Podcast Episode 80 – How to Retain Your Top Talent

With a war for talent being experienced worldwide at the moment, employers are not only finding it hard to find new people, it can also be very challenging to retain your existing people.

This week Kevin and Brad dig deep into this challenging issue, and cover 7 key steps you can take to give you the best chance of retaining your A-players.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:13

Welcome to the growth whispers where everything that we talk about is building enduring great companies, not short companies that last all companies that last a short time, not companies that are mediocre, not companies that people are in love with enduring great companies. Today, as always, I’m joined by my co host, Kevin Lawrence, Kevin. Hello, and how are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:36

I’m doing great, Brad. Looking forward to recording an episode we haven’t recorded over the last couple of weeks. So it’s nice to be back at it and have a chance for you and it reconnect

Brad Giles  00:46

Indeed. Yes, we have had a couple of weeks, we actually had a bit of a holiday or went up to a place called Darwin, which you may know from something called the movie with Paul Hogan called Crocodile Dundee. So in the Darwin river the most amazing step from that the in the Darwin by around the city. Last year, they took 343 crocodiles mean eating crocodiles out of the bay, just last year.

Kevin Lawrence  01:18

Wow. Did you run? Did you do any crocodile wrestling while you were there?

Brad Giles  01:24

No. People don’t often survive that. And so No, no, we saw quite a few of them. But definitely, definitely do not want to be involved in crop at home listening. Yeah, so as always, we like to talk about a word of the day. So Kevin, tell me what is your word of the day or phrase,

Kevin Lawrence  01:44

my mind is recovery. And, you know, it’s very interesting that I’ve had, it’s been very, very busy the first part of the season since the summer or since our summer, you know, September going into October, and it’s been incredibly busy, but a very, very busy time. And I’m just in that period where I’m kind of catching my breath. You know, I kind of think of myself in the work we do. Like, like, I’m an elite athlete. I’m not an either elite athlete, like I’m not a marathon runner or something. But that we work really in Sprint’s we work really hard during periods of time. And then we get a recovery period. So following my own advice from my book, your oxygen mask, first, know my resilience rituals and a bit of a recovery period over the next couple of weeks still working, but just not as intensely. So recovery time is is is my theme or my word of today.

Brad Giles  02:35

Awesome, awesome. You, mine is reset, not too dissimilar. Because I have had a few days Well, a week and a half off. So yeah, it’s good to reset. And, you know, everybody needs to do that. We know that globally, in the business world, this challenges around mental health at the moment because of the pandemic. So it’s really just around reset, and the good that it can do. So we all have that. What are we talking about today?

Kevin Lawrence  03:05

Or we’re making sure that we don’t have to recover for resetting too many key people in key positions. Like, oh, we have that one together, right? That’s magic. It was magic off the cuff. But basically, we’re talking about how do you make sure you retain your key people, and don’t have to go through the pain of replacing them, and resetting the whole process in your company. And that’s, that’s not fun. You know, it’s something that we’ve been talking about with a lot of CEOs and execs over the last while there’s this talk about the greater resignation. You know, and, you know, it kind of reminds me of y2k, when there was all this hype about all the computers in the world are going to shut down and I don’t know whether it’s true or not, I know there’s people that held on to their jobs during COVID that might be thinking about moving now. And it might be some deferred movement. But whether there is other isn’t, who knows. I don’t want to play into you know, Facebook news and, and hype. But what we know is it’s a tight job market no matter what, yes. And replacing people no matter what is as challenging as it gets. Yeah. Or we’re aware of that it gets. And so the other piece that you know, they’re really passionate about is you’ll losing an A player or a high performing employee is a is the cinnabar sins is one of the worst things that can happen as a manager, losing your great people, especially if you weren’t aware of it, or proactively doing things to help it so yeah, today we’re talking about retaining your top talent. Yeah,

Brad Giles  04:43

look, absolutely. It makes for a great headline that people might click to talk about that kind of resignation stuff. But the reality is, is that this skills shortages is a real challenge for everybody around the world. And that means that Competitors or people who want to hire people may want to pay more or offer more or do different things. So yeah, it is yes, for that reason alone, it’s an important subject for us to talk about. So yeah, today we’re talking about how to retain your top talent, what you can, here’s

