Act Now to Prevent a Talent Exodus in 2012

Research indicates there is a talent exodus on the horizon: An estimated 21 million Americans are thinking about changing jobs in the next year, according to a recent Cornerstone OnDemand/Harris Interactive survey. Despite a slow economy, people are still on the lookout for the next best job opportunity. Given talent shortages in industries such as technology, manufacturing and health care, who’s to say there isn’t another company ready to swoop in and hire them away with promises of better wages and opportunities for career growth?

The survey found that a key driver in that dissatisfaction may be rooted in the employee performance management process — in particular, the annual performance review.

Considering the fact that the cost of employee turnover can be up to 250 percent of the annual salary per exiting employee, employers who are unprepared may experience a steep price tag of an estimated $2 trillion on employee churn in 2012.

What can employers do to reduce the chances of suffering that type of talent exodus and the resulting costs, not to mention the loss of productivity? Based on the survey results, here are four ways in which organizations can revamp their performance management process to motivate, empower and retain their top people.

Go beyond the one-time review. The survey revealed that 50 percent of employed U.S. adults who have experienced their employer’s review process feel more valued by the company when they receive a performance review focused on helping them succeed. The first step would mean increasing useful feedback from managers while, at the same time, shifting from the standard once-a-year process to one that is more fluid and unfolds throughout the course of the year. Many employers today have transformed their performance management process from the antiquated, annual paper-based review to one that’s more timely, interactional and transparent — using an emerging strategy of blending traditional performance technology solutions for goal setting and appraisals with social functionality for just-in-time feedback.

Get feedback from the right people at the right time. While a lot of organizations are set up as hierarchies, how work gets done is in more of a matrix-based structure. With this in mind, it makes sense to allow for reviews from peers, project leaders or clients who people work with on a daily basis. It gives employees the helpful feedback they need and gives managers better insight for more meaningful discussions with direct reports.

Actions speak louder than words. Another critical change when it comes to remaking the performance review process is making them actionable. In other words, jettison the old, “Here is the right way and the wrong way, now go out and do things the right way. And good luck with it.” In the past six months, only 34 percent of those surveyed indicated they’ve received training and development to help them better perform their job. But this mindset will no longer cut it with today’s workforces. Employers and managers need not only to provide clear, actionable steps to help employees improve or succeed in their roles, they also need to arm them with the right training and development opportunities to close skill and knowledge gaps.

Future-proof your workforce. The next step is to focus on employees’ long-term career development. When a talented worker is a flight potential, providing specific ways and means by which they can flourish and succeed long-term within the organization is invaluable. More than likely, it will keep top performers from looking elsewhere when figuring out what is next for them and their careers. In short, provide that sense of talent mobility within your organization, rather than having your top performers seek it somewhere else, including with a competitor.

The survey shows that managers who go through the motions with performance appraisals not only risk losing valuable talent, but will also hamper organizational success. Employee performance management should be about developing people to help them succeed while, at the same time, keeping them aligned with the goals of the organization. That way, everybody wins.

Jason Corsello is vice president of corporate development and strategy for Cornerstone OnDemand, a global provider of integrated learning and talent management software. He can be reached at