It’s disheartening to learn that an employee is choosing to leave your organization. Turnover leaves your HR team and organizational leaders scrambling to find a replacement, and if the employee leaves the organization on a sour note, the experience can be especially awkward and even leave some professional relationships in jeopardy.
But if your organization has come to see resignation letters and cleaned-out desks as the norm, it might be time to take a step back and look at what’s really happening.
According to Gallup’s report on employee turnover, 52% of employees who leave their jobs voluntarily say their organization could have done something to keep them from quitting. This is an alarming statistic. But this information also presents an opportunity for your organization to enhance its employee retention strategy.
It all starts with solid talent management. When your organization is focused on hiring, retaining, and growing excellent employees, you’ll have more than employees that are willing to stick around. You’ll have employees who love what they do and enjoy working for your organization.
In this guide, we’ll give you a rundown of talent management basics so you’re prepared to create your own strategy. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Are you ready to turn the tables on employee turnover for good? Let’s dive right in so you can start improving your organization’s talent management strategy.
Foundations of Talent Management
Before you can set up your organization’s talent management process, it’s important to brush up on the basics so you can see how talent management fits into your broader organizational goals.
What is talent management?
Talent management is the process of recruiting, retaining, and developing employees at your organization. Talent management requires your organization’s leaders, HR reps, and managers to all be on the same page (though your HR team will lead). As you work together to develop your own talent management process, you can make your organization a place where talented people want to work and grow.
How is talent management different from performance management?
Performance management falls under the larger umbrella of talent management, so there is a lot of overlap. To learn more about performance management’s role in employee retention, check out our guide to creating an effective performance management process.
Talent management, however, is more focused on helping employees to develop and move up into different positions at your organization. For employees who aren’t interested in vertical growth, talent management efforts can help them become subject matter experts in their current roles, empowering them to grow and find fulfillment in their roles.
How can talent management benefit your organization?
There are a number of benefits your organization will experience when you focus on talent management, including the following:
- Talent management saves you money. Retaining employees is much more cost effective than dealing with constant turnover. In fact, Gallup estimates it can cost anywhere from half to double an individual employee’s annual salary to replace them.
- Talent management gives you time to move your organization forward. When you’re constantly pouring time (and money!) into recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding, you don’t have the necessary time to focus on larger organizational goals, like expanding your nonprofit’s programming or rolling out your company’s new line of products. Talent management gives you the room to focus on other priorities besides hiring.
- Talent management helps you find new leaders. When you’re proactively giving employees opportunities to grow, you’ll have an easier time finding and training future managers and other organizational leaders.
- Talent management instills confidence in your employees. When your employees see their coworkers or direct reports staying in their jobs, they’ll feel like your organization is doing well and be more inclined to do the same, increasing their positive perception of your organization as an employer. This means you’ll keep top talent working for you.
- Talent management helps you better understand your employees. A strong talent management strategy can help you get to know your employees better so you can anticipate their needs and wants at work. For example, you might learn through feedback surveys that your employees want better compensation packages or that they need a more extensive onboarding experience.
Talent management requires some investment on the part of your team, but in the end, it provides invaluable benefits to your organization. If you want to be a better employer and have a better organization overall, talent management is a great place to start.
Talent Management: A Five-Step Model
If you’re unsure about where to begin with your own talent management process or think your current process needs some polishing, look no further than our five-step model.
Use this model as a guide when setting up your own talent management process, and don’t forget to adapt it to your organization’s unique needs. Let’s walk through each step in the model, starting with preparing.
Step 1: Preparing
To recruit, grow, and retain top talent, you first need to set goals for talent management that align with larger organizational goals and evaluate internal processes related to hiring and retention.
Part One: Set Goals
Setting goals for talent management is critical if you want to see real results. Here are some ways you can ensure you’re setting the right goals for your organization:
- Align your goals with your organization’s overall strategy. Talent management is meant to contribute to the overall health of your organization. If talent management is causing you to fall behind on critical fundraising or business goals, it may be time to course correct.
- Set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. For example, “We will recruit and onboard three new salespeople by the end of May” is a much more effective goal than “We will hire new salespeople.” The first goal gives a clear direction and a deadline to aim for.
- Involve leaders, HR reps, and managers in goal-setting. While your HR team will be in charge of coordinating talent management, you’ll need to make sure everyone is on board. Effective talent management requires a concerted effort on the part of the HR reps, leaders, and managers to make your organization a place where people want to get hired and work for the long term.
As you set achievable goals for enhancing your talent management process, you’ll ensure your entire team is on the same page and moving in a positive direction. These goals will also give you something to measure your progress against, providing you the chance to course correct as needed.
