recognizeAsk pretty much any CEO these days, and they’ll tell you that the old cliche that “employees are every company’s biggest asset” rings true – in fact, manifold surveys support the fact that recruiting and retaining the right talent lead the lengthy list of what keeps organizational leaders up at night.

That’s because the bottom line is that, as expensive as recruiting can be, closing the knowledge and capability gaps created when an experienced worker leaves an employer can be much more costly, particularly involving roles requiring a significant investment in learning & development or those most tightly integrated into existing business processes and procedures.

The most likely flight risks – which is to say, those “A” players  we conveniently refer to as top talent, are also the most likely to have been the beneficiary of these sorts of investments, both direct and indirect.

Blocking the Exits

That’s why as more and more of these high performers rush en masse to the greener pastures of other opportunities, it’s important for employers to look at recruiting as a continual process within an organization instead of simply an entrance point and build a culture of retention that’s going to keep the best and the brightest from switching sides.

This requires focusing on a few simple, but often overlooked, retention drivers that should be a part of any company’s culture and talent management strategy for ensuring today’s top performers will stick around tomorrow.

1. Salary

2015-03-16_14-05-38As much as we’d like to discount the importance of compensation as a driver for considering career opportunities, the simple fact is that money is the top motivator for changing jobs.

The best performers share the common characteristics of being loyal to both the bigger business as well as the colleagues and clients who depend on them, but many also realize that sometimes, the opportunity cost of not taking a better paying opportunity just isn’t worth it.

This needs to be tempered with good business sense. Obviously you’re likely to have issues like internal compression or pay grades come up when reevaluating internal salaries, but the fact is that the costs of finding the experience and expertise required to replace departing employees often far outweighs a small hike in pay, spot bonuses or similar rewards.

Consider the fact that this information is easily obtainable online by any one of your workers, and this transparency means that while you should never pay more than you can reasonably afford, not giving the best performers at least what the market says they’re worth is sending an implicit message, however erroneous, that they’re not really valued.

This creates disgruntled, disengaged employees – adding to the already steep costs of voluntary turnover. And if you’re thinking about waiting until there’s an actual offer on the table to negotiate a counter offer, think again. If you haven’t adjusted salary rates for a while or have no performance related incentives in place, now’s the time to put fiduciary fixes in place to keep your workers working for you instead of the competition.

2. Flexible Work Arrangements

It’s called work for a reason, and that’s because, let’s face it, it’s often stressful – and balancing work demands with family life can be incredibly daunting. If you’re requiring long hours at the office in addition to being constantly connected and on call, then something’s got to give – and most often, the first thing to go is quality, with harried workers doing so much that they inevitably can’t do anything as well as anyone would like.

This is OK for a while, but if you’re seeing this pattern play out as a performance issue, consider implementing a flexible work schedule, which resolves many issues and will almost always lead to better productivity and engagement – two top retention drivers.

GEM Recruiting AI

Let’s face it, it’s 2015 – and no matter how cool your office is, there’s largely no need for many of the people there to even bother coming in to begin with. Technology makes work a thing you do, not a place you go, and that work is more likely to get done when it’s done on someone’s own time (and terms).

Even if your workplace or the role requires being physically present, consider alternative arrangements like split shifts, customizable hours or anything that builds balance and prevents burnout.

3. Career Development

If your employees are feeling stuck in a rut or stagnated, or that there’s really nothing more your organization can offer them in terms of advancement opportunities or professional development, then you’ve more or less become resigned to the inevitability of their resignation. And who can blame them?

Everyone wants to grow and achieve their goals – which is why you’ve got to make sure your company is a career destination that can’t be replaced by simply finding another job. Most employees report they’d rather progress their careers within their current organization than look outside it, if given a choice. It’s up to you to make that choice an option – which isn’t hard.

Start by setting achievable goals and incentivizing workers when they meet these milestones. This will keep your employees motivated, accountable for personal performance and most importantly, provide the carrot they need to stick it out. If you haven’t already done so, define career paths and what’s needed to advance within a company and make this a part of your professional development plan.

Clearly and consistently communicate with employees and make sure they know you’re watching – the best ones will rise to the occasion, and those that don’t, you most likely don’t want around to begin with.

4. Benefits

We tend to think of benefits as stuff like group health insurance or 401(k) matches, but the truth is that there’s more to rewards and recognition than simply the standard plans every employer offers – and if you can incentivize employees with benefits no other competitor is offering, you obviously create a competitive advantage for everyone involved.

These can include things like subsidized child care, tuition reimbursement or paying fees for professional organizations, for example – the more you can offer, the less likely an employee is to find something similar during their search. The best benefits packages are those with the highest degrees of customization, so even if you’re not planning on adding to your budget, at least give employees choice when it comes to allocating their benefits dollars – and make the choices that are going to make their life a little easier without you having to break the bank.

Ultimately, more people are looking for jobs, and after years of recession-related austerity and being forced to do more with less, more candidates are looking not only at opportunities with the best packages or the biggest brands, but also, those with the most balance. This, of course, creates increased employee satisfaction, engagement and ultimately, productivity.

And that’s really the bottom line at any business.

About the Author: Steve Brown is a regular contributor and author on a variety of business related topics. His work can be seen on many high traffic, high visibility sites such as PeopleInsight, a UK based consulting firm providing employee engagement and staff survey expertise across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.