Challenges in Retaining Talent

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We all can agree that an unchallenging job is boring and takes us nowhere. One of the talent professional’s greatest challenges is retaining the best staff. It’s like a time bomb—any day a valuable employee might submit a resignation letter, followed by possible negotiation leading to permanent separation.

Many potential causes can trigger employees to consider leaving the organization, be it a pull (external) or push (internal) factor, or a combination of the two. We often hear that an immediate manager is the number one reason an employee leaves his workplace, yet there are additional considerations to add to this list. And some of these factors—both internal and external—can overlap. Let’s explore them below.

External factors. A better job offer from another company, with a combination of significant increases in salary and an attractive benefits package, is an external trigger for many employees. Today, to what degree does company loyalty truly matter? Another pull factor is relocating internationally, especially with reputable and established organizations that provide greater work-life balance.

Internal factors. Organization culture in terms of trust, systems, processes, procedures, and, most importantly, how employees are treated and valued can be a major internal trigger. A lack of work-life balance, combined with a poor relationship with team members or a sour relationship with an immediate manager, affect employee retention, too. Additionally, a bothersome commute, a dead-end career path, and boredom also contribute.

Overcoming challenges


Talent professionals must seek to understand key employees’ needs and desires. We can’t afford to focus only on operational tasks—it’s time to inject the human touch within our daily responsibilities. In other words, be the proactive change agent rather than the reactive firefighter.

It’s also essential to anticipate talent challenges within the organization and work on an alternative plan that supports the business. For example, creating work-life balance and career paths are two effective motivating factors besides monetary benefits.


In my previous job, I conducted stay interviews for new employees to identify potential issues at the very beginning of their career life cycles, and to understand what retention factors mattered to them. I also worked with the Learning and Development function to implement organizational changes based on this employee feedback.

Working closely with the business to support the vision and mission of the organization and innovatively tackling talent challenges will differentiate you from an ordinary HR professional. In your day-to-day work, what are you trying to accomplish: operational firefighting or frontline business driving?

For more on talent retention strategies, check out the prior article in this series.

About the Author

Prakash Santhanam is Head of Learning and Development and Employee Engagement with a local conglomerate in Sudan. He has 13 years of experience working as a learning and development (LD) practitioner in 12 countries, predominantly in the education, automotive, construction, and telecommunication sectors. He focuses on helping organizations to establish learning strategies in alignment with key business objectives, and specializes in executive coaching, learning program design and delivery, performance management, career management, and employee engagement. He has published numerous articles on a variety of talent management topics and is a member of several professional associations. Prakash holds dual master’s degrees in Information Technology from Bond University, Australia, and Science in Corporate Communication from University Putra Malaysia.

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