Article: Address 3 key challenges to keep top talent on board

Employee Engagement

Address 3 key challenges to keep top talent on board

If you get the basics right and proactively prepare a communication plan to tackle complex issues, you can position your company for success.
Address 3 key challenges to keep top talent on board

In 2024, HR professionals will face challenges that require nimble, creative approaches to ensure their companies can attract and retain skilled workers. They’ll need to nurture a high-trust culture that engages employees and supports organizational goals.

Every organization is different, and with five generations in the workforce at the same time, there’s no “one trick” that works for everyone. But if you get the basics right and proactively prepare a communication plan to tackle complex issues, you can position your company for success.

Here are three of the top challenges HR leaders will face in 2024 and tips on how you can mitigate them to retain top talent and preserve institutional knowledge in the year ahead:

Challenge 1: Employees want employers to address their emotional needs

In October 2023, a BCG survey of employees across eight countries found that one in four respondents plan to leave their jobs in the coming year. Pay and benefits were the top reasons cited, but employees’ emotional needs rounded out their top five priorities. Emotional needs ranged from feeling fairly treated and having job security to doing work they enjoy.

That means HR leaders have an opportunity to differentiate their organizations in the marketplace by promoting people-centric policies that address the emotional needs of employees. Advocates for remote, hybrid and onsite work continue to make their cases, but there’s little debate among employees, who clearly favor the opportunity to work in any way that suits them best. When you offer employees flexibility, they feel seen and respected as people, not just employees.

Challenge 2: Workers worry AI will replace them

Another challenge HR professionals will tackle in 2024 is employee concern about layoffs, particularly in the tech sector. More than a quarter of a million tech workers lost their jobs in 2023, and early 2024 trends suggest this trend will continue. Anxiety about the role AI will play in jobs now held by humans is a major factor. HR will need to address these concerns by communicating effectively and transparently about issues like layoffs and AI adoption.

Left to their own devices, people tend to imagine the worst, i.e., that they’ll be replaced by bots. To prevent that, HR must create a plan to keep employees informed about the organization’s AI strategy. Identify key messages for top executives, frontline managers and team members, and make sure the story is consistent across levels.

Keep in mind that conveying the right messages and building trust don’t happen in a vacuum — you’ll need a detailed communication plan that considers different roles and learning styles. Top-down communication can turn into a telephone game, which distorts the intended message. Instead, craft a plan that distributes consistent messages from top to bottom and laterally across teams and departments.

Challenge 3: Employers need employee buy-in to effectively manage change

Determining flexible work policies and supporting employees through AI adoption initiatives both boil down to one key theme: change management. Designating “change champions” is an effective technique to achieve employee buy-in and effectively manage change, so enlist high performers to help you carry out your strategy.

When employees see high-performing peers embrace a change like new AI tools to enhance their effectiveness on the job, they will see the potential for the change to benefit them too. One-on-one messaging plays a critical role also, and giving change champions and other leaders talking points can help them prepare for those conversations.

Consider diverse channels to meet employees where they are, such as podcasts, fireside chats or marketing-style material to convey key messages instead of all-hands town halls or company-wide emails.

Retaining staff and institutional knowledge

As you fine-tune plans to meet these and other challenges, it’s a good idea to remember why retaining your top talent is so critical. In addition to serving as a competitive asset, skilled employees are also the organization’s repository of institutional knowledge. They understand the company, its marketplace, its product and its customers’ needs. Skilled employees can also serve as mentors to junior staff, building a strong succession pipeline that benefits the entire organization over time.

With that in mind, make sure you’re using proven strategies to keep your best employees on board, like a rewards and recognition program that keeps high performers motivated. The appropriate compensation is crucial, so making sure you’re competitive in all the markets your company serves is a must.

However, less tangible factors can play a role in employee satisfaction. Top talent wants to work with high performers. When the best of the best collaborates with other driven team members, employees are highly engaged in projects and challenged to do their best work.

So, focus on retaining the right employees rather than overall retention percentages; this approach boosts the morale of high performers while benefiting the organization financially at the same time. Tried-and-true talent retention concepts endure for good reason, but it’s worth asking if you can adjust tactics to get better results, such as using new technology tools or communication tactics.

The bottom line on employee retention is that people have choices, and employers who don’t meet their needs won’t be able to compete on talent. That’s nothing new, but it’s more self-evident in the post-pandemic, distributed-workforce world, where the competition for talent never ends.

That’s why it’s important to address employees’ emotional needs by offering more flexibility on the job, alleviate concerns about layoffs and AI adoption through greater transparency, and designate change champions to help employees adapt to new ways of working. When you address these key challenges, you’ll be able to keep top talent onboard in 2024.

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Topics: Employee Engagement

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