Everyone is talking about critical skills and high performers. Companies chase after these individuals in the hope of luring them to their organizations and keeping them around in the hope that these new employees will contribute significantly to the company's long-term success.

Unfortunately, even though this scenario is beguiling, it is also expensive and difficult to realize. After all, many, many companies are chasing high performing, critical skill employees. Even when companies do recruit these individuals, retaining them is an ongoing challenge. These individuals are in demand and are likely to have no shortage of potential opportunities. Moreover, not all of these employees will be the right fit for the company's culture. A CFO's worst nightmare is to see a hefty investment in recruitment, sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, and training and development walk out the door to another company or, worse, asked to leave the company because of a poor cultural fit.

When it comes to retaining employees, companies should recognize that what they offer to attract employees to the organization will not necessarily be enough to retain those employees. In its 2012 Global Workforce Study, Towers Watson identified the five most important levers a company has to recruit a prospective employee and the five most important levers available to retain that employee once on board.


Necessary to attract employees Necessary to retain employees
Base salary Base salary
Job security Career advancement opportunities
Career advancement opportunities Relationship with manager
Convenient work location Trust/confidence in leadership
Learning and development opportunities Ability to manage/limit work-related stress

Additional research from Deloitte suggests an even more granular approach to retention to reflect that employees want different things from an employer based on the employee's age, location, gender and position in the organization. While most employees would rate job promotion and advancement opportunities as most important to staying with a company, younger employees may also want individualized career planning while older employees value support and recognition from their managers and supervisors. In addition, the Deloitte research indicates that these expectations are always changing. As technology makes remote work and flexible work situations much easier, more employees will rank that option as a given for a potential employer.

The key takeaway here is that many employees do not want to leave their current employer. The Towers Watson study found that more than half of employees would want to remain with their current employer even if they received another job offer (52%) and until they retire (53%). On the other hand, employees are not going to hang around if their needs are not being met, with 41% willing to leave their current job to move ahead in their careers.

Companies have a real opportunity here. If retaining key employees is a goal (and, really, why wouldn't it be?), those employees are open to staying. All employers need to do is ask people what they want, keep asking them that question and be prepared to find ways to meet those wants and needs.

This is easier said than done but the payoff for those companies that hit the sweet spot can be great indeed.

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