The talent risk and how to avoid it

Keep your staff motivated and the best talent will stick around for longer

Any business would agree that having the best people is crucial to its success. Yet research from Vodafone reveals that many are failing to take the risk of losing that talent seriously enough.

A recent Vodafone UK survey of senior managers found that, when looking ahead to potential obstacles, most put far more emphasis on the risk of IT or telecommunications systems crashing than they do on losing valued staff.

But loss of employees is the third highest risk for businesses in the UK. In 2011, 34 per cent of businesses suffered from loss of people. This puts the threat just below failure of IT systems, which 39 per cent of businesses experienced, but above loss of telecommunications, suffered by 24 per cent.

If businesses want to succeed and grow, they need to be more aware of talent risk when planning for the future. The good news is that this particular threat is much easier to prevent than those posed by technological or environmental issues.

One obvious way to attract and retain employees is to offer tempting financial incentives such as competitive salaries, good pensions or a stake in the company, but this isn’t a realistic approach for all businesses.

However, there are some relatively straightforward and cost effective measures that most companies could adopt to boost staff satisfaction and morale.

A previous study by Circle Research and Vodafone UK found that flexible working hours and a better work/life balance are valued particularly highly by employees. Simple steps, such as measuring employee performance rather than hours in the office, or giving staff smartphones or tablets to work remotely, can make a huge difference for a comparatively small cost.

Employee benefits, from training and social societies to staff discounts, also make for a happier workforce.

PepsiCo is one company which is taking a proactive approach to talent risk. Once known primarily for its soft drinks and snacks it is now emphasising healthy products such as coconut water and fruit juice.

In the process, it is focusing on hiring people who can adapt quickly to new challenges, ensuring it has the skills and perspectives it needs to develop the new side of its business.

The company has also introduced a 10-year career-planning model for high-flying employees. This encourages them to think strategically about their careers and ensures they’re given opportunities to acquire the breadth and global savvy they’ll need as future leaders within PepsiCo.

“You always want to make sure you’re building on employees’ capabilities, rather than just letting it happen,” says Cynthia Trudell, PepsiCo’s Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer. “As we look across our talent landscape, we want to see that the people we’re developing are in critical development roles, and to ensure we don’t miss the opportunity to provide the right development plan for them.”

There will always be challenges ahead for businesses, but making changes to ensure employees want to stick around will mean they are better prepared to meet them.

Click here for more information on managing talent risk.