Hays’ recent Quarterly Hotspots report outlined the sales and marketing roles in demand across Australia, highlighting that vacancies are being created by the departure of highly skilled workers, rather than the creation of new roles. This isn’t altogether surprising – as the economy improves, confidence rises and talent feel more optimistic about considering new opportunities. People are starting to see they can have more of the things they deserve and are more willing to take the leap.

In addition to the roles outlined by Hays, employers are also searching for candidates with strong experience analysing data (web and business), understanding of Shopper Marketing and Insights, as well as proven experience driving innovation, trade activation, internal communications and loyalty marketing and analysis. However the real questions the Hays report raises is why people are leaving in the first place and why Australian businesses aren’t doing more to keep their top talent. If your best performers are jumping ship, why are you letting them go?

The real cost of losing top performers  Retention is the strongest preventative measure we have in business and yet leaders often overlook the basics of keeping their employees happy.  Organisations need to really understand the wider impact of losing top performers to their business’ performance and its bottom line.

  • IP cost

When a team member leaves, they take with them years of learned experience, skills and intelligence specific to your organisation which can take years to then pass onto a new hire.

  • Reputational cost

The departure of disgruntled employees can make it harder to find good people to replace them. Good talent will always ask around before considering a new company, and if it emerges their predecessor hasn’t been supported to succeed, they’ll swiftly look elsewhere.

  • Productivity cost

If the best talent is looking elsewhere, you can be left with a pool of less skilled workers. The ongoing costs of continually training, managing and mentoring these workers has a direct impact on the productivity and progress of your organisation. So ask yourself: what’s the cost of having the second best in your business?

  • Recruitment cost

Recruiting staff can cost between one to three times the annual salary of a new hire.

People leave leaders, not companies

The old adage that ‘people don’t leave companies, they leave leaders’ is still true. No matter how much money is on offer, the prospect of working five days a week with a bad manager will see good employees leave.

In a recent study of Chorus Executive candidates, 60% said they would take a pay cut to work for an inspiring leader

Leaders need to make it their business to know and understand what motivates their team as individuals. Your team won’t come to you when they’re looking elsewhere – by then its too late. However you can mitigate the risk by creating a culture where it’s encouraged to discuss the important things in life other than work. It has to start at the top. Directors and CEO’s need to take a proactive role in managing their senior leadership team. They need to ensure the people underneath their best leaders are engaged and fully supported to reach their full potential.

Personalised reward packages

Time and time again, studies show us that monetary incentives alone don’t necessarily lead to better performance. If businesses continue to structure reward systems purely around financial incentives, they are overlooking one of the key roles of leadership: retaining their best people. Companies need to think innovatively about what they can do to sweeten the deal to keep their best people. A winning rewards programme will be tailored to the individual, consist of financial and non-financial measures and most importantly, will have meaning to the recipient. Some of the most innovative retention strategies are filled with small, simple things.

On a local level, Carman’s entrepreneur Carolyn Creswell has tailored incentives around her team. Her office has a kids room for when employees’ kids are sick or on school holidays. Staff with less than ten emails to action can leave early every fortnight. The team are regularly shouted lunch. And there’s a reason Virgin and Google are some of the most sought out places to work internationally. Google has a global policy of providing one month of all expenses paid takeaway food so parents can spend as much time as possible with their newborns instead of having to cook.

Virgin recently introduced ‘Pet-ernity Leave’ for employees to spend quality time with new animals in their home. None of these incentives were introduced to make headlines. They’re responding to the real needs of their workers in situations where it makes a real difference to their team. Like any good campaign, it’s about tailoring it to the audience. Your team won’t benefit from a blanket approach – it has to be tailored for the individual to have real meaning. This means talking with your team about the real deal breakers that affect them on an individual level and working consultatively to create packages that suit the individual.

While you may offer yearly bonuses, the occasional day off or working from home incentives, ask yourself who exactly this is benefitting. Have you asked your team what would make the organisation a better place to work?  And most importantly, do you know what’s important enough for them to make them stay?

Christine Khor
BY Christine Khor ON 15 November 2013
Christine Khor is the managing director of Chorus Executive, specialists in talent management and recruitment services for sales, marketing and communications.