Kevin Lawrence  05:19

some of the things that we’re hearing around the world and like yourself, I work with people around the world in Australia, and India and Middle East and US and Canada and other Asia. And the same thing we’re hearing we’re hearing people offering higher wages, we’re hearing about, you know, signing bonuses or things like that, we’re hearing about more active recruitment, I don’t know if it actually is more active, but, you know, more active recruitment, and there’s just a lot of talk about it, and we’re hearing that this market, the rent, it could be tight for quite a while. Before, it’s, you know, so it’s, it’s always hard, it just seems to be a little bit harder. So now we’re really wanting to stay with their attention, just in case, you don’t believe how important you know, it is, you know, from just an income statement point of view, nevermind a knowledge loss or stuff, you know, the costs of replacing keep you it’s expensive, yeah, you don’t want when you’re when you do the energy to get, find, recruit the right person. And, and, and, and make sure you do proper selecting, when we, when we use top grading with most of our clients all the time, you know, and the energy and the time and the organizational energy and then getting them on board and everything else, it’s a lot. And if you look at the calculators of what it cost to replace someone, you know, it can be astronomical, much more than you would normally think off the top of your head,

Brad Giles  06:48

oh, and look at what really is in this, there’s two different parts to the cost. The first is the direct cost. And then there’s the kind of all inclusive cost. And so the direct costs could be just simply the cost to hire, it could be, oh, we need to put an ad out or we need to pay a recruiter. But then there’s this the full the fully included cost. And that’s what the real kind of the real cost is, and obviously significantly higher. And like you, you know, I’m an advocate for top grading and the huge body of evidence that that has been created there around that. And, and they’re saying that depending on the role, it kind of goes from one to 1.5 times the person’s salary up to 15 times the person’s salary for an executive.

Kevin Lawrence  07:44

And you see, sometimes when you have the wrong person, the cost, the actual dollar cost of the errors, or sometimes it’s a fraud, sometimes it’s losing other good people. And then you see the positive impact of the right person. Yeah, and now they reduce costs, and they retain good people and make better decisions. So the swing is massive, I have seen examples where we can count $10 million, for the wrong person in a roll easily. It’s harder to count the upside when they improve it unless they’re maybe a CEO, but whatever it is, it’s massive. And that, you know, we just don’t want to commit that cardinal sin of losing your absolute best people. So you know, if you haven’t had time to think of what you’re not sure, and I know this is probably preaching to the choir, as we would call it. It’s massively expensive. And if you want to watch me in meetings get fired up. When I hear that players have left, I want to know what’s going on. Right? I even have my team or my client will hire someone on my team to go do the exit interview. Because I want the truth. I don’t want what they’re going to tell HR because sometimes HR can get the old goods. Yeah, sometimes they’re afraid to tell someone in the company the full good, I want to know, because if we’re going to just a burned, losing a good person, and somewhere between a couple 100 and a couple, a couple 100 grand and a couple million dollars, I want to get our money’s worth from it. So let’s, we’re trying to prevent you from that painful experience and in the work that we do have spent a lot of time and energy on retaining key people in companies. And it’s not that hard. You just got to put the time and energy into it. And that is our first point today. You have to put the same time and energy to retaining your top people as you do is to retaining the revenue of your top customers. We have account management systems and things that we do to to keep our top customers happy and do to expand the business or keep the business or keep the competition out of the business. We don’t do that with people almost everywhere. Even HR departments are so busy hiring and making sure everyone’s doing their damn performance. reviews and dealing with employees employee problems, that they often don’t have the time to do it, they’re there, they’re not another wouldn’t want to, they just don’t have the time or the energy to. So we’ve got to make sure that the organization is dedicating the energy to retaining and keeping our employees engaged.

Brad Giles  10:17

Yeah. Because the cost of losing an A player employer a, it could be, it could be if you can’t replace them, if they’re difficult to replace, it could be so much more than a key account. We look at key accounts as if it’s everything, but in actual fact, when you look at the p&l, and you think about the impact that the top performer could have, yeah, it’s, it’s absolutely worth the effort to put in to try to retain these people. So So are you putting any effort into the actual retention relative to sales, or at all effect?

