Here’s how to stem the flow of talent loss, according to HR experts
This time, it’s personnel.
Senior White House staffers dread an impending brain drain, Politico reports, with no arrangements to fill several anticipated vacancies in 2018. But brain drain, or skilled employees moving to greener pastures without imparting know-how to their successors, reaches far beyond the West Wing: It’s projected to roil companies currently relying on an experienced Baby Boomer workforce.
Nearly eight in 10 HR professionals, for example, said in a 2014 Society for Human Resource Management survey that workers aged 55 and up boasted more knowledge and/or skills than other employees; 71% said the older workers were more mature and professional, and 70% said they had stronger work ethic. But only about a third of respondents said their companies were prepping for an anticipated increase in the share of older employees by “beginning to examine internal policies and management practices to address this change.”
Aging workforce and beyond, we asked human resources experts for tips on how to stem the flow of talent loss:
Have frank, open dialogues. “Keep people engaged and motivated and excited about where the business is going,” Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, a small-business hiring expert and CEO of YOLO Insights, told Moneyish. “They want to feel part of it. No one likes to feel like a cog in a wheel.” This might take the form of a town-hall scenario in which senior managers explain certain business challenges and/or opportunities — and what role they expect employees to play going forward. Quick, regular check-ins can also make employees feel valued, she added, and give leaders insight into their workers’ priorities.
Focus outgoing employees’ remaining time on knowledge transfer. Assuming the person gave two weeks’ notice, Barnes-Hogg said, it’s best if she doesn’t devote it all to wrapping up existing projects or client work. Rather, she should dedicate a good chunk to documenting where she spends the most time with the greatest impact — and drawing a roadmap of all the systems and processes her successor will need.
Encourage departing senior employees to ease the transition by appealing to their sense of legacy, workplace strategy expert Leigh Stringer suggested, so they “take a little bit of responsibility for what they’re leaving behind and … find ways to motivate the people who are picking up the ball to keep it going.” It’s also possible to temporarily keep them a while longer with a pay bump.
Show gratitude. This “could be something just as simple as showing appreciation through a thank you; a public acknowledgement of their effort,” Barnes-Hogg said. About 15 years ago, she added, she actually received a handwritten thank-you note from the nuclear power plant where her husband pulled six-day-a-week 12-hour days for several weeks. “It wasn’t just appreciation for my husband as an employee, but it was appreciation for the family for stepping in and picking up slack for that time period as well,” she said. “It made you feel valued; it made you feel recognized.”
Offer flexibility in how, when and where employees work, Stringer said. As workers navigate various stages of life — caring for new children or aging parents, for example — find creative ways to help them integrate their personal lives with work. “If you can’t give paid parental leave, (try) giving that new parent the ability to work from home or work odd hours so that they can spend time with their new baby,” Barnes-Hogg suggested. Such flexibility can help foster a positive culture and a loyal workforce that knows the company has its back: “I think they’ll work harder, honestly,” she said.
Pay attention to how happy people are, said Annie McKee, a University of Pennsylvania senior fellow and author of “How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship.” She recommends watching three factors: instilling in them a meaningful sense of purpose, making sure they have hope for the future, and ensuring they have sound, positive work relationships. “Create an engaging workplace,” Stringer said. “One that makes (workers) feel valued and able to complete the work that they care about.”
Foster trust and confidence by walking your talk, Barnes-Hogg said. “You can’t say one thing and yet do another,” she said of senior managers. “If you say that these are your core values; these are your operating principles, you have to follow them. And when you do that, you’re going to get the trust and the confidence (from employees).”
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