Retain Your Top Talent!

Retaining and attracting top talent is key to any company’s success. Not only does hiring top-notch employees often lead to more success, but it also leads to less employee turnover. In the long term, it is more cost effective for the company and often creates a more positive workplace environment. PM360 asked experts from across the industry:

  • How do you create a culture in which employees are both happy and productive?
  • How you can make employees feel more valued if there’s no room in the budget for pay increases?
  • With data becoming more readily available on almost everything, what should companies measure to track attrition rates and find areas where they can improve their ability to retain talent?
  • Is there any area in which you feel most companies are not doing enough to retain talent? What is the best advice you would offer companies struggling to keep their top employees?


Christa Murphy

 Christa Murphy

A company needs to build a culture based on a compelling company mission that all employees embrace and shared values that guide the way everyone works together to achieve that mission. In my experience, when employees know their work can help make the world a better place, it gives them an incredible sense of purpose and personal satisfaction.

But even more critical is the need for companies to ensure they have the right people in the right roles. Companies need to work diligently to hire outstanding professionals at all levels who share the company’s values and truly believe in its mission. This means that outside of the requisite skills needed to perform the job, candidates must show a strong desire to contribute to the business. This goes a long way to ensuring a powerful win for everyone.

Extra Employee Benefits

There are many ways a company can reward employees beyond salary. For instance, simply fostering conversations between executives and star performers to reinforce how appreciated they are and to find out what it will take to keep them engaged. Or by providing resources employees can use to realize their full potential, such as robust onsite training and development programs. Other ways include programs that help employees balance their work and personal lives, such as flexible hours, summer hours, telecommuting options and wellness programs. Sometimes it’s even just a matter of educating employees about everything the company offers or exploring additional ways the company can fully use the value-added services of its vendors (i.e., health and retirement plan providers). Whatever approach a company takes, investing in its people is the best way to foster the success of the business.


Marjan Panah

Marjan Panah

Engaged employees are the highest ROI a company has. It’s essential to continuously collect employees’ feedback and enlist them in acting upon it as quickly as possible. Implementing programs to assess the work environment, managerial capabilities and company mission are the keys to understanding employee satisfaction and engagement.

A good process starts with a comprehensive and confidential survey administered by an independent third party. The key lies with what happens after the survey. Consider dedicated employee engagement champions that can help leaders own and act upon the results year round.

Creating a positive workplace is especially important to the fastest-growing segment of today’s talent pool—the Millennials. People in their 20s, and indeed all employees, truly care about the social aspects of their companies—work with a higher purpose, culture and giving back to their communities—in addition to great leadership and career opportunities.

Also, we are seeing increased interest in forming employee resource groups such as LGBT, women and people of color that focus on the specific interests and the development needs of their members. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, there is an even greater emphasis on workplace wellness programs like company-supported yoga or nutrition classes. Get creative! For example, offering employees wearable devices that track activity levels and sponsor an in-office friendly competition. Of course, organizing employees around service to their local communities teaches teamwork and is critical as well.

The more companies do to help employees develop personal connections with one another and foster a positive environment, the more likely employees will be engaged and improve business results.

Kathie Carnes

Kathie Carnes

A culture that supports happy and productive employees begins with the hiring process. So invite candidates in to get to know the heart and soul of your company. Encourage employees to come out from behind their desks or conference tables and interact with candidates. For example, have creative candidates interviewed by the creative team in an informal group setting. This offers the candidate a remarkable window into the culture of the company. In turn, it offers you a very unique opportunity to observe the candidate’s natural interpersonal skills and ability to engage. It is important that the hiring process provides opportunities for leaders and teams to see candidates from different perspectives in an effort to ensure that you are hiring the right person for the company.

The Key to Retention

Proactively measuring employee engagement is a critical component of any retention strategy. Listening is key. Your leadership team should want to know if systems are not being maximized, how to improve an individual’s productivity and how the company can be more innovative. Acting on feedback and investing in people’s ideas are really important. Employees will take notice, especially if you do not follow through. This data can be gathered via workplace surveys. For example, send out one question per week via an interactive app. Questions can be based on metrics such as personal growth, wellness, recognition and relationship with managers. In addition, meet with cross-functional advisory panels to solicit in-person feedback. Be transparent with the data and use it to drive solutions that meet employees’ needs.

