How to keep your top talent when everyone else wants them

Recruiters have to be experts in employee psychology and motivation. Whether we are proactively headhunting or helping a candidate who approached us, to be successful we need to understand what drives and engages individuals so that we can help them engage with the idea of new opportunities and determine cultural fit. So, if you want to engender loyalty from your team and make it harder for recruiters to tempt your top performers then it would be worth bearing in mind the following points.

Can you articulate your employee proposition?

The ability to define their employee proposition is a strong indicator of hiring and retention success. When talking with new clients we frame this question as “Why should a candidate choose you rather than any other employer?”

Companies that can articulate the purpose of the company, its values, what it expects of employees and what employees can expect in return will engender loyalty.

Salary is the easiest way to generate interest

When we spec roles to candidates (i.e. brief them on a potential opportunity) a competitive salary always makes it easier to get their interest. If a candidate is paid below market rate, then not only is that candidate easy to interest in new opportunities but that company will then become one of the first places the recruiter scopes out for possible candidates the next time they have a role to fill.

Your staff turnover rates can be a good indicator of whether you pay competitively, but to verify how your salaries compare with other employers consult the jobs boards for comparable roles, ask your trade body if they have salary tables and / or speak with your recruitment consultant – we know market rates and are more than happy to help.

Remuneration and benefits packages

The overall package that will makes an employer appear attractive is constantly evolving. For example, with the growth of entrepreneurialism in the UK, equity in lieu of salary or bonuses became fashionable in the noughties. EMI share schemes remain compelling but more recently candidates have been attributing more value to organisations with a strong ethical purpose and a commitment to employee wellbeing, for example flexible working, mentoring programmes etc.

While each employee will value specific benefits, the wider and more personalised your suite of benefits the harder it is for other employers to tempt your staff away – people naturally ascribe more value to their existing benefits than ones of equivalent value they would get by moving, a behaviour psychologist call the endowment effect. Furthermore, some benefits such as unmonitored holiday allowances or the ability to work from home a day a week don’t have a cash equivalent and can prove deal-makers or deal-breakers irrespective of salary.

A defined career path REALLY matters

Further to salary, ensuring your employees have personalised career development programmes will increase their loyalty significantly. An employee with a defined career path and targets plus a personal development programme is likely to feel valued and confident in their future. Prospective employers will need to offer a secure and more attractive proposition to match what you have in place.

Listen to your employees

The people most likely to provide you with the best solutions for keeping your staff are the employees themselves. Yet too many employers only really listen once an employee already has another offer by which time the relationship has broken down…

Make sure your team has the opportunity to raise frustrations while encouraging them to think about both their personal progression and how the organisation can support their professional development. Whenever an employee leaves, ensure you conduct an exit interview to benchmark your remuneration package and wider benefits. Whenever a new member joins the team ask them about the strengths and weaknesses of other employers’ offerings.

With a shortage of good candidates, the bar for what constitutes an attractive employer is constantly rising and you need to up your game accordingly.

Clare Wight is managing director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: