Winning conditions for talent retention

Back to search

Published on

Organizations are seeing disengaged employees and unexpected departures with increasing frequency, and it’s costing them dearly. Executives and managers can no longer stand idly by and lose competent employees. Fortunately, they can pursue a number of approaches to retain talent.

Don’t ignore job dissatisfaction

Studies have shown that the cost to replace an employee, including direct costs and lost productivity, can be up to twice that employee’s salary. Given the number of job vacancies right now, are you worried about talented people leaving your organization? As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and it’s not unusual to hear friends and colleagues mention they’re unhappy at work.

The basic concepts of employee retention

How can your organization ensure employee retention? Here are some key concepts to better understand the factors involved. 

The Self-Determination Theory

More than 40 years ago, American psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan scientifically tested the following hypothesis: to achieve maximum performance, human beings must satisfy three universal needs, i.e. competence, autonomy and relatedness, particularly the need to feel connection with and receive support from others. According to their Self-Determination Theory, satisfying these needs contributes to maintaining employees’ intrinsic motivations. 

They also showed that intrinsically motivated behaviours lead to more creativity, enhanced concentration, improved resilience to adversity and greater wellbeing at work. Indeed, why quit your job if you enjoy it?

Universal employee needs

Let’s explore these three universal needs and the related intrinsic motivations in greater detail. Why are they important for retaining, and potentially attracting, talent?

1 - Competence

Employees need to feel like their skills are being used appropriately. When full competence is achieved, employees know what they need to do, have the necessary tools, and feel effective and able to complete their projects by overcoming the related challenges.

So, in the workplace, the goal is to match team members’ strengths, skills and interests with the right tasks. 

Read our article on the importance of competence and wellbeing at work >

2 - Autonomy

Autonomy entails giving colleagues the opportunity to choose how they want to perform tasks. The job is done within a determined framework where each person’s values are respected. Watch out for multiple approval processes. These are time-consuming and motivation-killing, and a major impediment to autonomy.

Read our article on the delegation of tasks and employee autonomy >

3 - Relatedness

Relatedness is about feeling like you’re part of a group, you’re contributing to something greater than yourself, and everyone can count on each other and receives recognition for their input. For example, coworkers appreciate feedback more if it’s clear and specific, as opposed to generic and vague. “Thank you for your insightful presentation; it helped us make a decision quickly” is a lot more effective than “Thanks for all your hard work.”

Read our article on relatedness for concrete examples >

Take action!

To retain talented employees and reduce the financial consequences of replacing them, it’s crucial to keep these universal needs in mind. Every organization has to take its specific context and environment into account, but the underlying principles are the same. 
Now’s the time to ask yourself, how much importance is given to autonomy, competence and relatedness in your organization? 


About the author

Danielle Michaud, PCC, MBA, CPA, CGA is an ICF Accredited Coach, trainer and facilitator. She has more than 20 years of management experience in various environments and contexts. She holds the Agile Coach and NOVA Profile certifications (profile on leadership style and motivations), and is passionate about new organizational forms, such as the liberated company.

Further reading:

L’entreprise libérée : avant tout un regard positif sur le monde du travail 
Pourquoi les organisations responsabilisantes ont besoin de plus de management que les autres