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Human resources’ top priority? Retaining talent

Retaining talent is a top priority for human resources departments, but they need executive leadership to make it happen, says S. Chris Edmonds.

3 min read


Video transcript:

Keeping talented, engaged employees is a huge opportunity for companies around the globe today.

A recent Gallagher study (Talent retention is now a top operational priority for employers) found that 65% of for-profit companies have talent retention at the top of their HR priorities list this year. Attracting talent (45%), developing talent (40%) and creating a strong culture (34%) round out the top four urgent needs.

A 2023 Global Workplace Insights survey by Unispace (Returning for Good) lays out how difficult it is for companies to retain, attract and develop talent and to build a healthy work culture in these times. The study found that 74% of employers struggle to keep employees happy and engaged, while 59% of employees experience burnout and 42% of companies that have mandated a “return to the office” are experiencing higher attrition than they anticipated. 

It’s very likely that the root of these talent retention issues is that most senior leaders don’t know how to build or sustain an uncompromising work culture. They’ve not been trained to retain talent, to attract talent, to develop talent or to create a strong work culture. To many senior leaders, these are HR issues. So, senior leaders delegate the solutions to HR.

The challenge is that HR doesn’t have the obligation and authority to change policies and procedures that frustrate employees. Only senior leaders have the responsibility to toss stupid policies and invest in the creation of a work environment that makes respect as important as results.

Mid-level leaders, managers and front-line supervisors have the greatest impact on the daily employee experience and on your work culture. If they operate from a command-and-control, my-way-or-the-highway philosophy, their team members will only grow more unhappy, experience greater burnout and act on their desire to leave their jobs — today.

Changing policies, revising procedures and investing in programs and training for these leaders will build awareness that those leaders must treat others with respect in daily interactions. Shifting from awareness to implementation requires senior leaders to model, coach, measure, celebrate and mentor those players so respectful treatment is the norm.

When that happens, employee engagement, retention, customer service and results go up by 40% and more. 

That makes everyone happier.


S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker and author as well as executive consultant, founder and CEO with The Purposeful Culture Group. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including two Amazon bestsellers: “The Culture Engine” (2014) and “Good Comes First” (2021) with Mark Babbitt. Edmonds’ videos, posts and podcasts are available at Driving Results Through Culture. Follow Edmonds on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Apple Podcasts.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 


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