How to Retain Top Talent as a Startup in the Age of the Great Resignation

Nadine Fahmy

How to Retain Top Talent as a Startup in the Age of the Great Resignation
In an age of labor shortages and competitive markets, it is vital for businesses to prioritize talent retention, a cheap and effortless option for maintaining top talent and increasing chances of business sustainability.

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Finding and retaining the right talent is increasingly gaining importance for businesses in the age of COVID-19, rapid digital transformation, and heated competition. 

While it is no doubt a time full of potential for startups, it is also a time of turbulence and uncertainty. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, in 2020, the MENA region saw a record-high $1 billion dollars of funding for startups in 496 deals. Turkey saw a record-high $383 million invested in 140 transactions, and Pakistan saw $77 million in a record-high 48 investments.

But while investments are rolling in and the number of new startups continues to rise, the percentage of startups that continue towards a path of growth and success remains significantly low. In fact, a shocking 90% of all new startups fail, and only 33% of those that survive make it to their 10 year mark.

These numbers are not meant to discourage, but to shed light on an important factor of starting a business: a long-term goal of business continuity. There are many aspects that factor into a business’ success – health of the market, funding, & much more – but one largely overlooked and underestimated aspect is talent retention.

Can talent really make or break a business?

The short answer is yes. According to research conducted by Harvard Business School professor Tom Eisenmann, other parties besides the founders—like employees, strategic partners, and investors—can play a major role in a firm’s demise. One business he researched called Quincy Apparel, for instance, failed largely due to weak support from its investors and inflexible employees.

Thanks to years of low interest rates, most CEOs do have the cash to invest in new products and services; but what they don’t have is the right people to lead these initiatives. That is why the demand for agile, flexible and specialized talent is increasing at an unprecedented rate.

Post-pandemic talent shortage

In today’s global business environment, talent is as scarce as it has ever been. As of late April 2021, there was a record high of over 9 million open jobs in the U.S. Recent reports show that in spite of this increase, employers across the country are scrambling for ways to fill their vacancies. In fact, the U.S. is experiencing higher unemployment numbers and a labor shortage. The Wall Street Journal reported that one reason for this could be lack of proper COVID-19 protocol in businesses, and a looming fear among the public of catching the virus.

That’s not the only way that COVID-19 has impacted the talent economy. Research from Robert Half finds that nearly 4 in 10 professionals surveyed (38%) feel their career has stalled since the start of the crisis. That number jumps to 66% for workers ages 18-24.

Among those who said their career has stalled, about half reported that they’ve seen stagnation in salary growth, career advancement and skills development. Additionally, they found that 1 in 3 workers’ feelings toward their work have changed due to the pandemic, causing them to want to pursue a more meaningful or fulfilling job.

Other reasons for the labor shortage include low wages (to the extent that unemployment benefits can be higher than salaries offered in available jobs), skill gaps like lacking digital know-how, and a surge in retirement

Now that we know the challenges facing businesses searching for talent in this current turbulent climate, let’s look at the actions they can take in order to prevent the age of “the great resignation” from affecting their business, and to retain the talent they have.

1. Onboarding and orientation

The onboarding and orientation phase can set the tone for a worker’s entire tenure at your firm. Oftentimes, when onboarding is neglected, opportunities for growth, mentorship, and guidance are also neglected throughout a worker’s experience at a firm. Onboarding should always be high on your priority list if your goal is to retain the talent you hire. 

During onboarding, workers should learn about their role and how it relates to the company’s vision, the company culture and how they can thrive in it, as well as day-to-day operations.

2. Communication 

Always implement measures to keep lines of communication open across all departments at your firm. Whether through meetings, weekly check-ins, or evaluations, find the appropriate way to ensure that your workers’ ideas and concerns are heard, and ensure this is never neglected. Ask questions that can help you gauge employees’ job satisfaction, workload, and stress levels. This will ensure you stay on top of your employees’ needs. Communication can be the saving grace of a business, and the lack of it can be detrimental.

3. Training and development

With digitization taking over and technology continuing to develop at a rapid pace, it is important to ensure all employees and workers at your firm are continuously developing their skills to meet today’s market needs. Not only is this beneficial for your firm, helping keep it constantly up-to-date, it is also essential for employee satisfaction. In fact, according to research by TALENTLMS and Workable, 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling/reskilling training has boosted productivity at work. Some ways to provide upskilling opportunities include giving them time to attend virtual conferences, providing tuition reimbursement or paying for relevant online courses.

4. Work-life balance

Two years ago, the World Health Organization categorized burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic stress. More businesses need to take work-life balance seriously if they hope to retain talent and a good reputation in the market. Respecting office hours, effective time management, and offering ample vacation time, are all important ways of helping employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

However, work-life balance also differs from one worker to another. So ensuring that you understand the complexities of each worker’s personal lives and needs is important to ensure each employee is as satisfied and as stress-free as possible.

5. Flexible work arrangements

A big part of achieving work-life balance is implementing flexible working arrangements across the board. The pandemic has affected the way the whole world works, and most workers have found the benefits of remote work to be indispensable to their work lives in the future. In fact, a Robert Half survey found that 1 in 3 professionals working from home would look for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time.

So it’s crucial to offer workers flexible work arrangements, whether that’s in the form of a permanent work from home option, a compressed workweek, or flextime. All of the above can help relieve stress for your team — and boost employee retention.

Wrapping it up…

Employee & worker retention should be high on businesses’ priority lists in these turbulent times. Searching for talents is a time-consuming and costly process that should not be on your agenda 24/7. This is why it’s important to ensure your current workers – whether full-time or contingent – are satisfied with their roles in your organization. If after reading our blog, you feel it could be difficult to implement these retention strategies at your company, try out Ureed Enterprise for talent management and solutions that will help streamline your entire sourcing, onboarding and retention strategies, with minimal efforts and costs. Contact us today to learn more!

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