Lisa DuJat

Lisa DuJat

Retaining talent should always be a key priority. And for companies struggling to keep top talent, the following three tactics have proven to be highly successful.

1. Minimize the “BS.” By striving to do this, employees can focus on what they need to do and not get bogged down in politics.


2. Ask people to bring their “whole selves” to the organization. The best and most attractive company cultures are made up of many different styles.


3. Proactively manage your employee’s careers. This can be done via training programs or more hands-on experiences such as participating in a pitch, launch or within a different category. And if your company is part of a larger network, consider having some employees move between agencies or companies in order to get different experiences. It is essential to provide the room to grow within an organization so that employees don’t think they have to go elsewhere.

Ultimately, you want every employee to be extremely proud of the work that they do, because that passion will carry throughout the organization. And through those passionate people you will be able to more successfully deliver for clients.

Kristen Weirick

Kristen Weirick

Companies talk a lot about creating a great culture, one that keeps employees engaged and productive. But talking about it isn’t enough; culture needs to be woven into the daily fabric of corporate life—from recruiting and training to measuring and rewarding performance.

When AbbVie became an independent company in 2013, we had a unique opportunity to step back and ask what culture we wanted. We began by talking to senior leaders, managers and front-line employees to understand our business objectives and identify the behaviors that would drive company performance and growth while meeting the needs of our employees and, ultimately, the patients we serve. That helped us identify key attributes of our ideal culture, which then became our vision.

Senior leadership needs to own that vision and be vocal champions for a company’s culture. But culture isn’t something you can just put on posters or feature in executive speeches. You make culture happen when you hardwire it into all of your systems and processes. That means building training to support it, measuring against it and ultimately rewarding employees who demonstrate key aspects of the culture.

It’s also critical to listen. Ask your employees, “How are we doing? Are we building the culture we described?” That helps determine what’s working and what adjustments are necessary.

Building a culture doesn’t happen overnight, which is why taking an integrated approach is a key to success. Culture cannot be left to chance. Having a clearly defined and established culture ultimately creates an organization that is productive, has an engaged employee base and delivers for patients.

Leerom Segal

Leerom Segal

Companies who still cling to one-size-fits-all management policies and processes are missing out on retaining employees and building a center of gravity for the best talent. The key is to put your people first by customizing the employee experience and engineering an ecosystem where employees are engaged and empowered—and they can do their best work.

We have found that the establishment of a dedicated and highly energized people-focused team has been critical to developing a culture with high-engagement levels. For instance, consider providing personalized employee training and ongoing employee events and programming, such as weekly lunch-and-learns, onsite fitness and yoga classes, philanthropic events, family functions and parties.

To help facilitate a high-performance culture, companies should also consider offering an in-house concierge-like service to take care of their people and enable them to better focus on their work. Simple things like ordering in dinner when employees work late and coordinating convenient dry-cleaning pick-up and delivery are seen by employees as extremely valuable and highly regarded.

Companies that understand and treat their employees as well as their customers won’t only win the war on global talent—they’ll enjoy higher growth, increased customer satisfaction and better profitability than their competitors.

Linda Phillips

 Linda Phillips

Attracting and retaining top talent is an ongoing challenge—especially when you’re dealing with Millennials. About 10 years ago, the average length of stay in the industry was three to five years. Today, the retention rate hovers between 14 and 16 months, partly because of Millennials. In addition, recruiters are using multiple social media channels, such as LinkedIn, to aggressively target star employees.

To keep employees, it’s important to maintain a nurturing and supportive culture and give employees opportunities to grow professionally. Here are three tried-and-true strategies that companies might consider implementing:

Express gratitude even when employees leave. How employees are treated when they resign speaks volumes about a company. For all who leave on good terms, take the time to thank them for their hard work and encourage them to keep in touch. Plant the seeds for their possible return as “boomerang employees” should they discover that the grass is not greener elsewhere.

