The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

Winning the Talent War In Turbulent Times

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Wednesday, October 16, 2013
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No industry is immune to the influence of our current economic slowdown. The pace of change, the disappearances, and the flushing sound heard on Wall Street throw many organizations into knee-jerk reactions. From consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions to re-engineering profit centers, creating new product lines and calming a variety of stakeholders, managers are faced with turbulent situations.

Responding to such pressures requires both a level head as well as the realization that it’s still true that the business of building a business-whether new or old economy-still requires sound management, good marketing, and most importantly, good people. Jettisoning employees in financial tough times can very well result in losing industrious producers, top talent, longtime workers, and top managers. Such short-sightedness can be costly on many fronts. The cost of recruiting talented workers typically runs 70- 200% of their annual salaries. A loss of sales personnel can hurt a company’s bottom line. Lose front-line customer service people and the customer might be penalized.

A company doesn’t make profits. People do. And because people DO make the profits, keeping solid employees has never been more critical. Lose the war NOW in talent, have your best folks jump ship to the competition, or cut too far, and you’ll be scrambling for the brainpower necessary when the economy turns around. How DO you win the talent war in times like these? The good news is that “show me the money” is not the primary reason people stay.

A recent study of 4000 professional and clerical workers found that job satisfaction keeps more workers than pay levels alone. The survey found that only 6% of people who were satisfied with their jobs but unhappy with their pay plan to quit. The percentage jumps to 27% when they were dissatisfied with their jobs but happy with their pay! If they were unhappy with both their pay and job situation, the percentage of those ready to bail jumped to 41%! The challenge: what makes for satisfaction? What do valued employees want?

A two-year study by Dr. Beverly Kaye, author of Love’Em or Lose’Em, said what employees valued most is: career growth, learning and development; exciting work with consistent performance expectations, accountability and challenge; meaningful work ( making a contribution), great people, being part of a team, good boss, recognition for a job well done, fun on the job, autonomy over work, work/life balance, and flexibility in areas such as work hours. It’s easier to put the burden of retention of pay. Pay is easier and quicker. But investing money without investing in the relationship with employees garners little true commitment.

Creating a culture for satisfaction takes time, prompts internal analysis, and leaves long-term positive results on the bottom line. Based upon the work done by Kaye and her team at Career Systems International (CSI), retention practices by good managers focus on three areas: development, style, and environment. The developmental focus begins with understanding what hiring practices make for a good fit from the outset. It includes such practices as job enrichment, career growth, mentorship, and expansion of goals into areas of challenge suited for each individual. A manager’s style has much to do with retention. This skill set involves informal as well as formal recognition practices, interpersonal skill development between a manager and the employee, sharing power, and self-awareness of behaviors that disenfranchise employees.

An environmental focus for retention means that managers explore practices that encourage information sharing, alignment of values, and the creation of workplace where laughter and joy are present. While few organizations can (or want to) match the zany reputation of Southwest Airlines, simple, spontaneous bits of fun can make a great difference. One power company in the Pacific Northwest has a Frisbee memo day in which all pieces of internal correspondence are twirled down a hall to the receiving party! Turn a light on your management practices and see if you’re winning the talent war. Retool, retrain and you will retain!

© The Resiliency Group.  All rights reserved. You may reprint this article so long as it remains intact with the byline and if all links are made live.

Since 1980, professional speaker and Hall of Fame member Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter. Her latest book is Gifts from the Mountain-Simple Truths for Life’s Complexities. Her other books include Talk Ain’t Cheap…It’s Priceless and Work for a Living and Still Be Free to Live, one of the first books to address the notion of balance and authentic work.  Find out more about this compelling and effective professional speaker and join her free newsletter by visiting

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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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