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Graham Scrivener

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Four steps to energising and retaining talent


Forum EMEA's Graham Scrivener give us a few simple pointers to keep hold of that most crucial asset of successful businesses: talent. 

If you caught the recent findings by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) then you're probably one of many HR and L&D professionals worried about losing talent this year. The ILM revealed that over a third of workers will move jobs, which is a dramatic increase to 2014.

This increase is certainly being driven by a more competitive jobs market but it's equally being fuelled by bad management, lack of training and development and poor career progression which is leaving staff demotivated in their jobs. As we know, people that are not engaged in their work are less productive and likely to move on. But often changing jobs is the last resort for a lot of people, forced upon them because there's no other way to progress their career with their existing employer.

In today's jobs market it's ever more important for employers to spot when staff are stagnant and demotivated. They need to know how to re-energise and retain them from the claws of the competition. It's no good waiting for them to come to you, as by then they're probably half way out the door. The answer is to develop great leaders that stay in tune with the needs of their team.

Great leaders with an engaged workforce communicate constantly. They know what inspires each and every one and they resolve any potential motivational issues before it becomes a problem. In other words, they stick to the following four steps:


When staff lack enthusiasm there are certain signs to watch for such as low levels of energy, missed deadlines, poor efficiency and feedback, and poor performance. But, by the time these signs are showing, staff may already be switching jobs.

Great managers are ahead of the game. They understand what engages individual members. This knowledge allows them to continue to build a workplace climate that keeps their people energised and happy whilst spotting any potential changes to climate that could affect motivation and resolve any possible issues occurring before it threatens staff retention levels.

Motivation is a mental process though. We often hear managers say, 'I need to motivate my employees.' Strictly speaking, that is misleading, because motivation comes from within a person. Instead, leaders can create an environment that helps to satisfy people with different motivations or take certain actions that appeal to the individual employee’s needs.

Most people have a mixture of the following three motives (McClelland's Theory of Motivation); the key is to look for the strongest motive in each person and build a climate that responds to these needs:

Achievement – people with this motive are energised by the need for measurable personal accomplishment. They seek out challenging or competitive situations, and are motivated to establish and realise goals.

Power – power is typified by the need to influence and have an impact on others. There is personalised power which is the need to control and dominate, often developed early in life before a person knows how to influence constructively. Then there is socialised or institutional power which is more when a person matures and it is the need for 'exercising influence for the benefit of others.'

Affiliation - people that need to establish, maintain, or restore positive relationships with others. They like to be liked and work to avoid disapproval, investing energy in keeping relationships strong. They get upset over differences with others and avoid conflict and tend to prefer to achieve goals in concert with others.

Assessment and engagement

Being aware and responsive to people's motives should also be followed with regular engagement with members, to access their drivers, goals and to clarify how the company will help them reach these.

It goes beyond just telling people what to do or creating once-a-year performance plans. It requires ongoing communications to clarify expectations, to identify results for which the employee is responsible for, to engage in joint expectation-setting discussions, and to keep the employee focused on the right outcomes. Clarify the link between the organisation's strategy and the employee's contribution and ensure that they know that they have the support they need to be successful. Do all this and the person will feel valued and will increase their sense of commitment and engagement in their work.

Action planning

Should a member of the team raise an issue related to their career during the assessment phase then managers should first define the problem and find the root cause.

There may be occasions when a manager realises that an employee is losing focus and they need to step in. On other occasions, an employee may come to them for help and clarification. Regardless of who initiates a conversation, it's important to identify the cause of the issue by sharing observations on what the issue could be or asking the employee to describe the specifics of what is going on. Typical examples of issues or challenges include work overload, conflicting priorities of stakeholders, and difficulty managing the requests of internal or external customers.

Then work out ways to overcome the issue so enthusiasm for the job is restored. Some employees may be very clear about what needs to be done to refocus on the right outcomes, they simply need their manager's concurrence and help, whilst others need their manager to be fairly prescriptive about what they believe are the right outcomes and actions to focus on.

No matter how short or informal the discussion with an employee, managers should always ask questions that check a person's clarity and commitment. For example, 'Was this discussion helpful?', 'Do you feel clearer about where to focus your efforts?', 'Did you get the help you needed?'


Regular performance reviews, informal conversations, coaching and mentoring are all key to sustaining a happy, motivated and productive workforce that wants to remain in the business. It's the key to maintaining stages one to three, allowing opportunity to identify individual motives, assess career goals and take action against any potential issues.

It's only natural that there will be times when staff are not as enthused about their job as normal but if your managers communicate and coach regularly and following these four phases then they will be able to rectify any underlying issue or challenge before it's too late.

Graham Scrivener is managing director of Forum EMEA, global experts in leadership development and sales performance training


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