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Eric Murphy, CEO Inc.

Eric Murphy, CEO Inc.

As a “headhunter” for over 10 years in the manufacturing industry, I hear many reasons every day why people are looking to leave their current company.  In fact, a recent Q2 2017 CFO Signals Survey conducted by Deloitte validated the truth I hear in practically every conversation.  When surveying 132 CFO’s at North America’s largest organizations, Deloitte found one of the “most worrisome” risks for those CFO’s is “securing and keeping key talent in their organization”

Keeping critical employees routinely ranks at the top of what keeps company leaders “awake at night”.  This concern has become even more acute with the unemployment rate continuing to plummet, particularly among college educated professionals with at least 3 years of work experience.  Without a doubt, retaining top talent is on the minds of forward-thinking managers everywhere, in all company sizes and industries.

Below are some easy and cost-effective ways managers and company executives can increase their chances of holding on to the most key people in their company:

Create Mentoring Relationships between “Home Grown Talent” and “Recruited Talent”

Your top-performing home grown talent knows how to navigate the facility, deal with customer issues, the unique equipment, technical challenges, how to deal with personalities, where to find the paper towels, etc.  Select a top performer in your organization and pair them as a mentor with new recruited talent.  The recruited talent will introduce the home-grown talent to a different perspective, new ideas and unique ways of doing things that may not have been considered before.  The home-grown talent may take to the mentor/coach role and the recruited talent will fit in faster and connect to the organization faster.  Caution:  Only select people in the company as mentors that have earned your complete trust; both with judgment and how they deal with problems.  Don’t allow borderline home-grown employees to poison the perspective of newly hired talent.

Create Succession Plans at Each Key Position

One of the biggest gaps in US manufacturing companies right now is intentional and deliberate succession planning for key employees.  This gap is primarily due to a combination of 2 factors: an aging managerial workforce and a lack of young talent graduating from universities over the last 10 years.  The smartest organizational development professionals in the business are creating organizational charts and strategically placing a managers replacement in the chain of command of the current manager.  When the manager moves up or retires, you have a “hand-crafted” employee to step into the gap.  Admittedly, many companies have this strategy in place, however, there is a key difference in HOW this is executed.  The MOST important factor here is that the EMPLOYEE is actually told about the succession plan and is given the tools and resources to grow and develop.  Too many times, succession plans happen on paper or in board rooms, but the employee being groomed is never told and allowed to participate in the process of their career growth.  Unfortunately, the plan is usually finally unveiled at the very last minute: when they resign.  At that point, it is really too late.  The die has been cast and the employee feels like it is a desperate attempt to keep them.  Don’t’ wait.  Build a plan and be transparent about the plan. 

Focus on Culture and Morale Improvement

Company culture and morale is NOT based on benefits anymore, in fact, I’m not sure it ever really was driven by unique and unusual benefits.  While excellent benefits don’t hurt, there is a long list of companies offering unique benefits while still exhibiting toxic cultures and morale issues among employees.  Break room ping pong tables, on-site daycare, gym memberships and an in-house masseuse no longer are the keys to attracting and retaining the best talent.  In fact, today’s work force couldn’t care less about these gimmicky benefits.  Today’s employee morale is really driven by factors much deeper than that.  Some things that REALLY matter are:

  • Merit-based public accolades and promotions
  • Flexibility with a work/life balance
  • Genuine care about your employees and their families

What today’s workforce really cares about are connections and relationships. Those at work and those at home.  Good culture at a company ALWAYS starts with leaders that actually CARE about their individual employees.  Managers within your organization that are more concerned with bottom-line production then the people driving that production should be removed from management roles.  Simple right?

Perform Annual Market Surveys to Ensure Market Level Compensation

While not the primary reason most people look to greener pastures, it is still critical to maintain local market competitiveness with regard to hourly and salary compensation.  I recently interviewed a manager who has been with a large, publicly traded company for 10 years and been promoted 5 times.  She is paid 30% below what similar jobs are paying in the market right now.  How is that possible?  Either the company doesn’t know or, worse, they don’t care.  Unfortunately, they will both know AND care when she resigns.  After a vain and failed attempt to make a “counter-offer”, they will spend a minimum of $50,000 to replace her, plus will need to pay the new employee at least $30,000 more.  So, $80,000 later, the lesson will be learned.  Even then, maybe not.  Annual, enterprise-wide salary market comparisons are a critical component of retaining key talent in today’s market.

Hopefully, these quick tips stir some ideas that will help in retaining the top talent within your organization. The key is being pro-active in retention, and not waiting until your best performers are walking out the door to attempt to fix the problem.  Take it from a guy that’s been in the recruiting business for many years and speaks with hundreds of new job seekers every year – an ounce of prevention goes a long way when it comes to KEEPING your team intact!

Feel free to contact me directly to arrange a time to learn more about how to retain your top talent or to help rebuild your team if some key members have left your organization.

About the Author: Eric Murphy

Eric Murphy serves as National Practice Leader in the Advanced Composite space  for CEO Inc. and conducts searches that are mission-critical and have direct impact on revenue for advanced composite fabricators, engineering services firms and composite material and equipment suppliers all over the country. He can be reached at or by calling 888.242.1755


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