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FASTNET FIRST-HAND- Retaining Talent within Ireland's Life Science Organisations


Despite 40% of organisations in Ireland experiencing an increase in employee turnover and these high attrition rates being a significant organisational cost, it is interesting to note that 56% of organisations do not calculate the cost of labour turnover. Similarly, only 32% of global leaders view retention as a top priority. HR professionals are investing a significant amount of time and effort into candidate attraction but are missing the additional pieces of the puzzle such as management, development, and engagement, therefore creating an unforeseen retention issue for the future. Like Talent Engagement, there is no one overarching activity that solely affects retention but rather the entirety of a Talent Management Strategy. In this article, I am going to touch on certain topics affecting retention that we have not yet discussed: reward & recognition and the offboarding process.

Reward & Recognition

The concept of total reward covers all aspects of work that employee’s value, both tangible and intangible, and may form part of an overall reward strategy. The elements of total reward include a variety of elements too, ultimately, satisfy intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in the form of monetary and non-monetary reward.

The concept of Total Reward, including both the financial and psychological contracts between the employer and employee, is not new. Linking back to Herzberg’s theory of motivation, there most certainly are needs for both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards as retention tools. This effective total reward strategy stems from the organisations culture, business, and HR strategies, and serves to attract, motivate, and retain talent. In turn, this total reward strategy engages and satisfies employees, leading to increased business performance and results. Employee engagement and retention are significantly influenced by a company’s EVP, as discussed in my earlier article surrounding the attraction of talent, therefore the elements of the EVP serve to motivate, engage, and retain an organisations workforce.

There does, however, appear to be a disparity in the appeal of rewards between generations, with managers facing problems in attracting and retaining younger generations because they value work-related rewards and compensation more highly in comparison to previous generations. Likewise, motivation and individual needs are seen to be dynamic. As soon as a need has been satisfied, a person will change their needs. It is, therefore, necessary for reward systems to change at the speed the business is changing and to adapt to the economic climate of the time. This rings especially true during these current uncertain times.  

In recent times, it has been suggested that recognition has become one of the most critical strategic people management tools to allow organisations to attract, motivate and retain talent and could be the untapped resource organisations require to improve business outcomes. Essentially, recognition is fundamental to organisational success. In today’s workplace, however, recognition is not used as an engagement and retention tool as frequently as it should be. This is due to a lack of understanding as to what effective recognition involves, the assumption that a one for all approach will suffice and lack of creative thinking around recognition itself. Additionally, training and support are deficient in this area.

Taking this into consideration, it is interesting to note that only 20% of respondents in a recent Bersin by Deloitte survey disclosed that they are recognised monthly or more often. Furthermore, research by the U.S. Department of Labour determined that an alarming 64% of workers leave due to feeling underappreciated in the workplace. Also, 79% of employees do not feel valued for their work and effort. Having recognition programmes in place leads to significant and diverse benefits for organisations, including 31% lower voluntary turnover, a 14% increase in employee productivity and a 2% increase in operating margins. Furthermore, recognition programmes can reinforce organisational culture and values, by rewarding actions that display these characteristics.

Line Managers recognizing employee performance gives a significant boost to recognition and increases engagement by an impressive 60%. It has also been suggested that there is a significant link between recognition and the relationship between the employee and their manager. Individuals wish to work for managers who believe in them and recognise their contributions.

The Exit Process

As previously discussed in my article regarding Attracting Talent, onboarding is viewed as a key tool in engaging and retaining talent. Unfortunately, the exit process, or offboarding, is often disregarded as important. Determining why employees decide to leave should be a vital piece of an organisations strategic plan, yet many organisations miss out on this opportunity and according to industry research, only 29% of organisations have an offboarding process in place.

Exit interviews allow for insight into turnover trends, understanding how these trends affect organisational performance and equally the impact these trends have on the ability of the organisation to achieve its strategic goals. It is important to ensure data gained from conducting exit interviews feeds into other organisational and HR practices to enhance future retention levels. Few organisations, however, collect, analyse, and share exit interview data and follow up with action.

Ensuring a positive overall exit process is extremely beneficial as it allows for future communication between the employee and employer, which is becoming increasingly important due to the current trend towards the re-recruitment of highly skilled individuals. Additionally, linked to employer branding, a sensitively handled exit process can allow the previous employee to become a brand ambassador for the organisation, therefore protecting an organisations employer brand. Alternatively, if the individual leaves on a negative note, they are more likely to utilise social media to share their negative experience.

The way an organisation bids farewell to an employee on their last day is just as critical as the way they welcome the employee on their first, therefore enhancing the journey of the employee throughout their entire life cycle. Organisations need to view offboarding as a significant piece of this employee lifecycle. Most organisations, during the current war for talent, are becoming more aware of the need for captivating attraction and retention strategies, however, the criticality of an offboarding process is yet to be realised.

Evidently, retention techniques are not stand-alone but are knitted throughout all elements of an effective Talent Management Strategy. It is very clear, however, that reward & recognition are extremely powerful retention tools. Additionally, the exit process is a ‘full circle’ tool that is of significant value to employers, but an underutilised one. One of the common workplace conundrums, however, is that these retention tools remain undervalued by management as a technique. 

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