Why keeping your top talent should be a particular priority and how to do so when everyone else wants them
Across the Insurance industry candidate shortages are driving up salaries and creating a game of musical chairs as employers look to fill new roles and replace staff. Not only is the ensuing recruitment both time consuming and costly, but the disruption to operations as new staff get up to speed often slows down progress.
While some staff turnover is inevitable, even desirable, no company wants to lose their best people and implementing a strategy that focuses specifically on identifying and retaining your top talent is a great way to minimise disruption and make best use of your budget.
The disproportionate value of star performers
In most teams there are a handful of individuals it would be particularly time consuming, costly and/or disruptive to replace. Some have incredible knowledge of the business and its systems; others have built relationships and networks that cannot be replaced; others have a mix of skills that is particularly rare; while others are simply outstanding at making the right things happen.
If an average performer resigns then, although it may be a nuisance, disruption should be minimal so long as you are willing to pay market rates for the skillset. Star performers are by definition scarce and so tend to be hard to find, with competition for them often resulting in costly bidding wars. Furthermore, losing these key individuals not only increases the workload on everyone else but also sends a message that the best people believe they can do better elsewhere.
In short, a Star Performer Retention Strategy (SPRS) designed to keep key individuals makes sense. So how do you set one up?
Developing a Star Performer Retention Strategy
It is obvious, but a SPRS is pointless if you don’t identify the star performers you are trying to keep. As a first step, require managers to identify employees who it would be particularly challenging to replace – “regrettable resignations”. To help prioritise resources, if possible take into account how hard each individual will be to replace, the level of disruption losing them will cause and how likely they are to leave.
Having benchmarked salaries and ring-fenced budget to retain your stars, “re-recruit” them and, as part of that process, put in place personalised Star Performer Retention Plans (SPRP).
“Re-recruiting” current employees to re-energise their relationship with the company and get them to recommit (much as they were persuaded to join in the first place) is not a new concept. Nonetheless most companies are guilty of investing more effort in attracting new talent than in proactively retaining the top people they already have. Replacing stars will invariably be time consuming, costly and disruptive so proactively pulling out all the stops to find out their needs and desires and make it as hard as possible to turn their heads is worth prioritising.
At the heart of the re-recruitment process should be a personalised SPRP that:
- Demonstrates how much the company values the star’s contribution.
- Articulates how the company will help them achieve their potential. Numerous studies have shown that to keep top talent, companies need to ensure star performers have the structure to do their best work and the ability to make a meaningful impact. Encourage a discussion around what they want to achieve and the resources and systems they need to do that.
- Sets clear development targets and outcomes. While high performers are often less dependent on targets to achieve their potential than their colleagues, targets nonetheless provide clarity and ensure expectations are aligned. They can also be used to help map out the star’s career path in a clear way giving confidence about their future at the company.
- Tailors their benefits package. Creating bespoke benefits packages for key staff often works out cheaper and more effective than pay rises alone. Staff you hire and those leaving you can provide great insights into what other employers are promising and help you develop a toolbox offering one-off benefits (e.g. bonuses); long term tie-ins (e.g. training loans); and lifestyle benefits (e.g. flexible working) to help create truly personalised packages. Top performers will often have their own ideas about the balance of salary and other benefits that appeals so encourage them to make suggestions.
- Identifies nuisance issues. Nuisance issues or annoyances that frustrate employees but aren’t important enough to make it to the top of the to do pile are often easily ignored. While addressing all employees’ bugbears may not be feasible don’t let trivial issues fester with your star performers – identify them and fix them. It is funny how the small things often matter just as much as larger ones.
As with any personal development plan, the SPRP cannot then be put in a drawer. Managers need to ensure that there is ongoing engagement with their stars, to keep them up to date with the company’s vision and performance and the implications of those for their continuing success.
While an SPRS doesn’t guarantee none of your stars will leave, as an experienced recruiter I can assure you that it makes our job an awful lot more challenging!