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Want To Keep Talent This Year? Try These Time Tested Strategies.

Want To Keep Talent This Year? Try These Time Tested Strategies.

The great resignation of 2020 and 2021 is tipped to continue into this year. The steep cost of replacing talent makes this trend especially punishing for organisations, with estimates placing it as high as 200% of employee’s pay.

But according to a 2019 Gallop study, the problem is fixable. The study found that:

Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organisation could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

Thankfully, retaining talent is perfectly doable. There is no secret sauce to it. But it does require managerial intent.

My experiences on both sides of management have taught me a few things. We explore why they’re still relevant today.

Change Management

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced working teams into a state of constant evolution. They’ve had to comply with ad-hoc regulations, realise new opportunities, and mitigate emerging threats. All require swift and impactful changes in both team structure and processes. The work from home phenomenon is still shaking things (and teams) up. Barely short of sweeping reform, the workforce as we know it continues to evolve immensely. This underscores a heightened need for managerial apt in managing change. That’s where an aptitude for communicating change is especially consequential.

Agreeably, communicating change is essential. However, a less common discussion is what to communicate. There’s a temptation to communicate only information that directs effort, where the message is, here’s how your work is changing and why. On its own, this is not a very inclusive place to speak from. It highlights status differences, creating distance. There’s yet another type of communication that enhances it. This type seeks to convey evolving priorities in advance and secure buy-in or (at least) give sufficient notice. 

The idea here is not to cater to every last suggestion or objection. It helps to note that creating an environment where people genuinely feel heard and included differs from trying to oblige everybody. 

At its core, this second type of communication is an acknowledgement. It says “your views matter.” Such small deeds can yield sizable dividends. This simple courtesy creates a sense of ownership in the change it seeks to communicate. If you’ve ever been given information someone felt might benefit you (unsolicited advice aside), then you’ll know first-hand that it feels good to be considered. Furthermore, sharing plans can help colleagues gauge where they fit in and chart their career trajectory in the organisation with more certainty. Importantly, being generous with this information gives managers a chance to source relevant (even critical) feedback on ideas ahead of execution.

Connection, Relationship and Community

The role of work in our lives has evolved in the recent past, creating another opportunity for managers to make the workplace more conducive.

The Covid-19 pandemic evolved the concept of work from a place where employees do their jobs, to a shared purpose that brings colleagues together. We’ve learned to place a fitting premium on connection, both at work and outside it. Since early 2020, themes for healthy colleagueship – like being kind, giving thanks, and being gentle – have peaked in popularity.

My conversations with other professionals affirm that connections at work indeed make a difference. They help people see themselves as a part of something larger – a community.

Managers who recognise these shifting priorities and respond appropriately to them are poised to retain more talent than their counterparts. They’re the ones who make the time to build relationships that matter, one interaction at a time. In doing so, they model values of colleagueship and set the standard for the rest of their team to follow.

Connection serves another crucially important purpose for any manager. It allows for honest and meaningful dialogue to flow. This enables managers to get a good read on both their teams and the individuals in them. And the informational benefits are sizable, not only when coordinating team efforts, but keeping individuals motivated and engaged.


The relationship with a manager is especially important for shaping the work experience. And trust is the fibre that holds healthy relationships in place, including this one.

One way to build trust in relationships is to proactively extend it. As I managed a finance team some years ago, I had an opportunity to entrust a colleague with a new task. With some support, the job was completed, but the story didn’t end there. Emboldened by the experience, this colleague took on the “just show me” mentality to every new and unfamiliar task that followed, with noteworthy success. I saw the effect of extending trust first-hand: a new level of confidence and participation, both essential to a meaningful work experience. 

Sometimes, extending trust may not be an option for valid reasons. There is yet another way to build trust which is always available: by earning it. I worked with a project manager whose work ethic stood out to me. Through expert judgement, clear communication and consistent follow-through, this manager built an air of credibility and professionalism that earned my trust. Indeed I always looked forward to being on their team. The experience taught me that a leader’s trustworthiness literally creates the work environment that I want to be a part of; A lesson for any leader. 


Here’s a function of effective management that doesn’t get nearly enough airtime for its value add. Advocacy – in the context of work – happens when managers speak up for their direct reports. This typically occurs in the decision room where managers are present, but their reports, likely not. Like any courtesy, it’s not a strict duty, but employees hope (and are certainly grateful) for it. I once heard someone suggest that advocacy is by far more consequential than talent on career issues. True or not, this statement underscores the importance of being a line manager that can speak for your people, when it matters. 

See Also

Simon Sinek says it best:

Leadership is not about being in charge, but rather, taking care of those in our charge. 

In the modern workplace, we’ve come to embrace different variations of advocates: allies, sponsors, and (to a degree) mentors. What makes a manager uniquely suited to this advocacy role is the opportunity to use one’s voice for good. Naturally, a manager is best placed to speak for their colleagues.

But let’s be wary of counterfeit advocacy. It bears the semblance of allyship and trust, yet consistently fails to deliver the sense of security that comes with these virtues. Counterfeit advocacy happens when a manager promotes themselves as an advocate, and may even speak highly of colleagues in their presence, but tells a different tale behind closed doors. 

This tendency has only negatives. Team members are forced to dedicate mental effort towards advocating for themselves, which depletes their energy at work. And those who don’t have the energy (or inclination) to do so might join the great resignation. Ultimately, the manager concerned loses credibility, influence and standing with the rest of the team. If the organisation promotes the right ideas, such a manager would struggle to land a promotion, at best. 

Taken Together

While these points are individually valid, they are (as the slogan goes) stronger together. They are all interconnected. Collectively, they create a management posture that’s optimised for talent retention. 

For instance, having meaningful connections creates the opportunity for trust-based relationships to flourish, which in turn makes advocacy possible. Having the trust of colleagues also helps dialogue, especially through change management. When a manager is trusted, they get the “benefit of the doubt,” making it easier to manage the communication gaps that are common in high change settings. All are connected.


These strategies may not reduce your retention rates down to zero. But if you’re losing talent, they will help plug the leak.

As noted, the great resignation is said to continue into the new year. Whether this is a threat or an opportunity largely depends on how managers play their cards this year.

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