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Talent retention: why traditional methods are no longer enough

Brittany Hill
|Dec 2|magazine15 min read

Business Chief sits down with Jen Scherler Gormley, HR Lead (UK), Cisco to discuss strategies to retain source and develop talent. 

Currently in the UK, 43% of employers feel it has become more difficult to fill job vacancies over the last 12 months, with 31% seeing salary increases of more than 2% being used as an incentive for recruitment and retention of talent. 
When it comes to recruitment and talent retention, Jen Scherler Gormley, HR Lead (UK), Cisco, believes that the flatline approach of annual appraisals and ratings for objectives and development simply isn’t enough. Performance ratings disenfranchise a large proportion of employees, creating year long labels regardless of a person’s change in performance over the next 12 months at a company. “For us, recruitment and talent management is about empowering people to be their best selves, as well as bringing everyone together to create an environment where individuals and teams can thrive. Five years ago, we revived our performance management processes by ditching annual appraisals and ratings.” Gormley further comments that the organisation’s move to eliminate annual appraisals from its talent strategy in 2015 has yielded positive results for its talent retention, seeing higher engagement from existing employees as well as providing a strong differentiator for attracting new talent. 

Being ‘conscious’ is an important part of workplace culture, states Gormley. With 59% of UK workers looking to move jobs as a result of being undervalued, having no career progression and having unsupportive managers. With this in mind, it is important to focus on three key entwined areas: environment, the unique characteristics of the organisation and the specific experience of individuals, in order to manage and lead a positive culture. To incorporate this into its organisation, Cisco has implemented a digital platform that enables weekly connections in relation to what support is required and what individuals loved and loathed about the week, to aid its elimination of annual appraisals. “We call this ‘check-in’,” says Gormley. “It has been adopted at all levels of the organisation - including our CEO and executive leadership team - providing important information to drive a different kind of conversation with team members providing greater regularity, as well as allowing in the moment redirection of work, support and continuous coaching. Performance is ultimately personal to each individual and it is important that continuous conversations take place between employees and their leaders.” 

According to Gormley, a workplace’s culture should be built on a foundation of accountability, empowerment and the freedom to speak out to achieve goals within an organisation. Transparency and empowerment is a driving force to build trust within an organisation and is a key element of ensuring that talent is retained and thriving.

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When looking to source talent, Gormley highlights the importance of combining human connection with innovation to not only develop employees, but also the business. Industries are continuously changing and adapting, and organisations shouldn’t shy away from utilising multiple forms of employment such as apprenticeship programmes, alongside traditional employment methods, as well as utilising transferable skills. “There is no one answer to this, but we’ve found that the human connection intertwined with innovation, is fundamental to building and maintaining a culture of continuous learning as well as attracting talent that aligns with our values.”

Inclusion and diversity is essential to innovation. When sourcing, maintaining and retaining talent, it is key to ensure an organisation is inclusive. “We have found that certain language used in job profiles could dissuade female talent from applying. Therefore, we have implemented a tool that analyses the language in our job descriptions to ensure that we are attractive to a diverse pool of potential applicants. In addition, every year, we take part in Girls in ICT Day to encourage a higher percentage of girls to become a part of the industry by utilising technology to communicate with and support girls across the globe,” says Gormley. “Fundamentally, inclusion is a bridge to connect diverse perspectives, providing a platform for new ideas and inspiring innovation.”

Internal changes within a company can put a strain on organisations. With this in mind Gormley believes it is important to maintain frequent communication between leaders and team members to ensure that workplace culture doesn’t get left behind in the process. Companies should instead utilise internal changes to enhance communication and manage its talent. “We care a lot about our culture. We are driving for an environment where healthy conversations happen between individuals and teams, where no one is isolated and each person feels able to proactively support their colleagues,” says Gormely, who feels its implementation at Cisco provides a level of transparency she has not seen in other companies, resulting in greater engagement from employees to actively participate in conversations regarding experience and individual growth.

Ultimately, when it comes to talent retention, traditional methods are no longer enough to encourage employees to stay long term within a company. Companies need to be more conscious of their employees by maintaining human connection and communication, in order to drive accountability, empowerment and freedom within an organisation. As a result of incorporating these foundation into a company, organisations should see an increase in innovation and inclusion, as well as experiencing greater engagement when it comes to individual growth and performance.