint in a staff role.

  • Starting from scratch
  • Here, managers create a business venture from nothing or almost nothing. They are accountable for the success of building new plants, introducing product lines, starting new businesses, opening new markets or creating subsidiaries.

  • Fix-it / Turn-it-around jobs

In this case, managers are asked to dismantle and reconstruct existing operations plagued with difficulties. u A leap in scope

This involves an increase in responsibility that is both broader and different from what has gone before. Scope events include switching to new businesses and large increases in numbers of people and functions to manage.

Several companies globally, adopt the 'development strategy' in order to energise the enthusiasm and motivation of their talented staff. New opportunities, new challenges and new expectations help the employees to rejuvenate. This, in turn, helps in retaining their top performers. For example, certain Multinational companies send their middle managers on short assignments to other operations within the region or, sometimes, outside the region, i.e., the Brand Manager of a MNC in Sri Lanka may be sent on a one-year assignment to Indonesia to help support the similar line or the same 'brand' in Indonesia. Likewise, a manager from the Indonesian operation may be sent to India or Malaysia. When such managers return to their own country operations, there is a lot of value they could add to the business, as well as a lot of value in their own personal growth.

Retention Strategies

  • Establish a climate of openness and trust where employees are encouraged to bring out the differences in the open and resolve them, without backlash or consequence.
  • Constantly look for ways to provide skills, resources and experiences that will allow staff to handle more challenging work.

a Recognise achievement, reward and celebrate.

  • Foster enthusiasm and teamwork.
  • Devise development activities into small steps that lead to an ultimate goal.
  • Progressive pay and benefits in order to further motivate the high performer. Break away from fixed salary scales, and pay for performance. There are several methods of computing pay, for example -
  1. Point-factor job evaluation
    1. Managers prepare detailed job descriptions for all positions in the company
    2. Each job description is then rated according to common factors, such as working conditions, problem-solving requirements, knowledge required to perform the job and accountability for performance.
    3. Each job accumulates points based upon how much of each factor the job contained.
    4. The resulting total point score is then used as a basis for establishing a salary level for each job. Jobs with high point scores are paid more than jobs with low point scores.
    5. The point-factor base pay can be coupled with an annual merit increase that is linked to individual performance appraisals.
  2. Pay-for-Skill systems

a. Pay-for-skill compensation system tie base pay to the skills an

employee possesses in a particular specialty. In general there are two types, i.e., (a) increased knowledge-based system (tie pay to the depth of skills a person possesses in a particular specialty); and (b) multiskilled systems (tie pay to the breadth of skills people have and/or the range of jobs they can perform across the organization.

  • Build relationships between top management and all other levels with the view of creating a sense of ownership. Value suggestions and comments and respond to them wherever it is practicable.
  • Career path setting supported by need-based training and development offered.
  • Properly communicated Vision, business direction and Goals.
  • Conduct a quarterly, bi-annual or annual performance appraisal for all staff. Train managers on giving and receiving open and honest feedback.
  • Involvement in a job enriching project or in job rotation, thus killing the monotony of repetitive or routine work.
  • Invest in training and development. Relate the training budget as a percentage of payroll or sales. This way we can relate the impact of training on the development of the business. Most Sri Lankan companies, when facing a down-trend, will first cut the T&D budget. This is most unfortunate!!
  • Adopt a strategic way to manage performance and retain the employee. Here is how we may do it -
  1. develop high standards for consistent management and performance
  2. provide guidance needed to perform at high levels of competence
  3. provide opportunities for identifying each person's strengths and development needs
  4. help employees assume greater responsibility for their own career development
  5. enhance communications between managers and employees.

a Have a practical and tested 'Grievance Handling' mechanism, which is simple and understood by all staff.

  • Establish a performance related bonus scheme.
  • Consider retention bonuses for identified top performers, to be paid after completing the first three years in employment.
  • Involve employees in decisions that affect them at work.
  • A genuine attempt to convert employees into business persons, i.e., where there is a shared Vision, a shared mindset and where the employees have a sense of direction as to where the organization is heading. A transparent goal and objective setting is recommended and where people can size up their achievements or failures against the company's expectations.

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