How can I retain talent despite budget cuts – James Caan


I know that many companies understand the fact that retaining good people is less costly and far less time consuming than recruiting good new people. And that issue generally worsens when budgets are tight.  But it’s amazing how many companies don’t actually practice what they know to be true or have a strategy in place to try to keep their best employees.

When you lose a good person, you’ll have to find another and in the meantime your business may suffer a lack of performance which, right up until the time you’ve got the new person in place, can prove very costly.

As a small to medium sized business , I believe that keeping your best people is even more important in a recession.  A large organisation can pay high salaries to get in the best people when they feel they need to. Small businesses rarely have that luxury so your business is going to find it hard to compete. Here are a few areas that I’d be looking as part of my retention strategy and these aren’t a matter of budgets, but more about policy and culture.

The bottom line in retention is fairness. Being fair to all your people and making sure there are equal opportunities and no irrational promotions or favouritism is a starting point. Also, you should make sure salaries reflect performance. These are all situations that can result in people wanting to leave.  If your organisation is unaware of these issues and does nothing to change it, then the steady drain of good people will continue until your company fails.

Unsung Talent
Another problem is that sometimes your best people aren’t always the ones on show. They may be doing a great job without shouting about it. It might even be someone who goes the extra mile for customers, or someone who gets the best out of other people in your organisation. You need to spot these people – and reward them somehow. This reward does not always have to be financial by the way. Sincere acknowledgement and recognition of good work can go a long way. If and when the situation for your company improves you can always reward these people retrospectively, and that’s something that really builds trust and loyalty.

Opportunity and Reward
Alternatively a lot of talented employees might be easy to spot. They will  be ambitious and money-orientated, they want to progress and they want to be acknowledged. These people will always be looking at whether the situation is better elsewhere and that means you need to be reviewing it too.

You need to look at what your competitors are offering and doing, whether it’s money, opportunities, benefits etc. Where money is tight, why not offer training and mentoring. Your top performing salesman is probably goal and money-orientated but your back-office employees may want training and new responsibilities. You have to review these things constantly as part of your overall business strategy.

Take an honest look at your company, and ask yourself if you are doing enough to retain your top talent. Don’t forget, just because you haven’t lost many people it doesn’t mean employees are happy to stay, it may just be circumstances keeping them onboard.


from James Caan