There is much global hype around Talent and the unique problem of attracting and retaining talented staff. As I (Aiden) track the shifts taking place in business, I see how talent retention strategies that were once successful are becoming less relevant and reliable. We wonder why these strategies are no longer effective? The reality is that the nature of talent in organisations has shifted and the level of complexity associated with this problem has increased dramatically – it is no longer as simple as offering more remuneration or status to retain talented employees. The expectations around loyalty and superior performance have changed and the dynamics at play are now more complex than ever.

In most instances, consultants propose a set of best practice initiatives, with a certain amount of customisation and creativity, to create a culture of retention. The basic premise of a Complexity approach to Talent Management is that such strategies may be relevant, but one cannot be sure until the problem has been explored, interrogated and space made for emergent solutions that are relevant to the context.

In my last post I spoke of an Anecdote Circle (AC) I facilitated in an organisation revolving around Talent Retention. The AC was a pre-hypothesis phase in a broader project of developing a relevant, contextual Talent Retention Strategy.

Up until that point the organisation, SAIL, had suffered staff churn rates of up to 50%, especially within the Head of Department level. There had also been some attempts at implementing “best practice” solutions, such as Flexi-Time, to curb the problem – but most had failed dismally.

The first step taken in addressing a talent problem was to probe the issue with the aid of narrative. Once done, we analysed the organisations context, with the narratives as the platform, for barriers (fences) and attractors (wells) that either drive or inhibit retention. (This was done with the aid of TomorrowToday frameworks on Talent – showing that a Cognitive Edge approach is collaboration-friendly) These sessions then elicited a whole range of attractors that could be used further within the organisation as well as newer initiatives that could be implemented. Well over 27 unique initiatives were brainstormed and filtered for an implementation strategy.

The most unique emergent initiative was that of Life-Time – a campaign to re-assert how valuable family and personal time is in the context of an employees life and how the companies leadership would assert Life-Time as a valid priority.

In the end, SAIL had created it’s own set of best practice solutions to Talent Retention that were constructed contextually. If there was one message I’d like companies to take from this case study, it is that Talent Management best practice solutions are indeed helpful, but only within the right context. Until you have explored the context for emergent initiatives, one is doomed to have failed initiatives, just like Flexi-time in the SAIL context.

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