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Susan Wakhungu-Githuku is the Founder & CEO of Human Performance Dynamics Africa, Susan previously worked at the Coca-Cola Company as the Eurasia & Africa Group Director for Coca-Cola University. In this capacity she was responsible for learning and development initiatives in 90 countries globally.

Q: “Why do we have such difficulty in retaining our best people; is it just about managing our talent better?”

First, the external environment has changed dramatically and with the ubiquity of VUCA and prevalence of disruption, organizations are grappling to ensure that they can sustainably thrive amidst the rampant uncertainty and relentless competition. However, as they conscientiously take care of their customers and important external stakeholders, they often forget that the greatest resource they have are employees who need to be held to high standards of performance and rewarded accordingly.

Second, many organizations have relegated the HR function to secondary status rather than escalate it, in an era when the management of talent has become so critically important.  The best Chief People Officers should be hired and they should sit by the right hand of the CEO and be held accountable for keeping a close pulse on the contribution and well-being of talent. I am often surprised when organizations hand over the HR function to people that are not well placed to play this strategic and multifaceted role. By underplaying the value of the function, they are in essence undervaluing the potential and contribution of their talent.

Third, organizations often believe that once they have offered an employee a job and a decent compensation package they have done their part. What they do not realize is that, they have simply provided a ticket into the door and the game begins thereafter.

Why should anyone work for you?  What is in it for them?  Why should they stay with you?  These important questions are best answered by the promise you make and keep to any employee.

It is critical that organizations define and package compelling employee value propositions that clearly articulate why anyone should work for them.  In the class I have been teaching at Stanford University SEED programme for the last 3 years, I typically ask the CEOs to stand up and state unequivocally why anyone should work for them.  It is always most telling when you see the penny drop as some realize that they have not considered their value propositions at all.

People do not only work for money. They prefer to work and will stay with companies that see them and value them. Companies that: have strong, enduring and respected brands; have great leaders who inspire them; present them career opportunities that challenge and grow them; offer them chances to contribute to impactful work and give them the freedom to design their contribution; have human-centric work policies that appreciate their circumstances….and so much more. Some of these factors often trump ‘money’!

Lastly and in direct response to the question regarding the top performers, I would ask the following: Why should talent that has several options decide to work and stay with you?

We often do not differentiate talent at all. We bunch our best talent with average people and by treating them the same, we not only dilute the differential contribution that top performers often bring but we bring down the collective productivity.

The best performers often like to know that they are delivering differently. They like to be rewarded differently. They like to be valued differently and they like to be challenged differently.  When this does not happen their motivation is dimmed and they will often resign and stay or seek greener pastures.

The strategic management of talent is pivotal in talent retention and often it starts with the original value proposition that is made to an employee.