If you aren’t familiar with it, there is a growing phenomenon in collegiate sports: the Transfer Portal. This portal allows any collegiate athlete to “transfer” away from their current team to another program if they desire. The portal is proving to be a disruptive force to teams, cultures, and the spirit of college athletics itself because it has effectively introduced “free agency”. No longer are athletes wedded to a university program due to their scholarship. Rather, they can choose to enter the portal (or be “lured” into it) for an opportunity to transfer if they don’t like playing time, their teammates, their coaches, and/or if they feel they have a greater chance to prosper elsewhere.

Sound familiar?

In business we work with free agents and a “transfer portal” every day with one stark difference. Collegiate athletes must notify their schools that they are entering the transfer portal with an intent to leave. Our team members do not. Which begs the question – how many of our team members have entered their own transfer portal or are exploring the opportunity to do so?

The current statistics are staggering, so even the best companies must take notice. Research published by Gallup in March 2021 found that 48% of America’s working population was actively searching or watching for a new opportunity. Shortly after that in May of 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “quits” (workers voluntarily leaving their jobs) were 3.6 million. Over the ensuing months, quits have continued to steadily rise and increased to 4.5 million in March 2022, the highest level on record. Moreover, Gallup’s most recent research shows that one in four U.S. employees say they have been recruited in the past three months.

To combat this trend and avoid having your team members become part of the statistics, try these three retention strategies:

  • Take an Individualized Approach
    It is important for each employee to be seen, known, and understood. Part of that is really getting to who they are as a person, understanding what they value about the organization, and what they want in their role. Another part is helping them feel purpose and meaning in their role by discussing their contribution and relevance to the organization’s mission.

    An effective strategy in this area, especially if you are concerned about retention, is to conduct re-recruiting conversations. A re-recruiting conversation does just that ― It “re-recruits” the individual to the company. In this type of conversation, you can easily weave in the topics above to truly know how the employee is feeling, learn what they most care about, and talk about their impact through their work. You can also get a sense of how your organization is currently meeting their needs. In short, to take an individualized approach, talk to your people!
  • Develop Great Managers
    The stronger your managers are the stronger your retention will be. A great manager knows how to bring out the best in the people with whom they work every day AND they see that as one of their critical responsibilities. They understand how to communicate, give feedback, and develop others to promote growth. Most importantly, great managers know how to engage their team members. When employees are engaged, they are involved in, enthusiastic, and committed to their work. Recent research by Gallup shows that it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to hire away disengaged employees. Managers have a significant impact on retention, so investing in their development is critical.
  • Build a Coaching Culture
    Development is one of the greatest needs and wants for employees today. Implementing a coaching culture can address this need and promote retention. A coaching culture leverages coaches and/or leaders employing coaching skills to support team members in growing their knowledge and skills, enhancing their value, and achieving their goals. It is anchored in ongoing conversations that are future-focused and help individuals gauge their progress.

While most coaching cultures are built primarily as an investment in employee and leadership development, research by the Human Capital Institute indicates there is also a proven correlation between coaching cultures and employee engagement and productivity. To avoid losing your valued talent, think about what you can do to be proactive at both the organizational level and the individual level. Consider the following questions:

  1. Organization: What are you doing to truly know your employees? What have you done to discover their talents or unique contributions?
    Individual: How are you individualizing your approach? What might you ask in your next conversation to learn more?
  2. Organization: How are you building great managers? What development are you providing? How are you equipping them to bring the best out of their people?
    Individual: How effective are you at being a great manager in your daily interactions? Would people describe you as a project/task manager or someone who brings the best out of their people on the project?
  3. Organization: How would you describe your culture of development? Is it a coaching culture or is it more independent/sink or swim? What are you doing to build coaching skills organizationally?
    Individual: How effective are you in supporting people at all levels with ongoing coaching conversations? How are you helping people gauge their progress?

On top of considering the retention strategies and questions above, the best way to keep your people from entering or being lured into their own transfer portal is to be proactive. Use what you learn about yourself and your organization to take action, connect more deeply with your team, and demonstrate your commitment to your people.