Kevin Lawrence  10:59

And that’s you the CEO, or the executive or the manager, not you, the head of HR, head of HR HR person as well, but you the actual manager of those people? Or have your peoples people, you know, like, like, yeah, so so once you’ve committed that, you’re going to put the time and energy into it, we got a whole bunch of good ideas that we have seen, that will make a difference

Brad Giles  11:27

a couple of months ago. So there are a couple of months ago, I had an owner of a business call me up because his CEO had resigned, and he went to work for or he taken a job with a competitor, but was still working out his time. And he said, I don’t know what to do. And this person was clearly an AI player. He was you know, running the business, essentially by himself. And he says I don’t want to do it’s going to be so hard to find someone like it’s going to damage the culture and all of that and I said, Well, have you tried to get him back? Have you tried to keep the person and he said yeah, I tried really, really hard? And I said, Well, what have you done? Oh, look, I spoke to him for like several hours and the guy paid him he wouldn’t tell me exactly how much but it was, you know, a shocking amount of money and I was like, Okay, I said so what’s going to be the cost to this business and it’s not about only the money and you and I’ve spoken about this before they don’t people don’t leave for money but their leaders think that they do and so I said well how about this? What about if you go back and say look, I’ve thought about it and you’re such a valuable person to this organization. And just give him a blank contract like a physical paper blank contract, and just say, I want you to fill in the blanks with what you need to stay here and continue to perform in the way that you are. And that the physicality of that document made a huge difference in the mindset of that person. And even though this person had he’d signed another contract and he didn’t want to go back in His Word with this other company he did he turned around he put in there what he wanted and he stayed and now this guy because it’s been a few months is actually performing better than he has before is felt honored and

Kevin Lawrence  13:21

important to that stuff. Yeah, the only thing I would say about that story is two things. One, they were dealing with it way too late to that’s a very dangerous strategy because then word gets out and you got a lineup of people at your door asking for 30 or 40 grand more so it does work to save but there’s a downside of it that you can get yourself in some companies have policies that once a person they will not bid up to keep and instead they put the energy early in the process because you can create a big problem even though I understand it you can create a big problem of everyone in the word getting out you just have to quit and then then they’ll give you more money

Brad Giles  14:06

but and you are correct them but still try still like think about what else he can do Don’t try

Kevin Lawrence  14:14

and try ideally to do it without cash yes unless their salary was way off market and everything else because then you start creating the word that people will like some of my clients if that happens they’re like thank you and you’re out because it’s they don’t want to create that culture Have you got a you know, bend us over a barrel to get more money to stay? Yeah, for sure. And it does work because they tried so ideally you do it later and sometimes if it’s an absolute critical role, sometimes you might not have a choice. Yeah. And you just got to do what you do at least for a short period of time. So we talked about the same energy. The second thing is about really know your people and know what’s going on which would tie into earlier in the process. Power things Going with their work, how are things going with their life and their wife or their husband and their kids like, no, a good leader will be very close to their people and know where they’re at. So they can help them navigate the stresses outside of work as well as inside work. And if you really know where your people are at in their life, and what’s going on with their work, and helping them to find ways through it, you know, you can, you can know, you will know in advance the things that are driving them crazy. And as we know, from, you know, the book, seven hidden reasons employees leave and that was back in what episode was that? Brad,

Brad Giles  15:35

I think I was 56.

Kevin Lawrence  15:39

Seven hidden reasons employee leave, and they talk about the Yo, mo 88% of managers are roughly 80 to 90% of managers believe employees leave for more money. The truth is, from the exit interviews, that only about 11 or 12%, lead for more money. And in many of those cases, there were other factors beyond money that made them want to leave. And they’re all mostly emotional factors. And leadership is managing people’s emotions and finding a way to make things work for them. And if you know your people and know where they’re at, you have a much better chance of doing it.

