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Retaining your top talent: the evolution of reward

Posted on by from SkillSoft

Employee retention may not be a modern concept but it is a modern concern. What can you do to change this?

In decades past workers were motivated almost exclusively by salary potential and job security. However things have now changed… This was a world where the established hierarchy was held in high regard. Management was viewed as the source of expert knowledge and the cool head in the event of a crisis. However, this long standing culture has slowly been evolving as new, younger generations move in to fill the gaps left by their predecessors. 


Since 2011, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers have turned 65 every day, creating a ripple-effect across the business world of an aging workforce. They have taken with them much of the old-fashioned business attitudes and leadership approaches which dominated their working lives and their successors are determined to change the state of play. Today’s worker is cut from a different cloth. They are energetic, enthusiastic and ambitious individuals driven to improve their status by developing their professional skills and knowledge.

A recent study conducted by Deloitte revealed that 63.5 per cent of respondents cited opportunities for growth and development as the main influencer in choosing an employer while just 49.8 per cent cited salary and benefits. This highlights shifting attitudes towards working benefits and reward systems and indicates a need for employers to adapt their approaches for attracting and retaining this new breed of talent.


Now that we understand what drives today’s employees, how should employers respond to this evolving workforce? It’s all about non-financial rewards. Several employers have already begun to address the requirements of the millennial workforce with non-financial incentives as reward strategies to retain their valuable staff. While every organisation is different and businesses need to match rewards, with culture and business objectives, there are three elements that will lay the ground work for successful talent retention: 

1.    Encourage Flexibility: Younger workers value flexibility in their work-life more than ever before and some employers have introduced flexible hours to increase productivity within their workforce. It’s one of the top factors in a recent report from PwC as to what millennials want. Last June, the government passed legislation that extended flexible working rights to all, which is significant step change for the British workforce. While employers should anticipate requests from millennials for flexible working, they should also have a clear strategy in place to address this. Providing an option to allow new and existing employees to have a bit more flexibility in their work life, will make for more productive employees. 

2.    Talent over Tenure: Moving up the career ladder has traditionally been down to seniority and time of service, especially in large organisations. However, that method is on its way out, as the new workforce want to be rewarded for their talent over their years of service. According to a study by recruitment firm Robert Walters, 91 per cent of professional millennials see career progression as the most important aspect of their jobs. For those employees that do excel quickly and show potential to move up the ranks quickly, what’s the harm in letting them? 

3.    Train Up: The retention of top talent is now inherently tied to the development programmes offered to those individuals and the opportunities to apply them in more senior positions. In the Robert Walters report cited earlier, 53 per cent of millennials reported that they were disappointed by the lack of training and development provided in a new job. It is evident that the business leaders of the future have a responsibility to challenge employees and provide them with the tools to advance their professional profile. Those who implement effective learning and development programmes will see significant increases in retention amongst their skilled employees and will effectively secure the future of their organisations. While 86 per cent of UK businesses identify their organisations as skill builders, in truth 31 per cent still have no formal learning & development programme in place. Business leaders need to be honest with themselves about whether their L&D strategy is delivering on their promises and commitments to their workers.

Talent retention is a universal issue for today’s businesses. Train well and employees might leave, don’t train at all and you face either high leaving rates or being left with an untrained workforce. The secret is to invest in your talent and they will invest in you. Finding the right balance between rewarding employees, boosting productivity and fulfilling business objectives, is the greatest challenge today as the market is rife with competition. Those that get it right, will be better equipped to minimise the skills gap within their organisation today, while training highly skilled business leaders to secure their future. 

Kevin Young

By Kevin Young

Kevin Young, vice president and general manager, EMEA, Skillsoft

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