5 Ways to Develop Talent and Improve Employee Retention


Ever wondered why successful organisation’s are successful, and how they seem to maintain their success even through change and turbulent times? You could say, “Ah that’s an easy one, they’ve created the best product, or deliver the best service – they own the market; their prices are the most competitive; they’ve received hefty investment”, and so on. But if you really think about it, every one of these ‘reasons’ come down to one thing that’s really making it all happen: the talent they’re hiring, developing and retaining. 

The best products aren’t made with mediocre talent, neither is service. Competitive prices aren’t achieved without people who are working smart, and investments aren’t made into teams that are satisfactory. It’s engaged, motivated, well-developed talent that propel’s an organisation forward and achieves stellar results. And every organisation wants to be this kind of successful.

Recruitment, development, retention

But hiring can be tough for many organisation’s – it’s not easy identifying and appointing the right talent, and even if you do find and appoint the right talent, they may still become disengaged and underperform later on. Then of course, there’s the struggle with retaining the strong talent you hire.  

Employee recruitment is difficult because of competition and a shrinking talent pool, and employee retention is tough if your organisation is not meeting employee needs. 

Essentially, to find success in employee retention, you have to balance the needs of your people with that of your organisation. And you’ll only understand what your employees need, if you ask them. Dialogue is critically important for all areas, not only employee retention. 

Many organisations consider talent development as part of their employee retention strategy, which is smart. Smart because it upskills those who may be deemed ‘bad hires’ because they aren’t performing as well as management believed they would during the hiring process. ‘Bad hires’ can become valuable if they’re invested in. And perhaps ‘bad hires’ are only bad because they’re disengaged. Development may very well motivate and engage them, especially if this is what they want from their organisation. 

A Work Institute report predicted that one in four workers would leave their jobs in 2018. Nearly one-third of that turnover was attributed to unsupportive management and a lack of development opportunities.

5 Ways to Develop Talent to Improve Employee Retention:

1) Gain insight into employees needs by asking more questions

You can come up with all the developmental programs possible, but the key is delivering programs that are going to benefit your people and your organisation. You cannot think solely of the organisation’s return on investment, but on the needs of the employee. What areas are they finding most challenging right now? What are they doing to reach short and long-term career goals? Are there any other projects, committees, or additional responsibilities they would like to be a part of? Where do they think their weaknesses are? 

Start by scheduling regular pulse surveys to determine what your people need. You can go on to educating line managers, and they can have one-on-one discussions with their people to identify where skills can be refined and what their people need to feel motivated, engaged and valuable. 

2) Create on-the-job learning opportunities 

Once you’ve identified the skills your people need and want to learn, it’s time to help develop them. But instead of classroom-style training, think about how you can incorporate on-the-job learning. Engaging employees in this way is key to helping them step outside their comfort zones, practice, and build confidence.

For example, one of your employees is uncomfortable having tough conversations. He is struggling to communicate and collaborate with some members of the team and doesn’t know how to go about solving it. This is an opportunity for on-the-job learning. For example, role-playing a necessary conversation or getting him to think of a step-by-step plan of action. This way, you are helping him think through the problem, strategically consider solutions, and practice his communication skills in a safe setting. Practiced learning is a lot more effective than theoretical advice.  

3) Approach development strategies strategically

You may want to consider your employees’ level of experience and their working needs, and tailor their development strategies around these. This means, more experienced or more senior employees seek out their own growth opportunities (they’re given more autonomy). While for junior and mid-level employees, a more structured approach to development is used. Senior employees value autonomy – they want to know their organisation trusts them, and they typically want to use developmental resources in line with where they are professionally and what they see themselves working on in the near future. Less experienced employees, however, often struggle with self-awareness and are more likely to feel unsure of where they need help, where they could be better and how to go about refining their skills. Therefore, experienced and less experienced employees will both get asked different development related questions, supported in different ways and be given different development opportunities. 

4) Provide regular feedback 

The entire talent development process will fall flat without regular feedback. Dialogue is key! As your team carries out on-the-job learning, it’s important to provide feedback on what they are doing well and where you see opportunities for improvement. This is how growth is achieved.

Patience is important too. People won’t get things right the first time, some people grow faster than others. You also won’t see a return on your development investment right away either, but in time, after continuous support and feedback, you’ll see greater engagement, better productivity, less errors and, most importantly, improved employee retention. 

5) Acknowledge small and big wins 

Acknowledgement and recognition seems so minor and so cliche, but employees are human – everyone wants to know they’re valued and are seen. Acknowledging small and big wins is a massive driver of employee engagement, wellbeing and employee retention. 

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle