How to Retain and Inspire Top Talent, Even in this Tough Economy

September 26, 2011 in HR Best Practices



If you’ve watched the news lately, or followed the markets, you’ve probably found the economic data as puzzling and disconcerting as I have.  Up one day, way down the next.  One economic analyst talks about a slow recovery, the other warns us of the next recession.  The roller coaster we’re on isn’t showing any signs of smoothing out, thus leaving companies – and employees – wondering what’s next.

The honest answer is that nobody knows.  And for the people who work in your organization, that may be the most stressful part.  Uncertainty breeds fear.  And fear breeds discontent.  When people are unsure of their futures, they fill their minds (and waste their time) with irrational fears and “what ifs.”

During hard times, companies rely on their employees to help pull them through.  But unfortunately, that’s precisely when top performers are most likely to quit.  Watching others get laid off, chronic overwork and nagging uncertainty can all drive your best people out the door.

When your staff is worried, it’s up to you to control the outcome.  Now is the time to motivate, retain and even re-recruit your top employees, using the following ideas:

  • Be honest. When times are tough, there’s a natural tendency to buckle down, work harder and avoid others.  This is a deadly mistake.  Without good information from you, your employees will draw their own (possible incorrect) conclusions.  In general, it’s far better to be forthcoming – even about bad news – than to withhold information.
  • Involve top performers in developing solutions. Talk about the problems facing your organization and challenge your best employees to help create the solutions.  With a vested interest in the company’s success, and control over the ways problems are tackled, your staff will be more likely to stay through difficult times.
  • Invest in one-to-one management. Layoffs, customer attrition and other sources of bad news tend to create a turbulent workplace.  Calm the waters by scheduling one-on-ones with each of your key team members.  Review the improvement plans being enacted, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead.  Outline clear expectations for each employee’s performance and the outcome that will occur if that performance is achieved.  If layoffs are likely, clearly delineate the situation that will trigger the cuts and what must occur to avoid them.
  • Offer market pay. While this may not be the ideal time to consider increasing personnel expenses, don’t short-change yourself by under-compensating your staff.  Evaluate your pay and benefits package to ensure it’s competitive.  While money alone typically won’t drive high performance, a compensation package that is perceived as being unfair will create resentment – and drive employees out the door.
  • Actively re-recruit top performers. Your company surely invests in marketing to existing clients.  Why?  Because it costs five times more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one.  The same is true of employees.  Top performers are incredibly expensive to replace.  Rather than take chances, be proactive about keeping them satisfied.
    Ask your employees to help keep the team together, by identifying those they feel are at risk of leaving.  Tell your employees how much you value them – regularly.  Find out what frustrates your best employees and develop ways to alleviate the sources.  Help top performers define career paths within your organization.  Bottom line, do whatever you can to keep your best and brightest inspired to continue working for you.

During times of crisis and uncertainty, true leaders emerge.  Get out of your office and go invest in your biggest asset – your people.  Let them know that they are more than just survivors; they are the champions who will create your company’s future success.

Contact Kinsa today to find out how our Recruiting Process for food & beverage executives and professionals can deliver the high performers you need to thrive in this tough economy.