Brad Giles  16:17

And that, I mean, that simply means connecting with them looking for subtle cues that are occurring, finding the opportunity through meetings, you know, to touch base, and it could be as simple as we’re gonna do a one word opener for our daily huddle, or our weekly meeting or whatever, little things like that. And then the one word, there are little flags and signals that you can pick up on that can give you the opportunity to dig deeper. Yeah,

Kevin Lawrence  16:47

and we’ll do a check in on a scale of zero to 10. Sometimes we do it in in terms of work self and life splitting it out for the different areas. Yeah, some companies, we talk about what’s going well at work for yourself and in life and what’s not like, just, you know, knowing people, then you have the best position to know where they’re at and what they need. The that’s the third is an actual formal process called state interviews. Right, instead of an exit interview, do that after they’ve quit, do a stay interview to prevent them from quitting. Yeah. And it’s just really, Hey, how’s it going? Here? You know, how you feeling about your role? How you feeling about working with me, your manager? You know, what’s your enjoyment of your role? What can we do to make this better for you? So how old are you need? You need a new printer? Good.

Brad Giles  17:45

How’s that different to a performance review?

Kevin Lawrence  17:49

It’s the other way around. You’re doing a review of the organization and yourself and how you’re doing and how you, you know, how they’re feeling about it. It’s like, how are we doing at serving your needs? versus talking about how you’re serving the organization needs? Yeah, it’s the other side of the coin. Yeah, yeah, the point of it, and most managers are so busy dealing with managing work, they don’t take time for the people. That’s why HR departments have to mandate performance reviews, and hunt people down and beat them with the stick to get it done. Because managers are busy. Yeah, and or they don’t prioritize taking care of their people, whatever it is, we’re not here to judge that. It’s just consciously taking the time to basically deeply understand their level of engagement, and what’s going to help them to to be able to thrive in their work, and you’ll always find stuff.

Brad Giles  18:45

And that, you know, we’ve spoken before about the manager as a coach, the importance of having the perspective that a manager isn’t there just to manage the work as you just said, in actual fact, the manager is there to coach the people is their primary role. And coaching is about asking the right questions. So if you’re asking the right questions, are you going to know your people and be it’s going to help through these stay interviews, situations?

Kevin Lawrence  19:11

Yeah, I used to do with one of my clients, I did a lot of coaching of their executives of the whole executive team. Every single one was critical to the business, very hard to recruit, you know, high impact roles. And during the period that because no one left, people were thinking about it, but because because because we could identify their frustrations, many ways. My coaching conversations had an element of a state conversation in it. Yeah. And when there were frustrations, I would work with them to get them resolved, whether it was with a co worker, a supplier or the CEO. And then we would have a plan at the end of it of what we were going to do in some of these people. I would make sure I talked to them every month, purely to keep them engaged and help them deal with it was it was a little A lot of stuff going on in this company, we have another situation where one of my team did it where they coached a dozen or 15 people, I think, because the, the VP running a huge division of the company that he was trying to turn around, and that division was messy for a lot of reasons. He was let go. And so now they had a very critical part of the business that was just trying to get its feet under it, and just come together as a team, and now their leader was gone, and other executives stepping in, but we knew that was a big Valley to bridge. And so one of our team members who had been working with that team on some stuff, coached every single one of them weekly for 12 weeks. Yep. And then went down to every two weeks and went down to every once a month, as as a bridge for retention. And again, last nobody. And again, if you know if you’re going to go and invest 100 grand in, in, in retention, it really, it’s incredibly good value, compared to the cost of losing just one of those people replacing just one of those people is in the hundreds of 1000s of dollars of cost to the business. Yeah, potentially. And to spend a bunch of money with a coach who already had a relationship to really help them through these challenging times. Because that’s why people leave they lose hope. And they lose faith that things are possible and good coaching and, and stay interviews can help them along the way.

Brad Giles  21:36

Indeed, indeed. And so moving on to the next one, career paths, belief and pride in their career path. So where are you at in terms of your career as an employee? Where a you hoping to go? And how does that align with the ambitions of the business? One of the really interesting evaluations that I’ve done with leadership teams is drawing an S curve in drawing an S curve. So you’ve, you know what an S curve looks like. And then plotting an individual against that S curve, knowing that people don’t really know too much at the bottom, and they achieved mastery at the top. But in terms of their engagement through the middle, that’s the sweet spot. And what we want to do is to have individuals spend as much time as possible in that sweet spot. Because when you achieve mastery, it’s fantastic. But there can be a little bit of complacency, and their engagement can kind of drop back. So yes, being able to think where are the people in terms of their engagement and their career path?

