Retaining Staff And Building Careers In The New Year Job Economy

January can be a busy period for career activity and employee relations. Many employees return to work after the holidays with back-to-the-grind blues. This situation presents challenges and opportunities for both employers and employees in the areas of staff retention and desire for career progression, respectively.

Retaining your staff – the employer perspective

Employers are at risk of losing top talent during this unsettled new year period and need to be looking at the following talent retention strategies.

Step 1: Actively re-engage staff

A top-down and highly inspirational communication plan setting out hopes, objectives, and goals for the year should be disseminated to staff. The motivational cascade should continue down into one-on-one meetings with line managers in which team members should be assigned some challenging yet inspiring operational and development goals. This lets them know they play an important role in the future of the business.

Step 2: Voluntary staff turnover can be an open door to hiring in better talent

Some natural staff turnover is to be expected during this new year period, and it should be welcome to some degree, as in many circumstances it can be mutually beneficial. A disengaged employee can find career solace elsewhere, and the line manager gets the opportunity to revitalize their team by hiring in or promoting some hungry new talent. Win-Win.

Step 3: Conduct ‘Stay Interviews’ with mission-critical talent

Even if your superstars are relatively happy, they may, at this time of year, be willing to entertain advances from external recruiters. Don’t take mission-critical talent for granted and conduct ‘Stay Interviews’ with them. Stay Interviews are one-on-one meetings that establish what the employee wants/or needs to be happy at work and engaged in their job over the next year or so. Questions might be based around a desire for greater challenges, flexibility, personal development, career progression, types of work experience. Stay interviews make employees feel valued and give you the information to keep your mission-critical staff engaged.

Building your career – the employee perspective

Step 1: Establish focus and a career action-plan

Fight off your post-Christmas lethargy by quickly establishing or at least re-evaluating your short and medium-term career goals.  What skills do you want to develop and what job do you want to be doing this time next year and in 3 years? Are you on track? Can you achieve your ambitions with your current employer or do you think you need to go elsewhere? At the end of this exercise, you should have a career action-plan, outlining your 1 to 3-year ambitions and the steps you need to take to realise this.

Step 2: Consult Influencers

If you find that your employer isn’t showing much proactivity around career development on your return to work,  seize the initiative and arrange an exploratory career one-to-one with your boss.

If your boss truly cares about your career development, they should be open to this. Talk through your goals and ambitions with your line manager, (and other relevant department managers) and request their feedback, advice, and support. This might take several meetings to resolve and so patience is required, but at the end of it, you should have an agreed career action-plan with appropriate organisational support. You’ll know the plan is right if you feel energised and engaged by it and you feel psychologically committed to it.

Step 3: Consider outside alternatives

If you don’t manage to establish a satisfactory career-plan with your boss, or if it just isn’t feasible in your business, this is a good time to consider outside alternatives with other employers. If your employer can’t meet your career needs, you can’t be expected to hang around on a hope and a prayer. It’s time to take control. Talk to trusted friends and contacts within desired employers or talk to a recruiter about the career possibilities to see if they can help you reach your ambitions elsewhere.

The new year period can be a challenging time, as many employees seek to refocus their career action-plan. This can lead to a period of higher employee turnover as employees jostle for positions within their current business and with other employers.  This shouldn’t be a problem as employer turnover can be a force for good, creating opportunities for career progression via backfill and giving employees career mobility, enabling them to move forward and pursue their dreams.

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