Part Two: Evaluate Internal Processes
As you look for gaps in your current talent management process, you’ll need to evaluate individual processes related to recruiting and retention. There may be one (or more) problem areas that you can hone in on as you strive to improve your organization’s:
- Recruiting process: Recruiting is everything you do to find and hire new employees at your organization. This involves writing thorough job descriptions, screening and shortlisting candidates, conducting interviews, and extending offers. Step into your employees’ and previous job candidates’ shoes to evaluate your recruiting process. Do you consistently set clear expectations for individual roles in job descriptions? Are you upfront in job interviews about hiring top talent? How do you communicate job offers to your top candidates?
- Onboarding process: Onboarding involves training a new employee in their new role and bringing them up to speed on larger organizational initiatives and goals. As you evaluate your onboarding process, you might consider asking your employees for feedback on their onboarding experience. Did onboarding truly prepare them to perform their jobs effectively? Do they wish they had received more training upfront?
- Performance management process: Performance management involves everything from consistent communication and coaching to annual performance reviews. Work with your managers to determine how effective your performance management strategy is at identifying retention risks and mitigating them, helping employees find fulfillment in their roles, and setting them up to grow at your organization.
- Exit interview process: When an employee leaves your organization, what kind of information do you gather from them in an exit interview? With sufficient preparation and well-worded questions, you can learn a lot about an employee’s experience with your organization. Additionally, you can use the information collected in exit interviews to better anticipate employees’ needs before they submit an unexpected letter of resignation.
With clear goals and information about individual processes, your leaders, HR reps, and managers can create a solid plan for how you’ll improve the employee experience at your organization. Remember to use your data and strive to be objective during this planning step. While you can’t do much to change your employees’ past experiences, you can learn from them and move forward in a positive direction.
Step 2: Recruiting
To retain and develop great talent, you need to hire great talent from the get-go. This second step will help you position your organization as a place where accomplished and capable workers want to be.
Adopt Effective Recruitment and Hiring Strategies
There are a number of ways you can get better at finding talented employees. Here are a few strategies to get started:
- Seek employee feedback about your hiring process. Your employees are a great resource for helping you improve your hiring process because they’ve been through it! Ask them questions like, “Was your hiring experience positive?” “How did you find out about your current job?” “Were all job expectations clear when you applied for your position?” “What did you think of our interview process?” Their responses can help you improve the experience for future job candidates.
- Evaluate and improve your employer brand. Your employer brand is how your employees and potential employees perceive your organization as a place to work. This includes your organization’s values, workplace culture, work/life balance, employee compensation, and learning opportunities. If you have a reputation for giving great benefits, for example, that boosts your employer brand.
- Adopt a total rewards approach to compensation. Total rewards compensation involves taking a holistic approach to how you compensate your employees for their work. This includes direct compensation, like salary, commissions, and bonuses. But it can also include benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, flexibility with scheduling and PTO, performance recognition, and career development opportunities. You can also offer additional perks like gift matching for charitable donations.
- Write thorough job descriptions. A well-written job description can help you find the right employee and establish clear expectations for their role from the start. In your job descriptions, include the job title and where it fits within the hierarchy of your organization, the duties for the position, skills and competencies required, manager relationships, and compensation information. Job descriptions that include these details can also be used in performance reviews!
- Increase your organization’s visibility. Your organization may be a great place to work, but it may not be very well known. Look at where you’re posting your job openings and how you’re advertising that you’re hiring. Are you putting that information in places where it will reach talented people who are looking for a job like the one you’re offering? Consider adding the position to an industry-specific job board, posting about it on LinkedIn, or even creating a promotional video describing what it’s like to work at your organization and the positions you’re looking to fill.
- Conduct job interviews to identify the best candidate for the role. Job interviews are tricky to get right. Up to this point, you’ve likely only gotten to know your candidates through a paper resume or a short introduction video. To learn if they’re the right fit for your organization, you’ll need to prepare open-ended questions ahead of time. Also plan to bring the candidate up to speed on the expectations for the role they’re interviewing for. After all, you can only learn so much about a role from a job description.
Recruiting top talent to your organization requires you to manage a lot of moving parts. It also requires an investment of time and money to find the right person. Use these strategies to get it right so you can find a great employee who wants to stay with your organization and take advantage of opportunities to develop their career with you.
Step 3: Developing
Once you’ve hired an employee, you need to train them so they can perform their job effectively. You also need to ensure their performance is being managed and they’re being prepared for vertical growth should they want those opportunities.
