MANY companies face a perennial problem — the danger of losing their “high-performers”. These are employees who are vital to the success of the company and whose departure can have serious business consequences.

The direct costs associated with losing an employee are well documented, ranging anywhere from one to three times the employee’s salary. However, these calculations often fail to factor in the hidden costs of employee turnover, including lost productivity, missed revenues and intangible repercussions such as reduced morale and diminished company reputation.

What can be done to meet this challenge and retain the talent your company needs to compete effectively?

Many companies are implementing aggressive strategies to manage turnover and hold onto those employees who contribute most to their business success.

An exit interview is the perfect opportunity to identify the key drivers of retention in the organisation. Information garnered in the interview should be used to conduct a retention analysis which will help determine what has to be done to hold onto high performers in the future.

Although this highly effective approach may seem obvious, it is not yet common. One reason for this is the pervasive belief that high turnover is inevitable today and that relatively little can be done to improve retention rates.

It must be remembered that while a certain amount of “churn” is normal, or even healthy, for an organisation, losing high performers is always costly.

Another reason why companies often fail to address the retention challenge is that they lack effective strategies for managing turnover. Or, they achieve only limited results because their approach is incomplete or misdirected.

The best way to retain high performers is to implement a well-planned and coordinated retention strategy, which sometimes requires fundamental changes in how the company selects, develops and rewards its employees.

The three areas crucial to keeping your staff are selection and orientation, training and career management, and motivation and compensation.

Selection and orientation

The best way to gain an accurate picture of what a candidate needs to succeed at a job in your company’s particular culture is to conduct a strategic job analysis.

This involves gathering data to establish the skills and competencies required for the job, analysing the cultural context in which the job will be performed, and spending time with employees who excelled at the job in the past or with high performers who hold similar jobs.

A strategic job analysis helps to define the critical “success factors” for the job. That is, the specific behaviours and attitudes that are needed to perform the job successfully.

These success factors can be used to create a profile of the ideal candidate for recruitment — one who is likely not only to do well at the job, but to also stay on with your company.

This profile can then be used in the interviewing process to identify a candidate’s organisational fit.

Behavioural-based interviewing (for example, asking candidates how they have handled a difficult customer in the past) encourages candidates to paint a picture of their qualifications and provides the information needed to determine whether their work styles and preferences match the cultural requirements of the job.

This includes how decisions are made, how problems are solved, how communication takes place and how responsibilities are shared.

Once the recruitment decision has been made, the orientation process must be considered. Dr John Sullivan, head of the Human Resources Management Program at San Francisco State University claims that most companies need to reconstruct their orientation programmes so that they make more favourable first impressions and “close the sale” on new hires.

This could include:

* Involving the new employee’s family in the orientation process

* Ensuring a senior person participates in the orientation to show the new employee that they are important to your business

* Giving the new recruit’s immediate manager control of the orientation process, which can help the individual to integrate into his or her new environment as quickly as possible.

Tomorrow: Learn about further strategies to help you retain your top performers.