Kevin Lawrence  22:51

Yeah, and one of the ways that we often keep a players engaged, is making sure they have their next challenges. Yeah. Now, whether it’s a challenging project, or changing of the role challenges really critical for some of these people, and who would think give the people more really tough work, and they’ll be happier. But for some people, that’s the case, it’s, it’s, again, these things aren’t rocket science, you got to put the time to and again, career path as part of that, whether it’s promotion, types of projects, maybe it’s a new location, maybe they changed parts of the business, it doesn’t matter, just, you know, keeping people so that they feel belief and engagement and where they’re going.

Brad Giles  23:35

Yeah, and there was years and years ago, I worked with a construction company and they had a saying that the best way to keep your project managers who were really the glue in the business was to keep them busy. So as you say, as soon as they’re not busy, they start thinking about other jobs, when they’ve got a big job to do, or they’ve got a series of big jobs to work on. They’re engaged, and they’re kind of happy for that. Yep.

Kevin Lawrence  24:05

Perfect. The next thing you can do, again, assuming you’re gonna put the energy into this, and I recommend most you know, get all of your managers should be putting energy into this normally, but you know, up the ante now is just look to remove the frustrations and the frictions in the system. Again, it’s not rocket science. But one of the things that drive people crazy. If the coffee is no good, replace it, if people are complaining, because, you know, I don’t know that they have to pay for the coffee. And if it’s costing a $500 a year to pay for the coffee, who cares now, if it’s $50,000, maybe it’s something different. You know, if people are complaining about the air conditioning, or which in many facilities, whether it’s industrial facilities or offices, the heating and air conditioning seems to be a big point of contention for people. You Do what you can to fix it or buy people portable space heaters if they’re too. Too cold. You know, if people are complaining about something with the computer systems, what can you do to help fix it, maybe it’s training, maybe it’s a system, maybe it’s their computer. But when people have frustrations with the basics of doing their jobs, in many ways, they feel disrespected. Sometimes as well, when they have those frustrations, it’s opportunities for massive amounts of waste. But trying to listen to those people. That’s why we do surveys, regularity, asking people about the things that are driving them crazy that we should stop or the brutal facts that we should address. Or maybe it’s just that toxic jerk you have in the company who drives everything cool, everyone crazy.

Brad Giles  25:45

Two of the three examples you got there were about company perks, the coffee, or the air conditioning, let’s say. But in my experience, I’ve done a lot of these particular interviews, asking teams, what prevents you doing your job better. And almost all of the time, it’s things that reduce company efficiency. Almost all of the time, it’s systems or processes that are not working as they should, or teen

Kevin Lawrence  26:19

signatures, bureaucratic, super slow to long, whatever it happens to rework

Brad Giles  26:24

all of that kind of stuff. So the irony is, is that by focusing a little bit of time in here to remove their frustrations, you actually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business significantly.

Kevin Lawrence  26:37

Yep. And, and, and sometimes it’s stuff where people often just need education, like sometimes processes. The process as it’s defined is good. But the way that people are doing it isn’t Yeah, and then sometimes it can be but it’s, again, we’re so busy running the as his business that we don’t deal with some of these things that drives people crazy. Number six is something your Brad you talk about in your book made to thrive, but the ambassador role. We also talk about it in Episode 66, I believe, yes. But it’s basically reselling and resetting the vision, and ensuring people are still proud of the company and the product. Now, one of our companies that want we interesting, I’ve done quite a few vision resets for companies, we had our retreat and Whistler recently, and we were working on ours as a firm as well. And now that we have 10 people in the core team is born. I know it’s even more important. But you know, another company worked with the neuron 25 years, and the divisions there. But it’s kind of gotten a little blah. And they got a real bring life back into it. Because the company is a great company. Yeah, but you got to remind people about the greatness and sometimes you got to do a few things to spice up or, or brighten up the greatness so that people can get reconnected and re excited about it again. Yeah, that’s why restaurants do renovations, why brands come up with new logos and identities and slogans to keep it fresh and relevant?