Part One: Optimize Onboarding
Onboarding plays a critical role in employee retention. In fact, according to SHRM, 20% of employee turnover takes place within the first 45 days of employment at a new job. This means your organization needs to optimize your onboarding process so that your employees feel adequately prepared to take on their new role’s responsibilities and enjoy working for you.
Focus your first onboarding optimization efforts on the new employee’s first day of work. Showcase your workplace culture by having your new employee attend their team’s meetings and giving them time to mingle with the people they’ll be working with each day, as well as the manager they’ll be reporting to. You could even plan a special welcome luncheon to add an extra fun activity to the first day. Think through the impression you want your new employee to leave with at the end of their first day of work, and plan your first day of onboarding around that.
Managers will be primarily responsible for onboarding their new direct reports, but HR reps and leaders should review the onboarding plan and evaluate it. Is it enough training? How long will onboarding last? What goals does the manager have for their direct report that can be used to monitor the progress of onboarding?
Once an employee is fully onboarded, you’ll need to shift focus to performance management.
Part Two: Manage Employee Performance
Effective performance management is built on frequent communication, feedback, and coaching. Train the managers at your organization to communicate with their direct reports often and to look for signs of burnout or other potential turnover indicators.
There are a few tools managers can use to monitor performance and communicate feedback and coaching:
- One-on-one meetings: These meetings should be held on a weekly basis and last 15-30 minutes. In these meetings, employees should ask their managers questions about current and future projects, but the meeting should also be a place where an employee and manager can talk about work/life balance, workplace culture, and get to know each other better.
- Coworker mentoring program: Employees want to have friends at work, and bonding over work responsibilities and experiences is a great way to get to know coworkers. Have seasoned employees mentor new employees so they feel like they are part of your organization’s culture.
- Performance reviews: Performance reviews are typically annual meetings held between a manager, an HR rep (as needed), and a direct report to evaluate the direct report’s performance over the past year and establish compensation changes as needed. These more formal meetings require the direct report to complete a self-assessment, and their manager will ask for feedback on the direct report’s performance from relevant clients or coworkers. Performance reviews should help managers and direct reports identify the goals and pain points they can talk about in future one-on-one meetings instead of being a one-off annual meeting.
- Retention surveys: Ask your employees for feedback on their experiences with your organization with surveys. At Astron Solutions, we offer the Finders Keepers™ Employee Retention package that gives you access to a number of tools, including an organizational opinion survey and resources for conducting stay interviews with star employees. With our tools, you’ll get helpful feedback so you can take action to improve retention rates and reduce turnover.
Another helpful (and informal) way for managers to continuously help their employees is to provide regular feedback. When feedback is a regular part of an employee’s job (whether that feedback is positive or constructive), your employee will know their work is being seen and valued and that their manager is invested in helping them perform to the best of their abilities. Encourage managers to provide regular feedback through email, one-on-one meetings, and even deskside chats. Well-thought-out feedback will contribute to your managers’ overall performance management efforts and help you stay on top of your employees’ needs.
Part Three: Prepare Employees for Vertical Growth
Stagnation breeds dissatisfaction. This means that even if an employee is performing well in the same job for years with no change, they’re likely getting bored or burned out. However, if you’re active in preparing your employees for the growth and development they can experience at your organization from the beginning, they’ll have management positions or other roles to work toward. Here are a few ways you can prepare your employees for vertical growth:
- Emphasize the importance of developing great communication skills.
- Teach effective leadership skills directly and by example.
- Work to align your employees’ goals with larger organizational goals.
Growth looks different for everyone. Even if an employee isn’t interested in becoming a manager or moving into another position at your organization, they can work to become a subject matter expert that can benefit their team and incoming employees.
Step 4: Retaining
Most organizations are aware of the benefits of retaining employees. Problems arise, however, when organizations don’t have a strategy for retaining employees. We suggest focusing on two areas: ongoing learning opportunities and workplace culture.
Part One: Offer Ongoing Learning Opportunities
Even when an employee has a great relationship with their manager, has honed their workplace skills, or has moved up in the hierarchy of your organization, they still want opportunities to grow. That’s where ongoing learning opportunities come in. These opportunities are important for keeping your employees’ skills sharp, and they also help foster innovation in your organization and keep people feeling fulfilled in their jobs. There are a number of ongoing learning opportunities you can offer, including:
- On-the-job stretch assignments: A stretch assignment is a project that goes beyond your employee’s typical skillset or knowledge base. This requires them to learn or develop a new skill or collaborate with someone else who has that skill, which can be a rich learning opportunity.
