Lots of organizations run leadership, talent and graduate development programmes. How can we increase the opportunity of employee retention after participation in a development programme? many provide a 1 year development programmes and wonder why people leave the organization 2-5 years later.
The following was recently asked on a social group:
I was wondering if anyone has any experience with setting up an Alumni Strategy for employees who complete any type of talent programmes in the company?
I am specifically working on post graduates’ programme support because I noticed that majority participants leave the company 2-5 years after completion of their talent programme. Any advices, examples, ideas on how to increase post programme support would be appreciated, and it does not have to be related only to the graduate population.
Now this question raises some issues. Each of which should be dealt with independently. To me these issues are:
- Developing a strategy for alumni from development programmes
- Retention plans for graduates leaving after joining a development scheme
- Retaining people after participation on talent programmes
- Running alumni programs for people that have completed development schemes
Developing a strategy for alumni from development programmes
Regardless of their age, people going through a corporate development programme, having a plan to keep these people connected is desirable. Not least because it can help the return on investment in the original programme. Many programmes are great at developing people throughout the programme. Most programmes leave people unsupported after the completion.
This is a big mistake.
Having a SINGLE alumni community of people that have been through talent or development programmes can help build relationships, provide communications channels as well as act as a conduit for further development. Multiple communities dilutes the effort. There are ultimately only 2 types of talent – those that are employees, and ex-employees. The goal is to have a way of bringing people back if they leave, as well as retaining people for longer.
The plan for an almuni community is simple. Get people’s attention whilst they are part of a programme. Make them feel special. Give compelling reasons for THEIR BENEFIT as to why they should belong to the community. Enable and encourage sharing of learning and requests for help. Have the community hosted outside the organisation, use LinkedIn, Yammer or other platforms. Have the almuni community driven by alumni, find some champions to kick it off. Give them the training and resources to make this work. Over deliver the ” What is in it for me”, in terms of why participants should join and be active in the group. Build some low level of gamification in to encourage participation.
Do not drive the group with overly corporate branding and style.
Certainly people will leave the organisation, and that is no reason to disconnect people from a support network, indeed it a great excuse to keep developing them.
Retention of young professionals
Graduate and other young professionals have expectations when joining the workplace. Sometimes these expectations are realistic, often they are unrealistic. According to the Independent:
A study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) indicates that employers lose 16 per cent of their intake within the first two years, up from 9 per cent in 2016, while 20 per cent of workers leave by the first year after completing a graduate development programme.
Employers can expect to retain just over half of their graduate workforce within five years, with 46 per cent of young employees departing after this time, up from 39 per cent in 2016.
AGR data shows graduate retention remained relatively stable from 2011 until 2014, but has declined ever since.
The good news is that for those that stay with the organization, some 39% move into managerial and leadership positions after 5 years. So the returns from these schemes is created some years after the programme.
Whatever the reason for these graduates leaving, we need to be careful not to provide “Golden handcuffs”. While retention may increase, productivity and brand passion reduces. A better strategy is to look at building brand loyalty. This is so that they are willing to return and bring new experiences with them later in their professional life. People will leave, our job is not to stop them, but to delay them. Having six monthly or annual conferences where key speakers from the company or industry share what is happening in the market place. Something they wont get in a competitors role. Each month they stay with you is a bonus. Focus on giving them reasons to stay, keep it fluid. A talent programme of any kind should never be a one off. If they are on your radar as future talent, treat them so. Do not expect a one off event (even a 1 year programme) to be enough. It’s a great start, but that is all it is. A start
Retaining people after participation on talent programmes
Unless you build in clawback clauses (which I am totally against), we need to accept that some people will stay, some will go. Trying to keep people from going is futile. What we do want however is lifelong brand champions.
There are things that we can do to extend the retention after participation in development programmes. These include:
- LISTEN to the needs of your people
- A community or chat space for people to share experiences, and connect with other people (best done outside the corporate network)
- Have continous development with this population. Monthly or quarterly newsletters with tips for development
- Automatic invitations to at least annual development days. Content not available to other employees
- Encourage informal get togethers to share and learn, and not just in single cohorts
Provide managers with toolkits like this one from the UK civil service – https://civilservicelearning.civilservice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/line_managers_talent_toolkit_24_03_16.pdf (or here)
According to Harvard Business Review – How to Keep Top Talent many make these mistakes and assumptions:
- Mistake 1: Assuming That High Potentials Are Highly Engaged
- Mistake 2: Equating Current High Performance with Future Potential
- Mistake 3: Delegating Down the Management of Top Talent
- Mistake 4: Shielding Rising Stars from Early Derailment
- Mistake 5: Expecting Star Employees to Share the Pain
- Mistake 6: Failing to Link Your Stars to Your Corporate Strategy
The IES have a great four-step approach to talent management worth looking at https://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/502.pdf (or IES talent report)
Running alumni programs for people that have completed development schemes
This is never as easy as it sounds, but totally worth the effort. In this social media age, we need to have brand ambassadors both inside and outside the organisation. When good people leave our organizations, we want them writing good things on sites like Glassdoor. The reality is people will leave, accept this and build up ready for them to leave.
Work with some social media champions that have been through one or more of your programmes. Work with them as a business project (give them time and credit) to build a small team of 2 or 3 people. Identify a suitable off site platform.
Train them in social media, generating discussions, building discussions and debate. Provide them with access to journals and content to share and talk about. Have THEM invite other participants. Work with their marketing and communications teams to have this alumni group fee special. Early access to business information etc.
In the longer term, have being active in the group part of talent and graduate programme content and projects. Make the alumni group THE place for discussion and debate. For early announcement of potential leadership/ promotion posts etc.
Make sure your internal communication teams see this channel as important.
Retaining employees that have completed talent development programmes
Here is the key… and it can be summarised in just one line
Once you start a talent development programme, it never finishes! It just morphs and adapts.
What do you think?
Do you agree? Disagree?
What would/ do you do to retain talent in your business? What have you done to retain talent in your clients business?