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Work Life Issues are Key to Stemming Departures

Harris AlliedIt’s no secret that the first half of the new year, particularly the first quarter, is prime time for employees to seek out new job opportunities, but there are purposeful steps employers can take to prevent their top talent from jumping ship even at the eleventh hour, say recruiters at Harris Allied, a New York-based recruiting firm.

“Employees have just received their year-end bonus and companies have fresh budgets for hiring new talent this time of year so we typically see a lot of job changes right about now. But there are steps a hiring manager or a team leader can take to close the back door to retain their best employees and prevent them from taking a job elsewhere,” says Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied. “People join companies but leave managers, so the difference can really be made at a departmental or even team level. 

“Many managers would be surprised to know that it’s not money, but culture and work-life issues that typically make or break the decision to seek out new opportunities,” Harris says. 

Harris offers the following guidance to department and hiring managers, as well as team leaders, that are interested in retaining their top talent when there is so much job search velocity in the marketplace right now:

  • Corporate culture is not only determined in the C-suite; it’s really felt at the department level. Don’t rely on your corporate HR department to set the tone. Team leaders and department heads should set the stage for how their employees can best balance the demands of work and life. Be flexible; make sure there are interesting projects to work on; be a mentor.
  • People are the most valuable assets you have as a manager. Treat them accordingly, not like a commodity. Many techs worry that their jobs will be outsourced when managers start referring to them as “resources.” Ultimately, once the seed of doubt has been planted, it can lead to attrition problems. Humanity really matters, even to those that live and breathe technology.
  • Give your employees opportunities to stretch. Top performers want the opportunity to work on beefier projects.  The ability to learn a new technology, to have an impact and to be part of a solution really drives technical types. Clearly outline career tracks that matter deeply to educated, top-performing employees.
  • Engage, engage, engage. Talk to your team – constantly. Offer feedback and solicit their opinions.
  • Give credit to individual contributions. Make sure that people outside your department know about your top performers. Nothing demoralizes an employee more than a manager taking credit for all the hard work his team has put in.
  • Last-ditch efforts can make a difference. Even if you have the sense that your employee has one foot out the door, ask him what is not working and try to ascertain what his concerns are. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of recognizing his concerns and showing you are trying to address them seriously. A good manager, however, will periodically touch base with his team members to see how they are feeling about things – perhaps over coffee or lunch, one-on-one.

“This kind of proactive approach to retaining employees is a180-degree shift from the way things have been in the last three or four years when it was decidedly more of an employer’s market.  This requires a real cultural shift at both the corporate level, as well as at the group level,” says Harris. 

“But we have seen companies take this approach to an extreme,” she noted. “When key employees start leaving, it sends a message to the organization that business conditions are uncertain. In one case the CEO and COO felt so strongly about retaining a key employee that they met with him and worked to create an expanded role that fit both his current skills and broader career goals. The fact that key execs were willing to step in and make his retention a priority made the difference and the employee stayed.”

About Harris Allied

Harris Allied provides premier executive search, technology and quant analyst placement services to the financial services, professional services  consumer goods, digital media and tech industries.  The firm represents clients who are at a variety of growth stages: from tech start-ups to established industry leaders. Harris Allied’s client-centric approach allows the firm to objectively assess the strengths of qualified candidates and thoughtfully match them with the right opportunities.  For more information visit www.harrisallied.com. To view Harris Allied’s corporate video, “For Each of Us, It Starts with a Moment,” visit www.youtube.com/harrisallied.

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