- Cross-functional teamwork: Give your employees the opportunity to collaborate on a project with a team they don’t usually work with. This gives them the chance to see another side of your organization’s operations and develop relationships with coworkers they might not interact with on a day-to-day basis.
- Continuing education courses: Your organization or industry may require employees to earn continuing education credits or hours. Hosting or paying fees for continuing education courses is a great way to encourage regular learning and improvement, especially because your employees get to learn from experts outside of your organization.
- Recertification/relicensing opportunities: Your industry may require employees to renew a license or certification after a set amount of time. Promote renewal opportunities internally and encourage your employees to study for licensing exams together. Don’t forget to celebrate when everyone receives their new certification or license!
- Conferences and webinars: Conferences and webinars are fun opportunities for your employees to mingle with and learn from people outside of your organization that do similar work. Motivate employees to participate by paying registration costs for conferences and webinars, or offer a per diem for those who want to attend. You could even plan a special dinner for members of your organization attending the conference.
- Association memberships: Associations bring professionals together over shared values and workplace experiences. Plus, they offer a lot of continuing education and conference opportunities themselves, empowering your employees to grow their professional networks and learn from experts in their field. Offer to pay membership dues for those who want to join an association, and give members the chance to share what they learn from association events with the rest of your organization.
- Management training: It may be helpful to host a more formal in-house management training course, like a series of lunch meetings that interested employees can opt into. These can be valuable opportunities for identifying employees who would make great managers and equipping them with the skills to one day assume that role.
To decide what ongoing learning opportunities your organization should offer, talk to your employees. Consider sending out a survey or asking managers to speak to their teams about the opportunities they want the most. This will help you pinpoint opportunities you should invest in and may even shed some light into gaps in your in-house training or onboarding processes.
Part Two: Enhance Workplace Culture
Workplace culture is the attitudes, values, and atmosphere you foster in your organization internally. Your workplace culture plays a big part in how your employees feel about coming to work each day. If your employees feel like they have a positive environment to work in and coworkers that they get along with, they’ll feel fulfilled in their jobs and want to stay with your organization. Here are a few tips for creating a great workplace culture (within COVID-19 safety guidelines, of course):
- Recognize employees for their accomplishments, and do so frequently and publicly.
- Host frequent social events like happy hours, lunches, or bowling nights where employees can get to know each other and have fun.
- Facilitate opportunities at work for employees to get to know each other, like setting up comfortable seating in your breakroom or asking get-to-know-you questions in weekly team meetings.
- Embrace transparency by encouraging employees to ask questions about larger organizational strategies or initiatives.
- Celebrate when you reach department or team goals.
- Create a positive atmosphere in your facility or office building by adding tasteful decorations and furniture to your workspace.
When your employees look forward to coming to work each day because they like their duties and coworkers and feel like they have opportunities to keep developing professionally, they’ll want to stay employed at your organization. Look for ways you can help your employees find joy at work by improving your workplace culture and ongoing learning opportunities.
Step 5: Transitioning
With a solid talent management process, you’ll be able to help employees grow into new roles that fit their evolving skillsets. When this happens, you’ll need to help your employees transition into their new position.
You can also gain actionable takeaways from exit interviews when an employee leaves.
Part One: Help Employees Move Up
After you’ve prepared your employees through continuous coaching, management training, and learning opportunities, you’ll be able to identify individuals who would make excellent managers or fit well in a higher role at your organization. However, a big change like this, even a positive one, can disrupt an employee’s experience at your organization. They’ll likely have new people to report to, and their new responsibilities may change their workplace relationships (for example, a peer may suddenly become a direct report). All of these changes may affect your employee’s feelings about your organization or their job, turning a promotion or job change into a retention risk.
In order to help your employee transition successfully, do the following:
- Publicly recognize the change or promotion.
- Set your employee up with new mentors familiar with their new duties.
- Have open discussions about changing workplace relationships.
- Work with your employee to set new goals and take on change at a reasonable pace.
- Create a 90-day written transition plan to ensure a smooth move from the old position to the new one.
You can think of helping your employee to transition to a new position as another form of onboarding. While it likely won’t be as extensive of a process (since your employee is already familiar with your organization and its larger goals, and has been prepared over time), it will still require some work to make sure they’re settled in their new role. Approach the transition with an abundance of communication and patience.
Part Two: Hold Effective Exit Interviews
No matter how strong your talent management strategy may be, there will always be some amount of turnover at your organization. Employees leave their jobs not only because they are unsatisfied, but because they’re moving away from the area or adjusting to new life or family situations.
