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Talent Engagement: The Link Between Performance & Retention

Employee engagement is the top priority for every organization. HR professionals and experts have always argued that engaged employees make the workplace happy and productive, and are less likely to leave the organization. It isn’t surprising then that organizations invest approximately $720 million every year in engagement improvement, including both outsourced and internally developed programs. Yet, organizations and HR departments are struggling with keeping their employees engaged and retain them.

Understanding Talent Engagement

Over the last few years, the term ‘engagement’ has also encompassed a broader scope. Organizations have realized that it is equally important to engage the potential employees and new hires, as it is to engage the existing talent pool. So, employee engagement (traditional) has gradually evolved into talent engagement (holistic), wherein engagement is about engaging talent during their entire journey with the organization - right from the time of acquisition to onboarding process and thereafter, from learning, development & career progression to exit.

The talent engagement is primarily important for an organization for three reasons:

1. Increase Productivity

When employees feel happily engaged in the workplace, they put in their 100% effort in performing their job. They feel a connect with the organization, are motivated beyond personal reasons, and in turn, motivate their peers/teams to work more efficiently.

2. Reduce Absenteeism

An injury, sickness or unforeseen medical concerns are valid reasons for absenteeism. But, when employees start taking leaves repeatedly, it could be a red flag for the organization. There is a high probability that the employees are either dissatisfied or disengaged. However, when employees are engaged, they feel happier and enthusiastic about coming to work daily.

3. Foster Creativity and Innovation

Engaged talent is more creative and can bring innovative ideas to the table, thereby giving a wider and intelligent perspective the organizational challenges, goals and growth drivers.

Now, as you can see, all the above factors are directly linked to the performance of the employees. Higher productivity, lower absenteeism and opportunities to be innovative result in better performance. When employees perform better, they are awarded and recognized for their efforts and motivated to continue their stint with the organization. But, at the same time, the onus of organizations to keep them further and more actively engaged increases as well.

But, what happens in the scenario of low productivity, higher absenteeism and lack of opportunities to innovate? It can actually adversely impact the performance of the employees. They may start considering quitting the organization. When a disengaged employee quits the organization, the damage is more than just the loss of productivity. A study by SHRM states that employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s salary in order to find and train their replacement.  

Talent engagement is also a powerful enabler to create positive employee experiences, employer value proposition and employer branding. The existing workforce, if happily engaged, becomes the brand ambassadors of the organization and speaks favorably of their employers. They directly or indirectly spread a message about the buoyant workplace culture, which helps the potential talent to understand what to expect from the employer and appeals them to join the organization. So, even before the talent boards the organization, they are already highly motivated to give their best shot and prove their worth.

Ways to Create the Culture of Talent Engagement

Building talent engagement culture should be top-down approach. The leaders must walk the talk. Here are 5 steps to create an engaged organization:

  • Define the roles clearly in terms of responsibility, accountability and authority. This will ensure that there is no clash with respect to who will do what, and everyone works in collaboration as a team.
  • Provide sufficient tools and resources to employees to perform their job effectively, efficiently and safely.
  • Promote open and honest communication. It is important that employees get timely and frequent feedback on their performance, and training opportunities to improve the performance. At the same time, employees should also be encouraged to seek suggestions or hold regular conversations with their managers with regards to their performance.
  • Reward and recognize the top performers. This will not only motivate them further and make them more committed to the organization, but also inspire other employees to enhance their own performance.
  • Give opportunities to the talent to grow and develop. They should be encouraged to ideate and explore creative solutions. They should be also shown a clear career progression path, so that they know what organization has planned for their growth in the organization. This will motivate them to work harder and perform better.

Deloitte has recently recommended a new model called ‘Being Irresistible’ for talent engagement. According to this model, there are five elements, namely meaningful work, hands-on management, positive work environment, growth opportunity and trust in leadership, which drive engagement and make an organization irresistible for employees to quit.

There are several organizations which have set excellent standards in talent engagement. For example, at HCL, its central philosophy is ‘Employee First, Customer Second’, which empowers its employees to create real value for the customers through engagement. Its engagement drives include Employee First Councils, a platform to encourage every employee to pursue his or her passion; Fundoo Friday, which is fun time at work; MAD JAM, which recognizes and showcases contribution of employees who have made positive and sizeable contribution to the organization, etc. It has even tied up with U21 Global and Harvard Business School Publishing to provide higher education and advanced learning opportunities to its employees.

Talent engagement is certainly the bridge between performance and retention. If the organization wants to thrive, it is necessary that its people thrive too. And, the best way to do so is to engage the talent the way they want.


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