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A holistic formula for retaining staff

According to a recent report, 1 in 4 workers are thinking about leaving their job after the pandemic. With time to reflect on what matters most in their career, top talent are looking for more opportunity and growth. And this trend is only set to continue as retention is becoming the hot topic issue for so many organizations at the moment. So, how can we hold on to our best people?

There is a formula for success:

hiring + onboarding + engagement = retention.

It may seem simplistic, but focusing on these core elements can make all the difference when it comes to lowering the attrition of your best staff. Let’s dig in…



It all starts with the hire. Get this wrong and there is no way you can retain talent. From the moment you start interacting with a candidate, it’s vital to be authentic and clear about two important components: the values of the company and the realities of the role. Set the wrong expectation on either of these fronts and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

So, what do you need to get right when you’re looking to hire talent for the long term?

Can you match their development ambitions?

  • Make sure you understand what the candidate’s ambitions are, even at this stage. If your company cannot facilitate or create a pathway to where they want to go, it’s on you to decide how to proceed. But remember: there will always be the risk that after a certain amount of time, this talent will seek greener pastures.

Do they share the same ethos as the company?

  • It’s important to note that I’m not talking about culture fit here, more that new employees share the values that drive the company. It can be a difficult one to fully ascertain in interviews, but with a solid knowledge of what your company stands for, you will better equip yourself to find this spark.

Check out SocialTalent’s ebook ‘How to interview for culture add’

Can they perform the role?

  • It’s a pretty basic requirement to ensure that a candidate has the right skills and experience to undertake a role, but this won’t always tell the full story. For long term retention, you have to dig deeper. Someone can have all the skills they need, but be used to a slower paced work environment. Or, perhaps they require certain systems to perform to the best of their abilities? Maybe team structures come into play? Hiring based on a CV will never tell you the whole story and can be a nightmare for retention.



It is becoming increasingly obvious that onboarding plays an enormous role in the success of a new hire. Speed can no longer be the driving factor behind an onboarding program. I get it, you want results as quickly as possible. But focusing solely on the basics of equipment, learning systems and setting responsibilities will not lead to long term gain. You have to address the following:

Building an internal network

  • Joining a new company is daunting; not knowing who to go to for what and not having an established support network. I recently wrote about why a manager’s main priority during onboarding should be to help their new hire build an internal network. Beyond obvious meetings with appropriate management, HR and IT, help your new employee build the relationships that will add to their job performance and satisfaction in a way that directly links to the future.

Include an IDP as part of the process

  • While finding out about your employee’s career ambitions in the interview is step one, setting up a cadence of IDPs is step two. At this stage, you are firmly examining their development potential. In these meetings you can delve into how you, as their manager, can help them to achieve particular goals they have or identify other opportunities they might not have been aware of. It’s important that you listen and help your employee strategize actions to move them towards their development. Taking the time to understand their motivations not only enables them to achieve their personal goals, but helps you be a better manager.

Set up a regular feedback loop

  • Clear and consistent communication is so important when onboarding. It’s a good idea to set up an initial meeting to revisit their working preferences. Things have a habit of changing a lot early on, so having a space to make sure your employee is happy with their set-up is vital. Use these conversations to correct, alter or improve anything as needs be. Also, if you’re not hearing regular feedback, you’re missing out on opportunities to not only make your employees feel heard and looked after, but also achieve their full potential. Create a safe space to ensure that they know feedback is always a two-way street. Make sure they know where and when they can give you feedback. It’s important for them but it’s also really important for you.


Keeping employees happy and engaged long-term is undoubtedly a challenge. A recent Gallup report even clocked global employee engagement at a dismal 20%. And a lot of this comes down to culture and leadership, but there are so many avenues you can take to improve this.

The cultivation mindset

  • Jason Lauritsen, one of SocialTalent’s platform experts, refers to this idea of cultivation mindset when it comes to leadership. He believes that humans are actually genetically coded for growth and performance. And when we come to embrace this reality, the job of management looks more like the job of a farmer – ensuring that people, like seeds and crops, have what they need to flourish. Remove barriers to success for your employees and watch them flourish.

Check out Jason’s appearance on our weekly show The Shortlist here to learn more about the cultivation mindset. Or, read this blog!

Training and development

  • L&D can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice-to-have.’ One of the fundamental reasons why talent leaves organizations comes down to a lack of opportunity to grow. In fact, according to Deloitte, millennials are 42% less likely to leave a company if there is space for upskilling. Investing in your people means investing in your future. You are showing commitment to their progression while simultaneously creating a durable and flexible workforce.


  • There is little worse than consistently doing a good job only for it to go unnoticed. It is your job as a manager to ensure that your team feels appreciated. Failing to do this creates resentment and apathy – why should they push themselves or suggest innovation if a blind eye is turned to it? Top talent will often have offers knocking on their door, and if you don’t want to lose them, you have to give credit when credit is due.

The retention formula breaks down into many different components as we have seen. But, I do want to give you a word of caution – if there is a weak link in any of these core areas, it can still result in attrition. You have to be strong and steadfast in every category in order to succeed. Some talent will always trickle away. And this is fine. But make it be as difficult a decision for them as possible. The time to think about retention is not as your people are leaving, it is before they have even joined. Make sure your organization champions its people from day one.

This article originally appeared in Johnny Campbell’s bi-weekly LinkedIn Newsletter called Talent Leadership Insights. Subscribe here.

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