Take the opportunity to learn from your employees during exit interviews. These interviews can reveal a lot about the effectiveness of your organization’s talent management process and give you insight into how people perceive you as an employer. Here are some questions you can ask during the interview:
- Why did you start looking for another job?
- What could have been done to help you remain employed here?
- What do you wish you would have known about our organization or the role before you started working with us?
- What did you like the most about working here? What did you like the least?
- What was your onboarding experience like? Did you receive sufficient training to perform your job?
- What was your relationship like with your manager?
- What did you like or dislike about our workplace culture?
- What would you change about our organization’s compensation offerings?
- Would you recommend a friend or relative work here? Why or why not?
- Would you consider returning to our organization in the future?
As you gather information from exit interviews, look for trends and patterns that can signal you’ve found problem areas. Then tighten up your internal processes to improve your current and future employees’ experience at your organization, keeping talented people working for you.
Talent Management Top Tips
Now that you have our 5-step model to work with when creating your own talent management process, you can optimize how you implement it with our top three talent management tips.
Top Tip #1: Invest in a talent management solution.
To manage all of the moving parts of your talent management efforts, you should invest in talent management software. With talent management software, you can streamline performance reviews, easily update job descriptions, monitor consistency across your internal processes, improve your training programs, and track valuable employee feedback. You can typically choose from three different types of talent management software:
- Standalone tools: Standalone tools are great for organizations on a budget and help you target specific needs. However, individual tools don’t always work well together.
- Comprehensive platforms: Comprehensive platforms help you with all aspects of talent management. But they do require a larger investment upfront.
- Modular solutions: Modular solutions are excellent because they allow you to pick and choose the exact tools your organization needs. This customization ensures you only have to pay for what your organization will actually use and, with the right solution, that your tools will work together.
At Astron Solutions we offer the Flare® Talent Management Software Suite, which is easy to use and is perfect for growing organizations. It also doesn’t require any software installation or other outside work, which means you can quickly integrate it with other tools and systems to get your talent management strategy off the ground. Here are some of the modules you can choose from with Flare®:
Whatever talent management solution your organization chooses to go with, make sure it will help you organize daily tasks, manage compensation and employee performance, and ultimately set the foundation for your organization to grow and thrive.
Top Tip #2: Listen to your employees’ feedback.
It’s all well and good to solicit feedback from your employees, but if you don’t do anything with that feedback, the efforts to gather it soon ring hollow. To really make your organization a place where people want to work, they need to know that you’re taking their experiences, needs, and wants into account as you’re striving to improve your organization.
There are a number of things you can seek feedback on, including:
- Management methods
- Compensation offerings
- Organizational transparency
- Workplace culture
- Retention risks
- Onboarding and training
- Learning opportunities
When you ask for feedback, motivate employees to be honest and thorough. Make sure you show them what you’re working to do with the feedback and keep them updated on the actions you’re taking to improve. This will communicate to them that their perspectives and ideas are valuable, reinforcing a positive employer brand for your organization.
Top Tip #3: Get expert help.
Talent management isn’t always the easiest thing to handle in-house and on your own. Whether you’re a nonprofit or a small business, a nonprofit consultant can be a huge boon to your talent management efforts.
An objective third-party perspective can help you identify patterns and trends that you can’t see on your own, giving you fresh ideas for how you can engage and manage your employees. When looking for an HR consultant, make sure to choose a firm that has the following characteristics:
- Gets solid results for a reasonable cost
- Designs programs and software with your organization in mind
- Has a wealth of HR knowledge and experience
- Offers a great customer service experience
Choosing the right consultant may take some time, but in the end, the value that your consultant will bring to your organization will be well worth the investment. Make sure you bring your organization’s leaders, managers, and HR reps together to decide on which consultant you’ll go with.
Despite popular belief, employee turnover doesn’t have to be the norm for your organization.
By following the 5-step talent management model–preparing, recruiting, developing, retaining, and transitioning–you can attract great talent to your organization and keep them working for you. Remember to take your employees’ feedback into consideration as you master talent management, and to seek out the resources and expert help you need to improve your workplace.
To continue learning about what it takes to make your organization one where people want to work, check out these additional resources:
- Compensation Consulting Firms: 12 Top Picks for Any Sector. Looking to revitalize your organization’s approach to compensation? Use this article to find the right consulting firm for you.
- HR Consulting Firms for Small Businesses: 15 Leading Experts. Learn about the consulting firms that can best help your small business establish its HR processes.
- Job Descriptions: Why They Matter & How to Write One. For more information on perfecting your job descriptions, check out this article by RealHR Solutions.