Two women in suits standing beside a wall.

8 Ways to Keep Your Talent Happy So That They Never Leave

Employees leave companies for a variety of reasons. While it’s unrealistic to expect to have a 100% employee retention rate, there are plenty of ways to make the office environment and the role the talent plays more appealing to entice them to stay or prevent them from looking elsewhere. Many department heads and other decision-makers wrongly believe that money is the only way to keep employees happy, and while the salary is a big draw, there are plenty of fringe benefits that a business can offer to make employees content in their job.

Specially skilled talent wants to know that they aren’t wasting their time in their current position. They don’t want to be endlessly banging their head against the wall without ever having their opinion heard. Millennials want even more so than older generations to see their work is having a measured impact and improving things in some way.

Even if they joined your team in an entry-level position, employees generally want to have some kind of career trajectory ahead of them. In today’s ever-shortening campaign runs and product lifespans, that can be difficult to deliver. But if employees don’t see any possibility of moving up in the company, or even making a lateral transfer to gain more responsibility, then they’re going to be more susceptible to jumping ship for a company that can offer more.

One of the most important things to realize is that not every employee is going to be a “rising star” or a possible candidate for a more senior-level position when the time comes. With such a large percentage of the workforce nearing retirement age, having the right internal promotion pipeline is crucial and it will help improve the employee retention rate.

Additional employee retention strategies that don’t necessarily rely on the bonus pool include improving the employees’ work-life balance, offering more flexible schedules that include a few days of work-from-home, more open and friendly communication with supervisors and other members of the top brass, fostering a more social working environment, and providing employees with enough autonomy to be self-reliant in their work.

The competition for top-tier creative talent is always intense, but employee retention strategies can give your company the upper hand. In many ways, keeping great talent once you find it is more important than scouting for it at other companies. A growing culture of headhunting rather than fostering a strong work culture may be one of the main causes of the low employee retention rate so many companies face today.

If you want to break out of the cyclical short-term thinking that dooms businesses to solving the same problems over and over again, you need to have employees who will stay on the team long-term. Improving employee retention is much easier and involves far less frustration than climbing out of the same hole once a year. Use all or some of these tips to keep the talent happy so your business can focus on its products and growth.

People inside an office.
Fostering a social work environment is one of many ways to improve employee retention.

Why Do Employees Leave Companies?

Most people have to work to pay the bills and keep food on the table and lots of workers will understandably want to hear about salary and benefits first. While payment might be the main motivator for people going into new jobs, there are other factors likely to keep them from leaving a current job even if another company is promising an increased salary. Now, they may not work if a huge company promises to double or triple the salary, but even in that scenario the responsibilities or the ability to have a greater impact in a smaller firm may influence the employee’s choice.

There’s a popular saying that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers. For many workers, the manager is the main interaction they have with the larger business. If the manager isn’t a people person or handles problems ineffectively, then the employee might have their eye on the door and jump at the chance to leave.

If people can’t grow in a job or company, they’re much more likely to find a place where they can. For some, professional ambition isn’t one of their main goals in life. But for skilled workers and creatives who have taken the time to learn how to do complicated design work, taking on more important roles as they age is usually very important.

High Achievers and Employee Retention

One of the biggest factors that affect the overall workplace environment is the sense of fairness, that is, that people who perform well are rewarded and promoted accordingly. This is a delicate area of the office structure. Too many managers and department heads mistakenly focus too much on recent or present work performance when deciding who to promote and reward, causing resources to be limited for people who aren’t just performing well at a given time but display enterprising work ethic and leadership qualities in the long-term.

Not every high-performing employee is going to be the best choice for leadership positions, and some don’t want to be promoted into a management role. For many creatives, becoming a manager means they practice their actual craft less and that causes the appeal to dwindle. It’s important to recognize good work when you see it, but that doesn’t mean everyone who does their job well needs to be rewarded in promotions and bonuses.

8 Best Employee Retention Strategies to Keep Talent Happy

Understanding why employees leave and how to spot real high-achievers should help you implement these employee retention strategies most effectively. Try them all out or mix and match. Every company is different and what worked elsewhere may need to be tweaked to ensure you’re retaining professional workers most effectively.

1- Communicate with the Talent

Performance reviews are the main way that employees communicate with the larger company. They have their managers who oversee their daily work, but it’s unfortunately rare in most companies for employees to have direct contact with anyone much higher on the ladder. Not only does this diminish the feeling that they understand the goals of the company and their role in reaching those goals, but it also denies employees of any method to voice complaints or dissatisfaction.

If you want to understand why your talent might leave, it could be as simple as asking them. Most people have no problem addressing a hypothetical situation where they are headhunted. Ask them what another company would have to do to get them to leave your team and you might get some very valuable and actionable criticisms. Increase the number of performance reviews and consider renaming them to something that indicates a bit more give-and-take, rather than implying that only the employee will be reviewed. Let them review the company, too, and listen to what they have to say.

2- Be More Transparent

As central a motivator as money is in any job, studies have shown that transparency in pay decisions boosts the employee retention rate. Just like employees want to be able to communicate with the company to voice concerns and new ideas in an effective way, they also want to know how and why pay decisions are being made. This is especially important if the company is tightening belts.

When remuneration is a reward, employees are also likely to ask questions if the decision is seen as favoritism or if management chooses someone who did well at one job instead of someone who is repeatedly and reliably a good worker. Understandably, most of the information kept near the top of the company is delivered on a need-to-know basis, but if employees feel they’re being left out of the loop too much it can lead to the creation of a rift between the managers and the regular employees, and most highly-skilled workers might rectify that problem by heading for greener pastures.