Brad Giles  28:13

Yeah, then what do people have to be proud about? Or have to be proud about in your firm? Not your firm, Kevin, but in the listeners firm? Are they proud of their product? Are they proud of their manager? Are they proud of the team? And what’s working against that because, you know, if you work for a cigarette manufacturer, let’s say your poor may not be as proud of the firm as they could be. And that’s going to be working against, you know, the retention efforts within the business. Now, that’s an extreme example, clearly an unusual example. But when you scale it back to think about, what is it that your firm does that makes people proud? Or could make people proud? And what is it that you aren’t doing to make people proud? Some of those things can actually really negatively impact your retention efforts in other areas.

Kevin Lawrence  29:11

Yeah, 100%. Yeah, it’s not these things are not rocket science. We just got to keep the energy in it. And the final thing is to keep the culture and funnel live, right? And again, especially during COVID, a lot of companies being virtual or dispersed or not together as much. No, it’s easy. I mean, virtual meetings are incredibly efficient. No two ways. If you run if you know how to run them. Our virtual strap planning sessions are more effective than the in person node for the time, the value for time, can’t beat them cannot, especially with bigger groups. Now. You don’t get the fun. You don’t get the conversations over cocktails or you know, at our team retreat in Whistler, we had a Jenga challenge between two different we broke up into two teams. One game of Jenga was Like an hour and a half. And believe it or not, we actually we believe that might have been one of the reasons we got a noise complaint for where we were. Because we’re having literally an hour and a half one game of Jenga, but you get 10, hyper competitive people. And you don’t get to do that you don’t get to have an in person, you know, one of those big Jenga games, you don’t get to do that. You know, in person, you can’t, you know, do a bunch of other fun things, which builds memories and creates a lot of fun. So even if you’re virtual, how do you keep the culture and fun alive in a company, it’s not hard, we do a lot of things. Like, we have fun teams on most of our meetings, but they do energizers on the breaks. It can be trivia, dance competitions, like you name it exercises, we have key questions, jokes, we have so many different, it’s 90 seconds. But it is bringing some fun and energy to a meeting that’s you know, you’re staring at a camera the whole time. So there’s tons of things you can do. It’s just easily neglected. And you know, and fun. And laughter is the best analgesic, there is analgesic being something that takes away pain. Laughter fun is insanely

Brad Giles  31:11

powerful. And sometimes there are people who are more fun, or let’s say, fun scenes within an organization, they’re just fun people. And so letting them thrive, letting them you know, take charge of some of these things can make a big difference. Because they, you know, they love doing it. They and you know, they’re there. They’re the fun that they create, through some of these things can resonate through other people and through other teams.

Kevin Lawrence  31:38

Yep, absolutely. So it’s not right, it’s not rocket science again, but it makes a difference. So let’s kind of run through our list. So remembering that there’s a lot of expense to losing key people. And that really, you got to put the same energy into retaining your best clients as you do your best people. And you can do that by deeply knowing your people like really connecting with them and knowing what’s going on in their world and their work. Stay interviews to actually understand where they’re at, and what needs to happen for them to want to stay. The output that often might be number for a career path, where, where you make sure that they’re crystal clear, and it’s in writing, because some people can’t see it otherwise, where they’re gonna go, Brad, you want to take the next couple there,

Brad Giles  32:22

sure. And then removing the frustrations for them. Sometimes the frustrations can be if the effectiveness or efficiency in your business making that improves significantly. So getting rid of those frustrations, that could be enough to help impact your retention rate, then thinking about the ambassador role, so your role is a leader, either the CEO or a leader of a department. And that Ambassador role being the ambassador. So as we mentioned, we’d spoken about this role in Episode 66. But what we’re talking about here relative to this is resetting and reselling the vision ensuring that people are proud of their team, their manager, their product and their company, so that they’re able to, to experience that pride overall and not let that get in the way. And then of course, the last one, keeping the culture and the fun alive within the organization trying to make sure that it’s an active part of what you do find at work or having you know, fun friends at work can make a huge difference.

Kevin Lawrence  33:31

It does. Excellent good chat about retention. We know we love our people, we say they’re our biggest asset and let’s just make sure we treat them that way. All right, well, thanks for listening. This has been the growth whispers podcast with Brad Giles and myself Kevin Lawrence. By the way, if you haven’t subscribed, go subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts. For the video version, go to YouTube and search the growth whispers and for Brad evolution partners.com.au and for myself and my firm Lawrence and co.com. Have an awesome week.