Retaining talent in a tough job market

Because of HTI’s significant presence helping companies recruit talent in South Carolina, we invariably speak with a variety of companies in different industries about their ongoing HR challenges.


Herb Dew HTI
Herb Dew HTI

Because of HTI’s significant presence helping companies recruit talent in South Carolina, we invariably speak with a variety of companies in different industries about their ongoing HR challenges. Over the years, discussions have ranged on topics like employee relations, benefits, compensation, etc. However, in the last three years, we’ve faced the toughest job market in 30 years. This has driven most conversations back to one central question: how do we retain our top talent in this tough job market?

A fundamental change companies must make in this market is spending enough time identifying what they must do to keep their most critical employees. A hard truth that this current employment market forces: your most important people are also the most important people to other companies. Thus, making them very clear targets to be recruited away from you and into your competitor’s hands.

Companies that have the healthiest approach take advantage of the instability that this market creates, and take a two-pronged approach:

A. They listen to employees and adjust to help retain their top performers.
B. They are utilizing the job market to upgrade their lower performers.

So how can companies retain their best people? This is the question that we face at HTI all the time while talking with South Carolina Employers. A misperception most companies have is that compensation is an employee’s top priority. Surprisingly, compensation on most surveys ranks 5th among most important criteria employees are seeking in job satisfaction. The three areas to focus on involve something much less expensive. Yet many organizations struggle to execute one or more of these things successfully.

These can be summarized as follows:

Employees want a clear understanding of the company’s vision, goals and objectives.
Gallup research found employees who are “engaged and thriving” are 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months. In other words, working with a team toward a specific mission and vision with a purpose beyond profits is an important employee experience.

Employees want to know their role in the company, its direction, and opportunities to learn and grow. 93% of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their careers, according to the most recent LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report. Empowering employees to improve their network, skillset, and knowledge base improves your company by improving the employee working for you and creating a positive culture. Opportunities for growth are especially important to Millennials in the workforce.

Employees want active, ongoing communication from their leaders regarding their performance and development. This starts with solid onboarding processes that outline clear expectations of day-to-day responsibilities and long-term goals for employees. Career Development is the top reason why employees quit for the 9th consecutive year as found by the Work Institute. After onboarding, it is critical to ensure your company has an established process for ongoing communication between leaders and their team. As a leader, it is critical that you act on the communication and outcome of those meetings.

South Carolina provides an attractive location for employees to live. State Government works closely with employers to provide a good, pro-business work culture. Now companies must begin to look around the country as well as in-state at companies innovating great work cultures. It all starts with communication, good listening and not being afraid to try different ideas.

A good friend of mine who leads a large North American organization addressed a conference recently here in South Carolina. He said the great thing about “disruption” is that it creates an opportunity to innovate and change. This job market is that; a disruption. Embrace that disruption. Listen to your employees and become a company embracing and improving in this tough job market.

To read more industry insights from Herb Dew and other employment experts at HTI, go to