3- Add Responsibility with Corresponding Role Changes

We know that skilled talent is more likely to want to increase their role and progress in their career. Growth is a motivating factor, but that’s not only due to dedication to their craft. New responsibility should be paired with increases in salary and job title, whenever feasibly possible. This doesn’t have to be true for every new project, but if you add a long-term or permanent responsibility to an employee’s existing set of duties, there better be some kind of recognition of that fact.

Sometimes, this recognition can be non-monetary but that all depends on the new duties and how strenuous they will be. If employees know they’re taking over responsibility from a former worker, they’re not going to want to do so for free. Worst of all, if they feel they’re being overworked, it can make management look cheap and cause employees to leave.

4- Leave Room for Growth

Additional responsibilities aren’t the only career goal for highly motivated skilled professionals. Many want to move up, either to bigger projects or into managerial roles. If you foster healthy communication as we discussed in the first employee retention strategy, you’re more likely to know who wants to move up and into what capacity they envision themselves moving. Growth might mean building new skills and it might mean moving up in the company itself, but if you don’t offer an upward trajectory then your most serious and self-motivated employees aren’t going to stick around.

Building an internal promotion pipeline is the best way to implement this strategy. That means the most promising employees should shadow and work with senior talent and be kept in the wings, so to speak, to take over that role when its current occupant leaves or retires. This will save tons of time and worry about filling the role when the time comes and it will help increase employee retention.

5- Put Pressure on Your Best Talent

That might sound like a negative, but capable people want to be able to demonstrate that proficiency. Too many companies baby their highest achievers and nothing will turn them into big fish in a small pond and make them realize it faster. This has a lot to do with leaving room for growth, but it’s a bit different in its implementation. Don’t shield workers from high-pressure roles if they can handle it. It’s understandable not to stack too much on a brand new hire, but they should be able to take on more the longer they stay at the company.

If your talent is never put to the test, then not only are they likely to get bored, but they won’t be adequately developed when a new worker is needed to fill a certain role. That means, instead of developing your existing talent, you’ll be stuck with an employee who is effectively a new hire years after they started. This will force you to have to post a job ad and go through the whole interview process even though the best candidate may have joined your team long ago.

6- Link Your Best Talent with Company Goals

If there’s a plan for the company, talent should be aware of it and they should be shown just how their work is fitting into that wider plan. This will help motivate them and also demonstrate what the future might look like if they stay with the company. Highly skilled talent won’t want to be a random cog in a massive machine. Just like the board of directors, investors, and managers, top-tier talent want to see results. That means they want to see the impact of their work and they want to know how that impact fits into the larger scope of the business.

Your company goals will more than likely include growth. This is a great time to inform your best talent what that growth will look like and how they fit in. If they already have a long-term plan mostly set out before them, they are much less likely to disrupt it by going to another company. As long as the plan offers them growth and additional responsibility, they’re likely to jump at the chance to make it a reality.

7- Improve Employees’ Work-Life Balance

Hours are important for employees’ well-being. When they’re often stuck at the office all day, they’re less likely to work effectively and stay later when the job calls for it. One successful law firm we know had a strict policy that no one could work after 6 P.M. Anything not done by then would have to be done the following day. This is better for work ethic and leads to more effective time management overall.

There are other small ways to improve the work-life balance in the office. Free services like coffee and soda, dry cleaning, and healthy snack options can also make time spent in the office more relaxed. One of the most useful things to offer, if you can, is daycare services. Time off is also an important part of this balance. Giving employees the ability to travel or see family at least once a year should be a priority. It will improve morale and give them something to discuss with coworkers when they return.

8- Foster Employee Autonomy

Employees want to feel competent in their work and so it’s important to let them reach a point where they are self-sufficient. Naturally, not everyone will be able to work completely independently from everyone else in the office, but each employee should know and understand their duties and how to do their job day to day without having to constantly check-in with someone else. Just like being overprotective of new talent, having them working in someone else’s shadow is not going to help your employee retention rate.

Autonomy could also mean a degree of decision-making to many highly-skilled workers. For creatives, having some say in the design or implementation of their projects is important. Just make sure to draw clear delineations between where their authority lies and where their superiors will have to call the shots. Be clear and transparent about why these divisions of responsibility are there. It’s usually because of liability issues and your best talent will more than likely appreciate that forethought.

People holding a meeting in a conference room.
Communication and social workplace culture are both great ways to increase employee retention.

Creative Staffing Agencies and Employee Retention

Using these 8 employee retention strategies will certainly help keep your best talent within the company, but they’ll be even more effective if you have a creative staffing agency like icreatives to bring in new talent quickly. Once you have your internal promotion pipeline built and running, you’ll still find tons of benefits of using icreatives. You can cut down on costs and time spent on interviews by letting us fill in the positions vacated when you promote your best talent.

Not only that, but you’re much more likely to have highly-skilled talent to draw from in the future if you use our vetted, experienced, and driven creatives to fill positions at your business. We’re experts at matching the best talent with companies for mutual benefit and it will take tons of pressure off of your decision-makers.


Employee retention is a problem for many companies. One reason might be that headhunting has gained considerable prestige in recent decades, but it’s more likely a problem with internal structuring. Companies who don’t take care of their best talent can’t hope to retain them when other companies reach out with an opportunity.

Luckily, employee retention strategies will not only help keep employees at your company long-term but will also improve morale and could even improve job performance across the board. They aren’t difficult and aren’t necessarily expensive to implement, and they’ll also help build your employment branding.

Please reach out to icreatives if you need any further help with increasing your company’s employee retention!

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