Conduct “stay” interviews semi-annually. Talented employees need to “feel the love.” Stay interviews articulate what they need to hear: “You are valued and respected and we want you to stay.” Expressing these sentiments at an exit interview is too late.

Encourage mentoring and reverse mentoring. These are great ways for staff representing multiple generations in the workplace to achieve well-rounded and effective teams. No one can be good at everything, but “A Teams” with diversified talent collectively possess the knowledge and skills to produce award-winning work and enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction.

Lisa Tamborello

Lisa Tamborello

There’s no single way to keep top talent happy and productive. But a good place to start is a dedication to “people nourishment.”

High-performing people are passionate about their specialties, which is why it is important to offer internal and external training and education programs to further nurture their development. For example, a professional development program could consist of live and streamed presentations from internal and external thought leaders on industry trends, new techniques and more.

Communication is also key in any company, and technology investments can enhance a team’s ability to communicate and help to ensure work-life balance without sacrificing productivity, quality of the work and responsiveness to clients. Additionally, crowdsourcing ideas from within the company can foster creativity and friendly competition among staff members and gives staff the opportunity to work on a variety of projects.

Above all, empower your managers to work with their top talent to optimize the balance between work and the rest of life. It’s about more than just keeping staff happy—it’s about respecting “talent” as people. The things that drive them—like raising a family, photography, education, athletic endeavors, cooking—are not only a release from the stresses of work. These passions are at the core of who they are and they are part of what makes top talent so valued. In other words, it’s a smart business decision to give your talent the flexibility to pursue their passions, because feeding those passions helps them excel at the office.

David Nakamura

David Nakamura

A company’s culture is a crucial asset that dramatically affects employee satisfaction, retention and productivity. With so much at stake, culture deserves the same attention and strategic rigor accorded other key assets. Once a successful culture is in place, it should be protected no less fiercely than the company’s brand, as it may have even more of an impact on the firm’s long-term success.

While cultural objectives may differ based on a company’s size, mission, vision, etc., some principles should be fairly universal. For example, most managers would agree that it is a mistake to hire based on skill-set alone because an employee is more than the sum of his or her resume. So most good interview processes take personality into account. But I believe special weight should be given to a single attribute: The candidate’s passion for the role he or she will be playing. Over the long term, it is this passion that will pay the greatest dividends, in part by inspiring other team members.

Another basic principle is mutual respect, which can, indeed, be institutionalized. Start by giving each employee credit for ideas contributed, regardless of his or her position. Make sure top managers are accessible to employees at every level. And ensure that brainstorming sessions are a safe zone in which all contributions are encouraged and appreciated.

When employees trust that they will be respected, they do their best work, offer their most aspirational ideas, and come to work feeling good about themselves, their colleagues and the day ahead. When employees feel accomplished and happy, the retention issue takes care of itself.

Mary Lacquaniti

Mary Lacquaniti

There’s so much talk in the world about work/life balance—as if work isn’t a part of life. Work is definitely an important part of our lives and employers need to acknowledge that fact in a meaningful way to create a great culture. The fusion of personal interests and professional talents creates a unique culture and ultimately a positive work experience.

That’s why companies must recognize the “whole” person and provide each individual with the opportunity to express and share his or her personal interests at work. Bringing part of one’s personal life into the office may take the form of a cook-off, bringing your dog to the office or even sharing a pint of a craft brew made by your company’s resident “brew master.”

Also, keep in mind it doesn’t take as much as one would think to make a team member feel valued and appreciated. A simple “thank you” or “great job” can make a huge impact. This can come from a supervisor or peer. And a hand-written note posted publicly in a fun and creative manner and a gift card to a local restaurant or store can make someone’s day. When a peer gives you a shout-out to the rest of the company, it means a lot.

On a larger scale, it’s extremely important that staff members experience a solid, trusting relationship with their supervisors. And one can never discount the impact of incentives and programs like “Summer Fridays,” “Breakfast with the Executive Team,” and meaningful professional development programs outside the office to supplement the compensation package.


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